Wednesday, September 2, 2015

If You Want People To Treat You Like A Professional Author, Act Like One

Several years ago I'd been given a freelance editing assignment from a publisher I knew. The manuscript he'd given me was one of the worst things I'd ever read. The sort of manuscript whose margins I jammed with comments, questions, and arrows pointing at major plot holes. By the time I rounded the third chapter I was so frustrated with it that the only reason I was still going was the $200 price tag attached to the job. To try and blow off some steam I posted to my Facebook that there were some days I really hated editing, and today was one of those days.

Two hours later, the publisher got hold of me, and made it quite clear that when I had a job to do he didn't want me making even vague references to it. Especially not if those references were to complain about how bad it was. So I finished the job, collected my fee, and took a valuable lesson to heart over the incident.

No, not "talk shit, get hit." That was a different project.
The lesson, in this case, was to comport myself professionally any time my words might be seen by anyone. That means that if I'm posting on a forum, speaking at a convention, getting interviewed on the radio, or just updating my Facebook page, I have to remember people are listening. Not only are they listening, but what I say today might come back and punch me in the dick four years from now, long after I've completely forgotten about it.

When in Doubt, Kayfabe

For those of you who were never professional wrestling fans, kayfabe was one of the biggest unwritten rules among its stars. It stated, more or less, that you were always in character. If you were out to eat somewhere, and your rival walked in, you didn't buy him a drink and talk shop. You got in his face, and caused a scene, because that was part of your job. You were an actor paid to continue the fiction that what happened in the ring was real, and to maintain that fiction for your fans.

As a writer, you need to do the same thing. The only difference is that the persona you're taking on is a professional author.

Trust me, it's a lot easier.
What does that mean, though? Well, it means that even if you think the cover your publisher gave your book is stupid, you don't go to your Tumblr page to throw a hissy fit about it. It means that if someone decides to sling a vicious tweet at you, and the first thing that crosses your mind is, "eat shit and die, motherfucker!" that you don't send that. That even if someone is coming at you with low blows, foul language, and accusations of all sorts of hackery, that you keep your head high, and rise above it. You maintain the image of the consummate professional.

Is that easy? Hell no, especially not if you're used to just letting fly with whatever comes to your mind, and if you consider personal attacks on other people to be one part art form and one part national past time. But, tempting as it is to vent your frustrations on a group by "calling out" whiners, fakes, and posers, ask yourself what you're really getting out of that. Sure, maybe it felt good in the moment. Maybe you thought of something so stinging, and so clever, you just couldn't keep it to yourself. But what will that kind of behavior do to your image? This is something you should think about, since people often buy a book based on who the writer is (or at least who they think the writer is) in addition to what that person actually wrote.

Sure, leaving a nasty comment on a random social media post might slip under the radar. Perhaps you can get away with the occasional bit of crudeness, or invitation for someone else to go and perform sexually impossible acts upon their person. As long as you don't, say, have a long history of homophobic instances, what does it matter if you blow your top sometimes?

It matters because there are always going to be people trying to bury you in shit. They'll accuse you of being a hack, of being elitist, or even of getting where you are purely because of your connections instead of your talents. While this is going on, you're trying to wipe off as much excrement as you can, and to keep your reputation polished. So why give these nameless, faceless enemies of your career more ammunition by acting like a reality TV star instead of someone who's here to kick ass, and write books?

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  1. Yes, we must always be the best representations of ourselves wherever we appear. Thanks for the gentle reminder.

  2. It's a good idea to be yourself. That's what you are best at! If this means you can't always pander to the bland, then, so be it!

  3. One must first know him or herself before they can be themself.

    No matter how nice you are, how good you have done something, whatever you create there is always someone to criticize you, and what you have done. Bear in mind you have done something for someone else to criticize, and take pleasure knowing that most time, the ones who criticize what you have done had never thought of the idea to do that thing. People will always try to knock others down.