[Note: In this article I talk about English, but replace that with whatever other language you use to write or do business as it applies to you.]
Previously, I talked about what being a professional meant. Now it’s time to talk about Professional Practices. These are things that you’ll do all the time to respect other people’s time and, in doing so, will have other professionals see and treat you as a professional.
With writing, all conversations that you have in a professional manner (meaning with anyone you will be doing business with or you want to publish you) should be in actual English. What do I mean by this? I mean that when you’re talking to a press, editor, or agent about publishing your work you should not use “text speak” and replace words with letters or numbers. Actually, if you’re a writer you should be striving to show that you have a grasp of the English language in all of your social media and public communication efforts. Why? This is important because, in reality, you are going to be judged by your use and understanding of words and punctuation –grammar. As a writer, your words usage should be witty, ironic, and intelligent to say the least.
A writer should have a better overall grasp of English than the common person, and it should show in everything a writer does that involves words.
[Note: The only exception to this rule is Twitter, because Tweeting only allows so many characters. Even then, you should strive to use words in a creative way.]
I’m sure some of you think I’m going overboard with the proper English stuff, but I assure you, I’m not. If I had to choose to edit or review something and I had two people asking me to do so…do you think I would choose to work the one who knows how to use words and punctuation? Or do you think I would choose to work with the one that replaces words with numbers and letters, and doesn’t use punctuation or capitalization at all? Which would I take more seriously and want to have as a colleague? Obviously the one who can show that they are a professional—the one who can communicate like a writer, not a fourteen-year-old girl with her first cell phone.
On top of the professional aspect, there’s the intelligence aspect. Not speaking/communicating like a professional gives you the image of being slow-witted. Obviously, someone who can communicate clearly, and in proper English, shows more intellect.
As a professional writer, you want to be seen as intelligent and talented.
Another way you should always exercise Professional Practices, is in submissions. You should always strive to send out the best edited, most professional cover letters, queries, and manuscripts. Obviously, I shouldn’t have to say this, but it’s really important.
Sending out professional and well groomed work (with the above communication tips taken into account) will increase your chances of publication and professional credibility. Just think… If you do all these things right, you’ll get more attention than the other people submitting, especially if they aren’t showing themselves as a professional.
And, should you get a rejection, you never ever reply harshly or insultingly. That’s as bad as “text speak.” No one wants to work with someone who has bitch-fits when they don’t get their way. That’s like working with a two-year-old, and that’s something a lot of professionals won’t do. You’ll get yourself black-balled fast!
Professionals are polite even when they don’t get their way.
[Something to keep in mind: I’m an editor and have sent out rejections. I don’t like to do it, but often times it’s because of poor formatting, terrible grammar, and sometimes because I’ve accepted something that’s very similar. So, even good writing doesn’t get taken if it’s too close to something already accepted. Editors don’t hate you. It’s not person—don’t take it personally.]
Another thing that goes along with not having a bitch-fit when you get a rejection, is that you shouldn’t go on social media, your blog, or anywhere else public and bitch about a rejection or call an editor an idiot. If they see it, or if another press or editor sees it, they will not want to work with you. No one wants to work with someone who blows things out of proportion and makes a public fuss about nothing.
Plagiarism and royalty issues are another story. If a press or person is breaking the law, it’s okay to warn other authors to stay away from them. But, do it when you’ve calmed down, so you don’t sound like a ranting ex-wife. No one will take you seriously if you sound crazy.
You also shouldn’t repeatedly email a press or editor to check on your submission. They have it (more than likely) and they will get back to you when they’re ready. If a few months go by and you don’t hear back, it’s okay to send them a quick email to confirm that your submission was received. Otherwise, leave them alone! Being a needy writer is just as bad as being rude or having a bitch-fit.
Basically, you should always treat presses, editors, or agents with the utmost respect. Because when you don’t, you are the one who is being unprofessional.
Recap: You should show that you can communicate intelligently with words, and you shouldn’t show your ass when you don’t get your way—ever!
In these small ways you can put Professional Practices to work for you.
If you’re a professional, act like it.
©Rebecca Besser, 2014. All rights reserved.