The Number One Rule in the Publishing Industry

The Number One Rule in the Publishing Industry

I’m a rule follower, so I pay attention to rules, and the publishing industry has plenty of them. There are some you can ignore or break as long as you’re aware of them and have good reason not to follow them. But there are some that really should be followed or you’ll risk tarnishing your reputation and/or career in this business.

The number one rule to obey in the publishing industry is:

Be nice.

Whether you’re interacting with an agent, editor, writer, or reader, being nice and respectful will help you grow your network more than anything. Who wants to work with a negative person? Not me. So what does this mean?

-Don’t harass an editor or agent. It doesn’t matter if you’re chasing after them because you think you have the next bestseller in your hands or if you’re unhappy because they didn’t want to represent you. Leave these poor people alone. Act professional around them. It’s a small industry and if you behave like a psycho, it will get noticed, and they will share your name with their friends in the biz. Blacklists exist. Even freelance editors have them.

-Don’t reply to a rejection letter with a nasty note. Accept that your project wasn’t a good fit and move on. I recently read an agent’s blog post about this. While she had passed on a particular project, she liked the writer’s voice and would’ve considered future work if the writer hadn’t sent an offensive reply to the rejection. Bad move.

-Don’t blast someone on social media. That might make you look bad. Maybe someone wronged you, and that sucks. But when you flame someone publicly, it makes you look . . . out of control. We’ve all had people treat us badly, but we find a way to move past it. When people see someone publically shamed or flamed, they often feel sorry for that person and turn their negative thoughts toward the one venting. Backfired. You look bad, not the other way around.

-Don’t reply to negative reviews, even if the reviewer was wrong. Reviewers have the right to write a poor review, which can hurt your ratings. But there’s nothing you can do about it. Readers frown upon authors who respond to the negative reviews. And doing so can promote more negativity, which you don’t want.

-Don’t write negative reviews out of spite or jealousy. This is really ugly. I’ve seen writers get together and orchestrate a bundle of bad reviews because a publisher picked someone over them or another author won the contest they had wanted to win. Sad. REALLY SAD.

-Don’t snub new writers. We were all there once. Does that mean you should take them under your wing and mentor them? Not unless you want to. But you can treat them with respect.

-Don’t attack someone because they’ve decided to self-publish, get an agent, or go the traditional publishing route. It’s our journey and we won’t necessarily follow the same path as you, but that doesn’t make ours wrong. I saw a lot of this when I attended the Romance Writers of America conference this past summer. It seemed writers felt they had to choose between indie and traditional publishing, and some went as far as disrespecting the other side. So not cool, guys.

-Don’t put down other genres. Just because you don’t like a certain genre doesn’t mean those who read it are simpleminded or those who write it have it easy. Writing isn’t easy. Period.

-Don’t take advantage of people or use them. Don’t join a critique group only to have your work critiqued and not return the favor. Don’t ask someone to beta read for you if you’re not willing to do the same for them. Don’t promise to “like” someone’s Facebook page if they’ll like yours and not reciprocate. Don’t follow people on Twitter and unfollow them once they follow you. Get my point? It’s okay to ask for help as long as you’re willing to either pay it forward or pay it back.

-Don’t rant on social media, including your website or blog. You might not be shaming or flaming someone, but ranting about the publishing industry, agents in general, rejections, etc. isn’t a great idea. Think about what all that negativity says about you. Will people flock to your site or run from it?

Let’s face it. People like nice people. They want to be treated with respect and be around positive people.

What are other not-so-nice things writers should avoid doing?

Availability Update: I’ve been busy filling slots over the past couple of weeks. My next available substantive editing (aka developmental editing and line editing combo) is April 30.

Rumored Romantics Contest Update: We’re down to three wonderful writers/critiquers: Debbie, Sharon, and Jenn. Congrats!

Lynnette Labelle