New on the SFWA Blog: Online Reputation vs. Writer’s Platform

Recently, I got the chance to write about a topic that I feel is essential for every professional writer to think about. On the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) Blog, I wrote an article entitled, “Thinking About Your Writer’s Platform? Consider Your Online Reputation First.” In the article, I discuss my opinions related to the importance of internet search, tracking, managing and fostering your online reputation, and potential ramifications for sloppy content.

Here’s a quote from my article:

Take a moment and think about the content you’re posting on various websites and forums. Are you comfortable with complete strangers reading what you’ve posted? What about your employer? Agent?

Online reputation management not only includes monitoring what people say about you, but also your strategy related to what, when and where you post your content. –SOURCE: SFWA.org

Be sure to read the rest of Thinking About Your Writer’s Platform? Consider Your Online Reputation First. on the SFWA blog and let me know what you think!

Tips on How to Be a Pro | Part Two of Three

Last time, I kicked off the series with a quote from Jennifer Brozek and offered some Tips on How to be a Professional for part one of this three part series. So far, this topic has been pretty popular so I’d like to continue it with more tips and quotes from other professionals working in the publishing industry.

This first quote is from Jess Hartley, an author and game designer who is helping geeks navigate through the waters of conventions, manners, social situations and a whole lot more.

Being professional doesn’t mean being false or phony. It means handling each encounter with the thoughtfulness and respect it deserves – taking the good graciously and dealing with the bad so as to cause no more harm than absolutely necessary.–Jess Hartley, Author and Game Designer

Being genuine is a big part of being a professional, which is why it’s a good idea to leave your “ego-licious” attitude at the door. This next tip is from illustrator extraordinaire Jeff Preston, who understands all too well what being a professional means.

Keep your ego in check. Respect yourself and your work, but don’t let it be a hindrance to your business relationships. A lot of being a professional is just knuckling down and doing the job, regardless of whether you feel like it or not. –Jeff Preston, Illustrator

I’m sure some of you might have witnesses how ego can get in the way of either getting an assignment, developing relationships with other writers or editors, or even grabbing an elusive contract.

Thanks to Jess and Jeff for adding their tips for my series. Here’s ten more tips on my take for how to be a pro:

    11. Act Appropriately At Cons – Showing up to a convention to meet with someone wearing a ripped t-shirt? Trying to get an interview on the busiest day of the con? Jess Hartley wrote a popular series called GenCon For The Aspiring Professional which talks about tips for finding work and scheduling meetings at a convention.


    12. Don’t Get Hung Up On Minutia – Are you arguing with your editor for hours over a comma? Holding up your deadline because of a single word? While the amount of minutia that’s important to you may vary, when you’re a “pro” you’ll discover that you might have to compromise with certain things on occasion. I understand that there are things that are important to you as a writer, but keep it in the back of your mind that too much minutia may affect your ability to meet deadlines.


    13. Learn How to Compromise – Don’t like a particular word choice? What about feedback on a scene that you wrote? Compromise is part and parcel to the writing process, because often it’s a collaborative one. Good editors are worth their weight in gold because their job is to make your writing even better. I’m sorry, but no writer “gets it right” on the first draft of a story. There’s always room for improvement, criticism and feedback. The question is: What will you do with that feedback once you get it?


    14. Understand There’s a Time and Place for Innovation – This goes back to Jeff’s tip about “keeping your ego in check.” As a pro, you have to learn that you won’t be the superstar on every project you work on, even if it’s something you pitch. Many projects (books, games, etc.) either have a business model that will support the project, or it was designed with one in mind. When you work for a project with a tight business focus, you may not get the opportunity to put your personal touch on it. Not every project is structured in this way, but they do exist.


    15. Don’t Take Criticism Personally – Remember when I said that the writing process is collaborative? There are times writers will get heavily critiqued through rejection letters or reviews. While this may be upsetting, your work is what’s drawing the criticism. This doesn’t mean you’re a shitty writer or you should just give up your dreams now; it means that someone didn’t like your work and you have to decide what to do with the feedback you’ve received. When you share your stories and your articles, accept the fact that your words will get critiqued, dissected and analyzed. Some readers are more careful than others; some books will sell even if they get bad reviews. Knowing that you will get criticized, though, is half the battle.


    16. Be Gracious When Someone Doesn’t Like Your Writing – There have been way too many authors, companies, etc. getting caught deleting bad reviews from Amazon.com, arguing with reviewers via Twitter and other social media channels, etc. Here’s the thing: the people that matter are the ones reading your arguments, not the ones who are arguing with you.

    No matter how many times you try, you can’t convince someone who didn’t like your book that they should like it. It’s hard not to be whiny (online or off) when someone doesn’t like a project that you’ve worked on, but there’s a time and place for it. Instead, I recommend thanking your reviewers for taking the time to read your product in the first place or simply ignore the bad reviews.


    17. Be Happy For Other People’s Successes – Have you heard about the international best-selling writer who made millions off his first book? Yes, there are writers who “hit it big” right off the bat, but that is an exception rather than a rule in publishing. As you meet other authors, it’s quite possible that you might watch another writer “pass you by.” Keep in mind that becoming a successful writer is NOT a race, and one writer’s success might be another writer’s headache. Enjoy your own path and be happy for someone else’s, because no two paths are completely alike.


    18. Don’t Plagiarize – It is hard to believe that plagiarism is still rearing its ugly head, especially with today’s technology, but it still exists. (This also includes taking credit for someone else’s work when you haven’t written it.) Unfortunately, not every case of plagiarism is a situation where someone stole someone else’s work; there are opportunists out there who sue because an author is wildly successful. As a result, some publishers and writers will post that they won’t read unsolicited submissions and will shred any that they receive. I recommend developing your own Writer’s Manifesto to remind yourself of your ethics as a professional writer and follow submission guidelines to the letter. In some cases, those guidelines can actually help prevent your work from being plagiarized, too.


    19. Repeat After Me: Publishing is a Business – Publishing is, first and foremost, a business that sells books. As business owners, publishers make decisions based on their business model. That model may (or may not) line up with what you have to offer. In my experience, once you truly realize that publishing is a business, you will be able to set yourself apart as a professional. This mantra is not intended to be soul-sucking or a downer, it’s simply a gentle reminder that when you chase your proverbial rainbow, you’re actually looking for a contract and not that shiny pot of gold.


    20. Love to Write (Or Get Out Now) – Being a writer is really, really tough, but being stuck in a profession that you can’t stand is even harder. Unfortunately, your work may suffer if you find writing is a chore, which is why I hope you do love it as much as I do. Even if you’re not as passionate about writing as I am, I hope you find the vocation that calls to you. I find that it’s much easier to be successful and professional when you’re doing something you love, rather than something you can’t stand.

Thanks for sticking with this fun series about being a professional. If you have something you’d like to share, be sure to post in the comments below!
:)

How To Make The Perfect Pitch (Without Striking Out): VIDEO

Came across this as I was reading through my news this morning; thought you might get a kick out of this video. Something to think about if you’re pitching to an agent!

Be sure to visit Christie and Faye online through www.WriteWithUs.net.

Tips on How to Be a Professional | Part One of Three

Did you know that your chances of getting published increase the more professional you act? In this series of posts, I’d like to share with you some tips from other professionals working as freelancers, writers, publishers and editors. I’d also like to cover some tips that you might find interesting to think about as you navigate along your own path.

To start, I’d like to share with you an editor’s perspective. Besides her many other talents, Jennifer Brozek is an editor for Apex Book Company. She writes:

In the writing industry, it is always easier to work with a professional author than a non-professional one. I’m not talking just “published” authors. I’m talking about those authors (published or not) who have their acts together. They present themselves well in face-to-face meetings, have appropriate business cards and know when it is time to leave the editor to other business. They communicated well in an online forum, meet the specifications of the contract—on time every time—and they don’t tell tales out of school.—- Jennifer Brozek, submission editor for the Apex Book Company and author of In a Gilded Light

To start off the series, here are ten tips on how to be a professional that I’d like to share with you. These tips are related to acting like a professional writer, but some of them also echo with other creative fields like art and illustration or other freelancing roles as well.

    1. Try Not To Act Desperate. Have you submitted a short story or a query for a non-fiction article? Can’t wait to hear back from an agent? Great! Guess what? You are not the only writer that has submitted something. Editors, agents, publishers wade through hundreds of submissions and often have other responsibilities besides addressing your work. Depending upon their workload (and whether or not they’ve worked with you before) it could take weeks, maybe even months, before they get back to you. Incessantly badgering people to read your submission will not make the process go any faster and it can actually hurt your chances of getting published.


    So what is a good guideline for communication? Use your best judgment; some submission guidelines will cover what you should expect and some don’t. Also, I have seen some agents communicate generalities through social media, like Twitter. For queries, I like to follow-up within a week to confirm receipt, and say that I’ll follow-up again in a month if I haven’t heard anything. I’m usually more vigilant about other forms of communication, because a quick turn-around time can make (or break) a contract.

    2. Read and Follow the Submission Guidelines – I’m not sure how much clearer I can be than that. Funny thing is, one of the most common reasons why people get rejected is because they don’t read or follow the guidelines. Did you know that they’re often there to see if a writer will follow directions? Don’t waste an editor’s time by avoiding pre-established rules. Seriously.

    3. Write What You Want to Write – Do you like writing about flower pots? Then read similar articles on flower pots, research gardening magazines and write about flower pots. Do you hate writing about vampires? Then don’t write about them! It is easier to find work and establish your reputation as a writer if you enjoy what you’re writing. If your assignments turn into a chore, not only do you run the risk of approaching burn-out faster, but your quality might suffer, too.

    4. Write Professional Correspondence – I talked a little bit about this previously when I said, “Please Write Out Your Emails.” I cannot stress enough the importance of writing a good query letter, email, cover letter, etc. If you don’t know how to do it, there are several books and blogs on the subject.

    5. Do Not Publicly Bitch About Your Bad Experiences – While it is important to be yourself, in today’s environment anything you say can and will be overhead by someone you don’t know. I wrote a very tongue-in-cheek post about How To Ruin Your Online Reputation In 10 Easy Steps a while ago. Many of those comments apply to being a professional writer as well. Publicly bitching about your experiences in a way that reflects poorly on the publication (or agent) you’ve submitted to, an editor, etc. is a BIG no-no. Think about it this way: Would you want to hire an employee who’s complaining that they can’t get published? Or that an editor gave them a crappy review?

    6. Don’t Overstate Your Abilities (Or Your Credits) – Take a good, long look at your list of publications. Is it accurate? Or did you fluff your credits with things you didn’t actually contribute to? While Credit is the Greatest (and Cheapest) Gift You Can Give, be conscientious of giving yourself too much credit. The publishing industry is not as big as you might think; people know other people in this business and they are not afraid to ask questions about you.

    7. Don’t Talk About Your Personal Finances – Would you go to a job interview and say, “I really need this job because I’m broke and my cat just died?” Do. Not. Talk. About. Your. Money. Why? First of all, when you say that you are a) a writer and b) you’re broke, you are leaving an impression in someone’s mind that you are a shitty writer who can’t get published or make enough money to keep writing. Even if that isn’t true, no one wants to hire someone out of pity. Seriously. When my cat had emergency treatment, my SO and I talked about setting up a fundable page, partly because people asked how they could help. We did end up setting one up, but I didn’t post about it extensively, nor did I post about it on this site. Yes, emergencies do happen but the professional will always reign supreme. Unfortunately, it is very hard to keep the lines of “personal” versus “professional” separate online. Regardless of what you choose to reveal about your personal life, it is very bad form to beg.

    8. Don’t Take Bad News Personally – Bad reviews, rejection letters, harsh critics…they’re all part and parcel to being anyone who produces creative works for a living. It sucks, it does…but it’s part of the job. When you get bad news, usually there’s a good reason for it. Maybe your story didn’t fit a magazine. Maybe your book didn’t hit the market at the right time. Maybe you’re query letter was terrible. Or maybe, just maybe, your story wasn’t good enough to get published. Whatever reason lurks behind getting bad news, that news has to do with what you wrote. It is not a personal attack on you. Keep that in mind as you navigate through your career. Yes, you have every right to feel and react to those emotions when you do get the bad news, but try not to go off the deep end.

    9. Don’t Expect Other Authors To Do You Any Favors – As I was working on this post, John Scalzi wrote, “On the asking of favors from established writers.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    10. Be Strategic About What You Give Away For Free – Earlier, I wrote about My Stance On Writing For Free where I talked about how writing for free works if it is part of your business model. Throwing up stories and other content haphazardly is “not” a good way to get writing credits. Seriously. Some free sites have excellent reputations, and some do not. Check out a website thoroughly to see whether or not you want to be associated with it. (Please note that “fan fiction” is not a professional writing credit in most circumstances. For more information, read my explanation about What Is Shared World, Tie-In and Fan Fiction?)

    The other reason why you want to be careful about writing for free, is that it is counter intuitive to your goal for becoming a professional author. In most cases, pros get paid. Saying that you’ll work for free just to get in on a sweet project is akin to saying that you don’t think your work is worth money. Keep in mind that I determine what I’ll write for free based on “what” it is, too. For example, I’ll occasionally write non-fiction for a little self-promotion, which I’ll cover in a later point.

In my next installment, I’ll cover more examples of being a professional and some other tips that you might want to consider. Are you a true professional that would like to chime in? Feel free to offer your tips for others in the comments below.

Creating an Offline Writer’s Group is Harder than it Looks

As many of you know, supporting my fellow writers and editors is very important to me provided my schedule allows for it. Whether someone is new to the craft or not, I can relate to the challenges of networking. When I started forming a writer’s group a few months ago, I really had no idea what to expect. I wasn’t sure if there would be a large interest or a small one, or if we’d have a more professional take on it rather than something casual.

What I’ve learned is that forming an offline writer’s group is a lot harder than it looks. I’d like to share some of the things I’ve internalized over the past, few months with you.

1. Writing Groups Seem to Work Better when There’s a Tight Focus – Because the physical act of writing is often extremely solitary, I didn’t want to create an exclusive “fiction” or “non-fiction” group. Initially, I thought that because there’s often writers (like myself) that do both non-fiction and fiction, a generic group might allow people to network and grow in the areas that they wanted to write in. What I found was that the group needed a tighter focus. We’ve had many different people come to the different writer’s groups; but everyone seemed to be interested in something that I wasn’t prepared to provide. Some wanted a workshop sort of a scenario, with a more professional (e.g. paying dues) structure that offered support for professional (e.g. established) writers. Others wanted a casual environment where leads and other opportunities happened organically, with less of a structure. This experience taught me that even though I had the best of intentions for creating a more generic, more people-oriented structure, it would have been more successful if there was an outline and an agenda that I could offer people up front. This also brings me to my next point…

2. You Can’t Please Everyone – I’ve learned that no matter how much I want to try to offer a group where there’s a little something for everyone, in reality that’s pretty darn close to impossible. Writing as a career is so broad (almost too broad) that it’s perfectly normal to have two, very successful writers who have experiences that have nothing to do with one another. A romance novelist, for example, may have something in common with another novelist, but not with an editor for a business journal. Query letters might be necessary for fiction and non-fiction, but they aren’t for people who are employed full-time in a company. Throw in writers who have never published an article or a short story, and it’s possible the group ends up not finding anything to talk about without prompting.

Realizing that I couldn’t offer a group that would mean something to everyone was a very, difficult lesson for me to learn. Add my own “wants” and “needs” on top of that lesson, and I found myself facing one, inevitable truth…

3. There’s Only So Much of “Me” to Go Around – It is no secret that I’ve been restructuring my long-term writing goals. I have a limited amount of time to work with, because I have a “day job” that I am committed to, which means that I need to be extraordinarily disciplined and aware of my time away from work in order to remain professional and achieve my goals. I would like to point out that I am exceptionally fortunate that my team supports my fiction-and-game writing efforts outside of work; many of my fellow team members are writers or have other creative endeavors as well, too.

I had initially envisioned the writer’s group to be something that just took off on its own, so that I could fit in into my schedule without creating a lot of prep time or additional time sinks. What I found was that because the organic nature of the group didn’t happen as well as I had hoped, I realized that I needed to dump more time into the group to nurture it along. Unfortunately, I had a situation where I was prepping for other conferences and I couldn’t devote time into it. Because of that, the group is a lot smaller than I had expected. Sure, if I had put more time and effort into it I’m confident that I would have been able to help it get off the ground, but that’s time I didn’t (and still don’t) have. Part of it, too, is that LinkedIn (which is where I first started this group) didn’t meet all of our needs, either. That thought segues into my next point…

4. Functionality Online is Key to Offline Organization – Facebook has “events” that allow you to see whether or not people are attending. Those invites are great for booking invitations. LinkedIn also has “events,” but they’re not part of a group’s functionality, so you have to send people to a separate location to sign up for the event. Group emails (like Google or Yahoo! groups) can work, but since they’re separate from where the group’s info might be located, they can be limiting and they also need to be monitored.

Regardless of the tools I’d need to facilitate group communication, I’ve also realized that because not everyone spends the same amount of time that I do online, they might not “see” something I post for a few days, maybe even a week. I feel that I should have figured out what tools I needed to use before I started up the group; and I should have established some sort of communication structure beforehand. So what’s the lesson here?

5. It’s Best to Plan Before You Form a Writer’s Group – From researching established writer’s groups to figuring out how the group will function in the long-term, I’ve learned that starting a writer’s group does require time and special loving care. In my opinion, the tools that you need to create a writer’s group are:

  • Specific Goal or Unifying Message (e.g. What do you want to Accomplish?)
  • Financial Structure (e.g. Fee-based? Not?)
  • Offline Location (Easily Accessible and Low-Cost)
  • Online Location (Easily Accessible and Easy-to-Use)
  • Group Guidelines (e.g. Who is the group for?)
  • Awareness of Existing Writer’s Groups
  • Promotion (Getting People Interested)
  • Support (Information, Resources, Short-Term Goals)
  • Communication (e.g. Who handles grievances? Messaging? etc.?)
  • People Willing to Help Organize
  • Going forward, I’m still going to offer something for the existing group and see where it goes. It’ll be structured around a more “social” idea, though. Once a month I’m going to offer a chance for people to network, either through dinner or a cocktail hour. Then, on a quarterly basis, I’ll have a workshop or learning experience of some kind. For fall, I’m going to toss out the idea of attending a lecture that might be invaluable for people who want to learn how to get published in fiction.

    Even though I’m not sure how things will progress for the group, I’m learning to move forward in a new and positive direction.

    Next Posts




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