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By now, if you’ve read all three previous parts of my Professionalism Series, you’re probably thinking a fourth part on Professional Behavior is overkill. But it’s not. There’s no way that I’ve covered everything in just those three articles. Yes, I’ve explained what a Professional is. I’ve explained how one should communicate in Professional Practices. And I’ve even presented the importance of Professional Presentation in the world. So, why would I need a part on Professional Behavior when I’ve already explained all of that?
Because there’s a lot of personal, emotional conflict that a writer deals with all the time that can set one off and cause them to behave in ways they shouldn’t and do things they’ll later regret. That’s just how being human and dealing with life is, especially for a writer. You, as a writer, need to learn to get those feelings under control and keep yourself from doing the wrong things for your professional career.
That being said, I will be touching on some of the topics I’ve explored previously, but with more depth.
Let’s start with rejection. Writers spend a lot of time and energy on any piece of their work. There are countless hours of plotting, executing, and reworking. This makes it incredibly emotion for a writer to submit their piece/manuscript to anyone, for fear of rejection. And, the rejection comes to us all. It’s hard not to feel like its personal, because, yes, it’s personal to you.
But rejections aren’t personal to editors, agents, or presses. They’re just business. To some that might seem cold, but it’s the way things are. Like it or not, that’s the industry as it is.
So, when you do get rejections, do not lash out with hateful emails of go running your internet mouth on social media, screaming that the editor/agent/press is delusional or doesn’t know good writing when they see it; that just makes you look bad and hurts you professionally. Chances are, if your writing is as good as you think it is, they didn’t want to pass on what you sent, but had to for other reasons.
You don’t know what’s going on beyond other computer screens. You don’t see the piles of manuscripts waiting for responses or the email accounts flooded with other submissions. You aren’t the one that has to make the choices of what’s going to sell best or will represent the publication in the most effective way. Those decisions are hard to make.
If you’re displeased with the response you’ve gotten about a submission in any way, it is not okay to go over the head of someone you’re dealing with, just because you’ve gotten a rejection. It just makes you look stupid, and makes people not want to work with you. No one likes people who try to start drama or cause them personal trouble.
[Note: Agent queries are different, as far as one passing on the project and querying another at the same agency. This is completely acceptable.]
Here’s a short example from my editing past:
I was editing an anthology and someone sent me a story. I read it and rejected it. Why? The story was okay, but there were a bunch of plot holes and there were things that didn’t support the stories concept overall—just inconsistencies that made the story not make sense. The author contacted the owner of the press I was working with and told them I was delusional. The owner contacted me and asked me about the story. I told him everything that was wrong with it. We did not use the story. The author’s attempt to go above my head failed, because there were reasons I rejected it.
The funny thing is, the author who believed me to be delusional, sent me a friend request on social media about a year or so later. Me, finding it all pretty amusing, accepted. We’ve not interacted much, and I’ll never knowingly work with said author. That means, even if I know about an invite only project or a special open call, I won’t take the time to ever tell that author about it. Why? Because I won’t back them with my name as even an indirect reference. I don’t care what the author thought of me, but I thought it was completely unprofessional of them to try and get me in the middle of something that wasn’t my fault and I knew I was right about.
You’re probably wondering why I did let the author into my social media circle… Well, I hope maybe they’d learn something. Heck, I hope they read this series and learn how to be more professional in the future. We all make mistakes and we can all learn to do better. That is my hope with this series, that I can steer authors in the right direction to be more successful by being more professional.
Reviews are another area where authors have emotional turmoil and tend to backtalk or backlash.
Face it, not everyone is going to like your writing. Not everyone is going to love your book/story. Yes, people will point out your flaws publically. No, they don’t hate you. Yes, they feel cheated because they spent money to buy your book/story and wasted time reading something that wasn’t that great. The reasons for bad reviews are usually either there were actually issues with the book/story or because it just wasn’t for them. Usually, the “just wasn’t for them” people don’t get as mean.
You will get bad reviews, because it’s not possible to get all good ones.
No one is out to make you cry. Readers and reviewers are not your enemies. When and if they tell you there are issues with your book/story, listen! Don’t get all huffy and pissed off. Whatever you do, don’t insult them or be rude to them. If a review bothers you so much that you are overwhelmed with emotion, whatever you do, do not respond by commenting on it, or telling the person off! That’s very unprofessional.
If anything, you should take the time to thank them for reading your work. That is professional! After all, they took the time to read your book/story, and they took the time to write and post a review. More than eighty percent of your readers won’t do that for you, ever!
Here’s how you should think of it…
Did they read your book? Yes! Plus for you, you have a reader.
Did they review your book? Yes! You have a reviewer!
Did they tell you exactly what they didn’t like about your book? Yes! You have feedback! And honest feedback from readers/reviewers is one of the hardest things for writers to get. Value it, even if it doesn’t stroke your little pansy ego.
And beyond the pluses of it all, there are just mean-hearted people in the world who want to drag you down and make you miserable.
Why? Who knows! It could be because they are one of those constantly miserable people who need company in the pits of Asshole-ville. Don’t move to Asshole-ville to be their neighbor. Ignore these people because they aren’t worth your time and attention.
Before you start whining about bad reviews ruining your book sale, you should know that a couple bad reviews are actually good for book sales! If people even consider the reviews before buying your book, the fact that you have one or two people who don’t rave about your book/story like lustful, worshipping groupies will make your reviews seem more “real.” Often, people think the best reviews are left by your family and friends. So, a couple haters can do you good.
Besides, if you’re considering purchasing something, don’t you want to know the good aspects and the bad ones so you can make an informed decision? Think of it that way. There’s an opinion at both ends of the spectrum, which means the product most likely lands in the middle.
If you’re getting all bad reviews, it’s time to take a look at your work and see what you can do to improve it. It’s disheartening, but sometimes writers need to rework their book/story to make it better for the readers. Especially now that it’s so easy to self-publish—there are a lot of books/stories in easy reach of the public that have never been through a thorough, professional edit. That can really hurt book sales.
At no time ever should you go on Amazon or anywhere else and leave comments to reviews of your books/stories. If you want to thank someone, do it in private. People’s reviews are their opinions. You should not try to explain your book/story to them or convince them they are wrong because they didn’t like or understand your story.
What you should take away from reviews overall is how your book/story was perceived by a variety of people. Everyone sees and processes things differently, especially writing. Chances are though, if you get a lot of people making the same comments, there’s an issue there that you need to work on as you move forward with your future works.
Use reviews for insight and stop seeing them as personal attacks.
Do not respond like they are personal attacks.
Speaking of personal attacks, you control how you respond and how other people treat you. You don’t want to lead them into attacking you by letting your emotions drive how you deal with the public, i.e. attacking them.
Something very important for Professional Behavior is that you set the tone for the people around you. You set the tone for what you’ll allow, accept, and deal with. Be it on social media, your blog, or anywhere else you deal with the public in general.
What do I mean by this?
I mean that if you allow people to attack you and/or you argue with them, you’re showing people that you allow that behavior around you, that you embrace it. You should never get into a public argument with anyone, about anything. This messes up your Professional Presentation and has no place in your Professional Behavior. Think cause and effect. Most of the time, when people lash out, they feel like they’re defending themselves. Don’t give them reason to feel like they’re defending themselves from you.
So, how should you handle those situations of conflict? Cut them out.
First, be polite and try to defuse the situation by saying everyone has a right to their opinion. But, if the person continues to do the same things (causing conflict), block them, unfollow them, and/or ban them from your web-space. I don’t care if you like the person most of the time. As a professional, you don’t have time to deal with people’s troll-like behavior. And, if they wanted you to be considerate of them, they should have been considerate of you. Allowing them to continue with their ill-mannered behavior causes other who sees it to lose respect for you. By allowing them to continue to do so, you are telling other people that they don’t’ have to respect you either.
Be strong and set the behavioral tone around you to match your desired professionalism.
You control your Professional Behavior by how you act in every situation—especially those emotional situations that are difficult. You also control how others act around and toward you by what you allow. Let the way you act be an example to all of a true Professional.
©Rebecca Besser, 2014. All rights reserved.