Friday, July 21, 2006

The Professionalism Rant

I deleted the Chick-Lit link I posted yesterday because I read it this morning...and I didn't like it at all. There was nothing new said, and the only thing expressed was a general uninformed negativity about books and the world that I see too often anyway. No need to link to that sort of thing.

But that's not what today's rant is about. Today I want to talk about one of the most important traits any writer--any businessperson, any salesperson--can have: professionalism.

I work at a small university in a small town, and unfortunately I see many people who don't understand how to act with professionalism, and how it can positively affect their lives and their work (and the lives of the people who have to work with them!). I think it's the same with being a writer, at least one who hopes to make a career of writing. If you approach your writing and the submissions/publication process with professionalism, I believe your chances of success will skyrocket. Here are my basic "rules" of acting in a professional manner, and how they apply to writing/publishing:

  1. Set goals for yourself, and always meet your goals.
    I am proud of the fact that I don't miss deadlines at work. I set realistic goals, and if I tell someone their publication will be printed and on their desk to take to a meeting, it will be. This is important when you're writing, but will become even more important when you land a contract and suddenly have to write to someone else's schedule. Build a reputation for reliability.
  2. Be courteous and respectful, to everyone.
    This is one of the big ones that gets ignored, but is truly critical. In a business environment, it means be nice to the administrative assistants, the student workers, the interns, and that annoying peer as well as your boss. This is (a) good karma and (b) just smart. On a purely practical level, you never know when someone will be able to be of help to you, and make or break that deadline. In writing it means be courteous and respectful to fellow writers, to agents and editors you query, AND to agents and editors who rejected you. It's a small world, people.
  3. Don't play games with people. Be honest.
    Tempting as it is to lash out at that co-worker or try to work yourself into a better position by subterfuge, don't. Be straightforward. Don't be shy about presenting the best of yourself, but don't try to manipulate. In querying this means don't try to be sneaky and tell an agent your book is something it isn't, just to get them to read a few pages. It won't help to lie.
  4. Take great care with your work. Work hard.
    Do your absolute best. Never let anybody doubt the quality of your effort. In writing they might not like your premise, or maybe your writing isn't strong enough yet; but don't you dare let your stuff, query or the manuscript for your 3rd book, go out with errors because you didn't take the time.
  5. Present yourself well.
    If you go to a conference, take care with your appearance and behavior. Don't be sloppy. Don't get stinking drunk and get sick on a prospective agent. {g} In emails and phone calls, use your best professional manners.

It's all common sense, really, isn't it? So why don't people DO these things on a regular basis? It's mystifying to me...

Medieval Word of the Day: grot: A fragment, particle, atom. every grot = every whit.


Cindy said...

Dear Susan:
Enjoyed this post, too, and of course I agree. Because most of us aren't 'hired' to be writers, our status as such is somewhat unofficial. It's easy to allow the work to fall victim to the other, more standard obligations of day-job and family. Bringing professionalism to the keyboard gives our writing legitimacy - even in the embryonic stages when we may be the only people prepared to do so.

Susan Adrian said...


Well said!