With each book that is accepted for publication, you take one more step toward your dream—becoming a self-supporting, fully established author whose name is well-known and whose books are cherished. But along the way toward your dream, there are a few pitfalls which could not only inhibit your career but tarnish your reputation. Just as you wouldn’t want to become known as a troublesome employee, you don’t want to develop a reputation as the author from…well, you know.
So with each step you take, you must make a choice to be the same person you’ve always been, or even, become a better you. Hopefully, you won’t make these choices as they can and will create an image of a less than desirable author.
Fight with your editor on every edit
As much as we hate them, edits are a necessary evil in this industry. Even if you think your book is polished until it gleams like Mr. Clean’s gold earring, an editor is going to discover ways to make it better. He or she will help you clean up flowery prose, sweep away mechanical and typographical errors, and add commas where they’re supposed to be.
No, you won’t agree with everything your editor suggests, and that’s where diplomacy comes in. Just as you would, hopefully, discuss an issue with a co-worker, you should discuss your concerns with your editor and work toward a resolution together.
Continually want more than what is afforded you in your contract
Before you sign away the rights to your book, know what the trade-off will be. Once you’ve informed yourself, understand that the contract is a valid, legal document. You can’t expect more than what is specified in your contract, and while you can certainly ask for additional benefits, do not expect them. It’s unfair to the publisher and will create dissension that’s unnecessary and potentially detrimental to your career.
Badmouth your current publisher
Okay, so something has occurred. Maybe your release date has been pushed back a couple of times, your editor lost your edits, and you can’t seem to get her to e-mail you back. As much as the eighth grader in you wants to start singeing the publisher by posting vicious comments all across the world wide web, please think about your actions very carefully.
Anything you send out into cyberspace will remain in written form for all the world to see for a very long time. There’s no taking back the words, and they will be available for any publisher/editor/agent to see. Do you really want a potential publisher to see that you trashed your current publisher because you didn’t agree with something that was going on? What are the odds that you’re going to agree with everything your publisher does? Do you agree with everything your friends do? Your spouse does?
There are proper steps which can be taken in the above instances which don’t involve campaigns designed to eviscerate the publisher.
This isn’t to say that, if you’re involved with a publisher who treats its authors badly, makes constant errors, is regularly late with royalty payments, and other issues that suggest questionable business practices, you shouldn’t shine a light on those problems. But there is a big difference between a bad publisher and a bad author.
Just remember that the words you write can come back to haunt you, and that, in spite of how large the publishing industry seems to be, it really does have a back fence and a grape vine.
Establish yourself as a know-it-all
You’ve written a book, possibly two or more, and while the world congratulates you, it understands that you have not learned all the intricacies of the publishing industry or writing itself. You still have things to learn. You will always have things to learn. So assuming that your publications mean you’ve achieved the ultimate in knowledge is not only a bad assumption, but it can also lead to an overactive ego.
While there’s nothing wrong with sharing the knowledge that’s gotten you to where you are, you don’t want to present yourself as the be-all and end-all of knowledge, the Wizard, if you will. You need to leave room for the possibility that you don’t know everything there is to know in this business.
We’ve all seen those people who pop up everywhere on the Internet and television who have an opinion on every topic and believe that opinion is fact. Now, think of how irritating that person is. Is that the impression you want your readers and other authors to have of you?
Discuss other authors negatively
While it’s entirely possible there will be authors you meet that you don’t click with–it may be one of the know-it-alls as discussed above—I can’t stress enough that letting the world know what you think of that person isn’t the best career move you can make. So if you have an opinion about another author, it’s best to keep it to yourself.
Forums, blogs, and websites offer content about authors, everything from reviews to rants, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in the rumors and gossip taking place, even easier to login and state your opinion. But is it really that important for the world to know what you think about an author? Important enough to risk your reputation?
Continually remind readers and other authors about you contest wins and how well you’ve done (boasting)
When an author wins an award, places in a contest, and receives great reviews, it’s only natural that he/she will want to announce these successes to the world. There’s nothing wrong with being proud of yourself for these accomplishments, and to a certain extent, some back-patting is encouraged. However, there does come a time when the constant reminder of your successes becomes overbearing and pretentious. Plainly put, how many times do you think your readers need to know that your book placed second in a contest three years ago?
Discuss any negative dealings you’ve had with previous publishers in query letters
When submitting a query letter to a new publisher, an agent, or an editor, you should never speak negatively about any publisher regardless of what might have happened. Why? Because you don’t know who knows who in this business, and the last thing you want to do is come across as someone who likes to talk about others.
You want to put your best foot forward in any type of correspondence with potential publishers or agents, and conducting yourself in a professional manner is paramount.
Tell agents/publishers about the difficulties you’ve had with every publisher/agent
While it’s entirely possible that you will experience difficulties with a publisher or an agent during your career as an author, it is not necessary for you to detail those difficulties when you approach a new contact in the industry. You may be thinking you believe the agent should know that you believe you’re being black-balled, but, in all honesty, no publisher is going to take the time to attempt to destroy your career, at least not a legitimate one.
Whatever you do, don’t create a negative image of yourself by unloading all of your bad experiences onto a potential agent. Most likely, you will send that agent running for the hills. After all, how can he/she know you won’t discuss them in the same manner should something not go your way?
We can’t control everything that happens to us in life, but we can control who we become. The price of success should not be your reputation. Protect it as much as you do your copyrights.