Thursday, December 17, 2009

Writer's Block Wednesday: Etiquette

No, Chicago isn't a day behind, it's just me! But better late than never, right?

Today, I'd like to discuss etiquette. As an author, there are many things you wish you could do: lash out at the idiot who gave you a bad amazon review, heckle all the agents that rejected you, call Janet Maslin every day until she agrees to review your book for the New York Times. Obviously, you cannot do any of these things without ruining career, but there are other actions that go against etiquette which many not be so obvious.

The Follow Up: If you sent your book to a reviewer or bookseller, you're probably chomping at the bit to hear back. You sent it priority mail, you know they read fast, why haven't they gotten back to you yet? Rest assured. The package didn't get lost in the mail, your book isn't lost in the slush piles, and the person didn't forget about you. People are busy and nagging won't help. If you sent a query or pitch, make sure to review their guidelines before following up. If an agent or editor doesn't have follow up guidelines on their website, give them 6-8 weeks for a query, 3 months for a manuscript. If you're pitching media, 1-2 weeks is sufficient for pitches. If they request a book, wait 3-4 weeks before following up. Jumping the gun can leave a bad taste in people's mouths and may discourage them from working with you.

Online Protocol: Many people don't realize that when they twitter or blog about a subject, it's out there for the world to see. Unless you delete it, it's out there forever. Though it may be tempting to vent about how the new NYT bestseller sucks or how a certain author is such a hack, but keep those thoughts to yourself. Don't vent about your agent or editor over twitter, they may be listening. Don't discuss an upcoming book that you're publisher wants to keep secret. Don't post any photos you wouldn't want a fan or colleague to see. Though most of this seems obvious, I continually see authors talking about their publishing team or dogging books online. Not a smart move.

For Your Fans: Your fanbase is one of the most important elements to your success as an author. They are the people who will buy your books and remain loyal without regard to reviews or bad press. When your fans approach you, treat them as you would a friend. Chit chat, sign their book, ask them questions. I don't care how tired you are, where you are, or how little you want to talk to a stranger. Embrace your fans and treat them with respect. Your publisher may write the checks, but your fans are the ones who determine how large those checks will be.

Networking and Events: Attending conferences and book festivals is a great way to expand your name recognition and connect with your fans. But too often, I see authors conducting themselves in a way that's a turn off rather than a turn on. The biggest one is authors acting "too cool". We're writers. None of us are cool. This ties in with the previous section: embrace your fans. Another is authors getting sloppy drunk and making inappropriate comments. I know you're out of town, the wife and kids are at home, and you want to have a good time. But you're on a business trip, you're there to meet fans and sell books. Getting hammered and being offensive is the quickest way to lose your fan base.

What other etiquette taboos do authors need to be aware of? As readers, what behavior can an author exhibit to make you not want to read their book?

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