May 9, 2011

On Etiquette and Honesty

On Agent Interaction

The internet opens up this amazing space to interact with industry professionals that older generations didn't get. With blogs, twitter, facebook, tumblr, etc, writers have the ability to reach out and actually talk to the people capable of making their careers--or, at least, opening the door to them.

Don't abuse this. Don't get me wrong, I totally support doing your research, finding all interviews by that agent, stalking their blog/twitter/tumblr and their clients' blogs/twitters/tubmlrs. The more you know, and all that.

But don't be a nuisance. Don't pitch to them via twitter when they're just trying to have a helpful #askagent chat. Don't message them on Facebook asking them to look at your manuscript. Don't schmooze with an agent with the intention of sneaking your query to the top of the slushpile.

Agents will remember your name if your comments are thoughtful and engaging and honest. They will also remember your name for less favorable reasons, and b/c they won't want to work with someone they know is either difficult or a brown-noser, they won't even bother reading your query.

Agents can be intimidating, but they are only people (people with magical door-opening abilities, possibly like Door from Neverwhere), but still just people looking for genuine human interaction. If you make an honest mistake, they'll forgive you. But don't shoot yourself in the foot by committing those mistakes again and again.

The worst advice I've ever gotten was to lie to an agent. And it was from a published author. Having had previous email exchanges with this author, I went to her for advice on how to resubmit a newer version of a manuscript to an agent in possession of a full. Her advice was to shoot an email to the agent under the guise of checking in to see if she'd read my full yet and if not, hey, attach the newer version of the manuscript so the agent wouldn't have to go back and dig through emails and would think I was being considerate.

Ummm. Okay, while it isn't ill-intentioned, it is deceptive, and that didn't sit well with me. So I ignored her advice and just asked the agent if I could submit a newer version, to which the agent graciously accepted.

Do not lie to an agent EVER.

(BTW, said agent later sent me the nicest rejection I have ever received lol. And also welcomed me to send her the manuscript again after I finished editing. That's another thing you shouldn't do--send continually newer versions. Fortunately, like I said above, agents are human and will forgive your mistakes as long as they don't keep happening.)

On Feedback to Other Writers

Whether you're a beta reader or a critique partner, always be honest in your feedback and your reactions. If there was a sentence that made you pause and go 'wow,' let the writer know. If there was a passage that made you pause and go 'wth?' let the writer know.

You aren't responsible for quality control, but--if you're a beta reader/CP--you're someone the writer allowed to read their work for the purpose of giving them a truthful and thoughtful reaction. Don't tell her the book is awesome if it isn't. That writer might end up shopping a book that isn't ready, and potentially ruin her chances with agents she shouldn't yet be querying.

But also be balanced. If you loved the book, say so, but try to pinpoint a few areas the writer might be able to improve. Likewise, if you hated the book, then you should also say so. But explain why, and try to do it in a way that isn't insulting or inflammatory. Honesty is important, but so is common decency.

On Book Reviews and Differing Opinions Among Friends

I'm okay with writers who review books by their peers. I know a lot of people find fault with this, but as long as negative reviews are done so with tact, then I don't see the problem. We're all adults, and we're capable of playing in the same sandbox without someone stomping on another person's sand castle and throwing a tantrum--and if we're not, then we need a long time out to chillax.

Look, guys. We are capable of having different opinions and still being friends. I know, CRAZY, RIGHT? We can even argue about whether or not we liked a book, and still be friends. My friend can dislike my book and still be my friend. Our friendship is not contingent upon her liking my book, or her having all the same opinions as me.

But there's a line to walk between honesty and being a jerk. A book review ripping apart a book and shouting 'DON'T BUY IT' isn't one I'd consider seriously. And if you're going to have to tell your friend you didn't like her book, then try cushioning it with some positives instead of telling her her book stinks, the characters are flat, and the conflict was unrealistic. Because honesty might hurt, but the way you deliver it will determine whether or not you still have a friend afterward.

Treat a book the same way you'd want your book to be treated--with honesty and fairness.

On Social Media

Blogging is awesome. It connects you with other bloggers and aspiring writers who share mutual interests and passions. But, as with everything else, you should be honest in who you present to your readers. For a lot of people, blogging is a part of establishing your brand (unless you blog anonymously), and you want to present the best part of yourself. Who you are on your blog/twitter/etc won't reflect who you are completely, but it should be a facet of you, and not just a guise.

So, be honest about who you are, but also keep etiquette in mind. Don't turn your blog into a personal diary in which you publicly complain about the publishing industry and/or lambast agents who have rejected you.
In almost any situation, when in doubt, choose honesty and tact.

For today's bit of art, here's a crop of another pencil sketch commission:

Keep an eye out Wednesday for my Followers Contest post! :D

Happy Monday, everyone! ♥

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