5.02.2012

If You're A Writer, Do NOT Do These 5 Highly Annoying Things

You know you wanna buy my book...Right? Right? Right?
I can't believe I'm writing this blog entry. In fact, I could swear I've written something like this before, but I'm too damn lazy to go dig it up. But it doesn't matter. My rage is fresh, and it requires a fresh blog.

Of course, you don't even have to glean these pearls of wisdom from me, because I'm 1000% positive that you will find similar and more comprehensive posts on every writing blog in existence. But when has that ever stopped me from venting my spleen?

Of course, I realize I'm wasting my time here. With the wealth of information already out there about how writers should conduct themselves on the business end of things, it's plain to see who has done their research and who hasn't, and the people who are reading this undoubtedly already know all of these things and have become the unwitting choir to whom I've decided to preach.

But if you are one of those wet-behind-the-ear newbs who is actually in the midst of some research regarding decorum and etiquette in the writing world, step on up and have a little read. While I can't promise that any of these things will ensure you'll be successful in publishing, they will make you look more professional, and that never hurts.

1. Do NOT reply to rejections from publishers or agents. Just don't ever do it. Ever. Never ever ever EVER. Period. 
A lot of writers, not just the ones with wounded egos, often wonder if they should send something back to the agent or editor who has doled out a rejection letter. Even if it's just a thank-you. I'm here to save you a lot of time and worrying right now by just simply saying, "No." Don't even write back to thank them or acknowledge the receipt of said rejection. Do you have any idea how much time these people spend reading? Don't give them more nonsense to read. It will only annoy them. If you get a rejection letter, that's basically someone telling you to move along, there's nothing more to see here. I don't know how I can put it more emphatically than that. Honestly, I feel like I got a little dumber just writing this, because it should be so goddamn motherfucking self-evident, but I know it isn't, because I have heard countless stories from countless slush warriors about the doucheholes they encounter daily who just don't know how to take no for an answer. They see "No" as an invitation to keep pushing, like their manuscripts are used cars or insurance policies. What most of these writers don't realize is that the more they push back, the greater the likelihood the editor or agent is adding your name to a blacklist that will direct any correspondence from you to their trash bin. In addition, they're likely copying said blacklist to all of his or her fellow publishing colleagues warning them that you're one of "those people." The publishing world may seem infinitely large, but it is actually not. These folks know each other. And they talk. Do not be one of "those people."  Be a professional, put some burn cream on your sore ass, and take your manuscript elsewhere.

  • Addendum: You might be asking yourself, "But what if they don't ever reply at all?" That's easy. See above. 
  • Addendum 2: "But...but what if it's possible my email/query/manuscript got lost in the shuffle and they never actually saw it?" Highly unlikely, but in the minuscule off-chance that something like this did happen, here's what you do: See above. Tough luck. Try again with your next manuscript. Move on. Most of the time, no answer = no interest. It sucks and I wish it wasn't the case, but you can't control these things. You can only control whether or not these uncontrollable elements make you act like an unprofessional douche.


2. Do NOT spam/annoy/harass your friends/family/fellow writers into reading/buying/reviewing your books. Sure, slip it into the conversation once in awhile. We all do it. But we all know at least one person who self-promotes to the point where you're not sure there are any other words in his or her vocabulary than "Buy" and "My" and "Book." They're the kind of people you want to block from your friends list and/or ninja-punch in the nuts. They're the kind of people who you think might also stalk their exes on the side and eat raw puppies for breakfast every morning. Oh, this isn't you, Mr. Compulsive Self-Promoter? You don't eat puppies for breakfast, you say? That's a blatant use of disingenuous slandering hyperbole, you say? Well, that's what people who are harassed several times daily actually see in their minds when you corner them yet again about your "Wikked Ahsum Buk." And another thing, if you really want people to buy your book, you don't continuously market yourself to other writers. It's the readers you want to get. Why? Because there are more of them for one thing, and for another, most readers aren't spending several hours a day writing their own stories. We writers try to read what we can and help out our fellow colleagues whenever possible, but most of the time, we writers are writing, and we're trying to sell our own books, albeit with a good bit more finesse than spamming a message board ad nauseum. Also, whether anyone wants to admit it or not, we're "kinda" in competition with you. It's not like we want you to fail so that we may succeed, but let's just say that we have just as much vested interest in attracting the same readership you'd like to gain, and if you do nothing but breed resentment in us, we will likely not hesitate to squash you like annoying little gnats in our journey to the top of the heap. That's just the way it is.

3. Do NOT write an essay-like diatribe in response to a negative reviewer. Oh it's so very tempting to do that sometimes, I know. I have been there. You want the hater, the Wielder of Not Enough Stars and Love to see that they completely missed the point and misinterpreted your vision, so you type a very long comment to them on Amazon, or you take to your blog to rally your fellow crusaders on a quest to hang this ignorant fucker by their toenails. You want to do this, because you're pissed, but really you're just afraid. Afraid that others will read this bad review and completely discredit you and never buy anything you write. So you want the Negative Nancy to come around to seeing it your way and perhaps let loose another magical star or two from their pants. What you're doing, of course, when you go on such a quest is you're only amplifying the negative review, and that's the opposite of what you want. I've encountered a number of less-than-favorable reviews in my time. Some that are just plain mean and unfair, some that I KNOW showed that the reader in question just misunderstood what I wrote (and I know this because I've had enough reviews to the contrary). I so wanted to shake my finger at them and set them straight. But ZOMG what a horrible idea that would have been!

There are two rules everybody should know about the internet: the internet is forever, and people on the internet love finding other people to laugh at. If you have a public meltdown when someone completely rips you and your book a new one, guess who they'll be laughing at? You. Guess who might also decide you're too unprofessional to work with in the future? Possibly any publisher who happens to be watching. And you never know who could be watching, which is why you need to keep a lid on it in a public forum. Now, that's not to say you shouldn't seek commiseration among your trusted friends and colleagues. However, you do not want to challenge the reviewer upfront. You just don't. The only thing you will accomplish by doing so is making them hate you more. Up until your toxic spill of public sadness and indignation, they might have been considering trying something else of yours, but you can probably forget about that now. Now they're probably telling their friends what an asshole you are, and to never read anything you write. And in this cynical world, that sort of news spreads like wildfire.

4. Do NOT send your writing and/or manuscripts unsolicited to anyone. This includes agents, publishers, BUT ESPECIALLY YOUR FELLOW WRITERS. Okay, some people might attach a short excerpt to the bottom a query letter, but this is not directed toward them. To me, that's no harm no foul kind of stuff. But there are others... others who have certain demands. Normally it's "Hey, can you read this?  Like now? I went ahead and attached it. It's only like thirteen chapters and it's really rough and I have no idea what to do in this one part and need your help figuring it out. TTYL!"

I know exactly 3 people who can get away with this sort of thing, and they know who they are.

You have no idea how busy some of us are. Throwing your writing at someone who didn't ask for it first is like walking into the middle of an operating room where a doctor is up to his elbows in someone's guts, and demanding that he or she attend to you right this instant. I have almost zero time to beta read for anyone anymore aside from my closest colleagues, much as it pains me. Between having no less than two or three manuscripts of my own going at one time, I usually have one or two others that I need to read for someone else. This is in addition to any querying and marketing I'm trying to do, helping with the podcast I co-host, as well as running my household and making sure my husband and kids get the occasional home-cooked meal and a house that doesn't look like a demilitarized zone (I fail at that last one more often than I care to admit). Oh, and sleep. Don't want to forget about that, though I often do.

If you really want my opinion on something, please ask first. Don't just dump a .doc file in my inbox and assume I have even five minutes to look at it. Yes, I might be goofing off on Facebook at that given moment, but that's also my downtime, and I choose to spend my downtime away from a manuscript if at all possible. It's easier if you just send me a message. "Hey, do you think you can look at a few pages for me and tell me if they're any good at all? I really value your opinion on these kinds of things and would appreciate a few minutes of your time." If I get a message like that, I might be encouraged to find a few minutes for you. But PLEASE only send a few pages unless I've agreed to read the whole manuscript (which is rare). If you dump the whole novel in an email and zip it off to me, I'll probably dispatch an assassin to murder you while you sleep. So please just ask first. And if I say I don't have time, don't be a dick about it either.

5. Do NOT ask for an opinion and then get upset when it isn't the one you want to hear. This could possibly go under #3, but this isn't quite the same as a review. In my editing experience, I've encountered two kinds of writers. There are those who are genuinely interested in the feedback and will give it genuine consideration. And there are those who are seeking an ego stroke and will throw a hissy fit if they don't get one. That is not to say that I think, as a beta reader or editor, that my word is gospel and that you will absolutely fail if you don't implement my suggestions. But it is to say that I'm not an idiot, and that when I devote my time to you, I am not going to be in the business of jerking anyone around, least of all myself. That means I'm going to read your stuff through two different filters. The first one will be as a writer, where I will objectively evaluate your storytelling technique. The second one will be as a casual reader. It will be focused more on the overall impressions the piece left on me and whether it made sense or had the proper amount of emotional impact to keep me turning the pages. The second one is far more important than the first one, in case you weren't sure, and it is the one I will use to generate most of my feedback.

At any rate, this is a lengthy and time consuming process. It often sucks away any other energy I might have to devote to my own work, so I don't take it lightly. Please, PLEASE do not piss on the efforts of those who have taken time out of the schedules for you by arguing or by telling them that their opinions are wrong. Criticism is like bitter medicine that you absolutely must swallow. Spit it out in someone else's face, and you'll be lucky if anyone will want to read a Christmas card from you, let alone your manuscript.