Here’s the thing. If you’re a writer and you hope to become a successful writer, then you need to view your writing as a business.
I know, I’ve said that before, but this time I’m not talking about all the businessy things you need to do as a writer. This time I’m talking about how you need to present yourself. And really, most of this stuff is just common courtesy (and common sense) but it does bear repeating.
Why? Because as a writer, you are tying to sell a product. In most senses, that product is your work. But it’s also you. In a lot of ways, as an author, you are selling yourself. And that is why you need to present yourself in the best possible light.
After all, agents and editors don’t want to work with a crazy person. Readers aren’t going to buy your book if you’re rude to them at a signing. Libraries and conference planners aren’t going to invite you to speak if you’re belligerent. And so on.
So here are just a few of the places you present yourself to a large pool of people who maybe be reading your work for a variety of reasons, and also how not to scare them away before they give you the chance.
Query letters & submissions:
This is where you must be 100% professional. You need to show the person on the other end of your query that you are a serious person, who takes your writing seriously. Don’t try to be funny. Don’t try to be cute. Don’t be self-deprecating. Follow the guidelines to the letter and if there are no submission guidelines, use Standard Manuscript Format. Be respectful, but don’t suck up. Be confident, but not over confident. Mention (relevant) achievements, but don’t brag.
Here is another area where it’s especially easy to come off as crazy person. So what do you do? First things first, figure out your brand. Do you want your online persona to represent you as a person, you as an author, or both? Here’s what I do: My Twitter is for both. I present myself as a writer there, but also show much more of my human side than I do here. With Facebook I have a personal profile that I use for the typical Facebook stuff you’d expect, and then I also have my author page which focuses more on writing (and also a bunch of other weird paranormal stuff.)
But however you choose to brand yourself on social media, remember you’re internet persona going to be the person agents, editors, and potential readers see when they look you up. In other words, your internet face is the only face they get.
So take these four rules to heart:
- Don’t get political.
- Don’t bash on any races/religions.
- Don’t make fun of people.
- Don’t be an asshole.
Keep that stuff in mind and you’ll be fine.
This is another area where you need to be on your A-Game. You go to a writing conference for two main reasons. 1) To learn and 2) to make connections.
When you are making connection with other writers and people in the business, you must remain professional at all times. I think the four items I listed above should also be taken to heart at a conference.
But there are a few other things to remember. For starters, don’t get drunk. Sure, have a couple of beers at the evening social if it helps you loosen up (I know I’m about the most boring person alive until I get that BAC up to a respectable .02) but let me repeat: Don’t get drunk. The last thing you want to do is stumble up to a prospective agent and slur your way through an elevator pitch.
It’s also important that you’re respectful to the other writers there. Remember, not everyone has the same experience as you. If another writer asks a “dumb question” during a panel, don’t sit in the back of the room and sigh. They’re asking something that you didn’t know the answer to at one point in your life either.
Finally–and this should go without saying–don’t hit on anyone. Just. Don’t.
And that’s it. If you plan to take your writing to the point where you’re writing full time, then your writing is your business. Treat it that way, act like a pro, and eventually that’s exactly what you’ll be.
Thanks for reading, and if you’ve got anything you’d like to add to this list, leave a comment!