The Seven Deadly (Publishing) Sins
These seven no-nos will put your career on ice faster than you can say “remainder.”
For someone else’s career. This one will mostly hurt you, although it’s also a gateway to the other publishing sins. If you have an author that you Googlestalk like s/he’s your high school exboyfriend, or you read the deal listings at Publisher’s Marketplace like they’re Playboy, quit it! No two careers are exactly alike, and obsessing over someone else’s is unproductive. Learn from others’ successes but remember your career is the only one you can do a thing about.
You’re a glutton for punishment if you ever for a minute forget that publishing is a business. It’s a business where people hang out and are friendly, yes, but bottom line does rule the day somewhere on that ladder. Everyone’s trying to make money. Don’t take things personally and remember no one’s goal is to hurt your feelings. Have a thick skin, and move on–don’t wallow in disappointments or setbacks, just keep writing.
Don’t quit your day job until you absolutely must, or think that you’ll really have “made it” when you do. Working a day job doesn’t make you any less a writer (particularly if your day job informs your writing–then it’s a huge asset!). It makes you a smart, responsible member of society who cares about paying little things like the mortgage.
Don’t sit back and expect your publisher to do everything for you. Know where your efforts are most effective and get cracking. Say you’ve got a historical novel set in the Civil War. Your publisher will focus on the primary market: promoting the book as a historical novel in the channels with the largest reach. But you can–and should–be active and involved and reaching out to smaller Civil War special interest groups, special interest and regional publications, etc. Your publisher is the chainsaw; you’re the scalpel.
Do not yell at anyone’s assistant. It won’t accomplish anything, it’s probably not the assistant’s fault, and it won’t really make you feel better. And listen to those around you. If your agent, editor, publicist, all agree that the card you’re looking at is in fact a spade, quit calling it a heart. Don’t waste what could be productive energy on negativity and tilting at windmills.
You’re guilty of this if you find yourself daydreaming that if only you had a different agent/publisher/deal all your problems would be fixed. There is no magic bullet. There are times when change is good but if you only look at externals before thinking about yourself, you’re in the danger zone.
This one should go without saying. No matter how successful you get, you’re never too huge to show a little basic kindness, especially those who got you where you are. Don’t be a diva. Help other writers where you can (be it blurbing, joining a critique group, offering a referral, or just being gracious in your interactions). Those who violate this risk having the kind of reputation that leads to people eagerly awaiting the day your sell-through tanks so they can justify dropping you. Don’t be That Guy.
Filed under: Holly Root | 20 Comments