Archive for the 'Professionalism' Category

Jun 21 2011

Most Writing “Rules” Are Optional–These Rules of Professionalism Aren’t

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

1.  The cardinal rule of professionalism: Don’t do anything in private that would embarrass you if it became public.


2.  Dishonesty ruins careers. If you’ve done any of the following, I would recommend stopping immediately.  

  • Don’t use a fake name (sockpuppet) to hype your work.
  • Don’t write fake Amazon or B&N reviews without mentioning that bit about being the author.  Likewise, asking and/or paying others for 5-star reviews is shady.
  • Don’t plagiarize.
  • Don’t deceive or otherwise mistreat your teammates (editors, comic book artists, etc).
  • Don’t create or unilaterally edit your Wikipedia page. (Yes, they can find out).  If there is a factual error on your Wikipedia page, propose a change in the Discussion section and be upfront about who you are.  If nobody objects to your proposed change, then you can safely make the change even though you have a conflict of interest.  For more details, please see Wikipedia’s guidelines for users with a conflict of interest.  PS: Making enemies over at Wikipedia is REALLY bad business.  Almost as much as the US Air Force or Google, they can really give you a bad day.


3.  Anger and rudeness are almost always unhelpful.

  • A rude response to a negative review is MUCH more dangerous to your career than the review ever was.  For more advice about how to take criticism well, please see this.  PS: Don’t worry too much about negative reviews. There are several reasons a negative review might lead a reader to buy the book.  For example, “This reviewer didn’t like it, but it sounds like the sort of book I would enjoy,” “After I heard about the book, I checked for other reviews and they generally sound pretty positive,” “Now I want to see if it really is that bad,” etc.
  • Please don’t publicly rant about the publishing industry.  Most professional publishers do cursory Google searches on prospective authors before offering a publishing contract and it would be potentially problematic if your blog had several posts angry about the publishing industry.  That’d suggest you would be harder to work with.  (You wouldn’t apply to Ford or Toyota with a paper trail indicating that you were surly about car companies, would you?)
  • Be as polite as possible in your personal dealings.  When a publisher Googles you, what will they find?  If they find a news article about getting thrown off a plane for disorderly conduct, that would be (pardon my French) le bad. PS: If you DO get thrown off a plane for disorderly conduct, please don’t try to use the 9/11 attacks to make yourself look more sympathetic.
  • Don’t threaten a lawsuit unless you know what you’re talking about.  In most cases, threatening a lawsuit against a reviewer is ill-advised.  “Your negative review used quotes from my book in an unauthorized manner.”  Fair use, chief.  I’d recommend consulting with a lawyer before escalating a situation with legal threats.  (If a reviewer publicizes that you’re incompetently trying to browbeat them, it could damage your reputation).

8 responses so far

Jun 20 2011

Signs You Might Need a Confidence Adjustment

Published by under Professionalism

1.  You feel the need to bad-mouth your writing to readers/reviewers. There isn’t any advantage to including a disclaimer like “I’m sorry, but this isn’t very good.”  It reduces your authorial credibility and will scare away some prospective readers. Give your readers a chance to decide whether it’s good without inflicting a bad first impression on them.  PS: Some authors are so self-flagellating that they might come across as fishing for compliments to reviewers.  Please don’t be that writer!


2. Your query makes unsubstantiated claims about your story. Some red flags include hype words like “fascinating,” “compelling,” “interesting,” “excellent,” “well-written,” etc.  It’s much more effective to describe the characters and plot of your book in such a way that the readers conclude on their own that the story sounds really interesting.  (Show, don’t tell).  YOU telling me that the story is interesting is not at all convincing because, ahem, that’s just your opinion.

  • UNSUBSTANTIATED HYPE: “D.O.A. is a gripping detective story that will really excite a variety of readers and editors.”
  • MORE EFFECTIVE: “John Kimball is a poisoned detective that has 48 hours to solve his own murder.”  This is a lot more persuasive.  I can totally see why this would excite a variety of readers–I’m excited!

3.  Your query/proposal talks too much about you and too little about your novel or comic book. In fiction, I generally think 0-1 sentences is the ideal amount of self-description for an unpublished author.  A few sentences might be helpful if your background is unusually interesting and relevant to the story you’re writing, like a SWAT officer writing a detective story.  Unless you have something genuinely interesting going on, don’t worry about it.  Unless the publisher or literary agency specifies otherwise, it’s okay to say nothing about your background, because the author’s background doesn’t matter much for most fiction books.  (Nonfiction is totally different).


4.  You hype your writing talent. Excessive egos are always unattractive, but if there were ever a time when it would be acceptable for an author to have an ego, it’d be after hitting the big time.  I think that unpublished authors that are completely convinced their work is ace tend to strike me as delusional and doomed.  If there weren’t anything in your work that could be improved significantly, why haven’t you been published yet?  (But don’t take this too far in the other direction–there’s a huge gap between “My writing can be improved and I’m working on that,” which I think is mature and professional, and “My writing  sucks,” which suggests an unappealing lack of confidence).

9 responses so far