The Writer’s Bag of Tricks

Unprofessional Horror Stories

I’ve been talking about writing as a business for the last few weeks, and for those of you in the back row mumbling about my topic of choice, I have a tiny bit of banter left, and next week we move on to something you might actually want to read. Okay?

But, for now, I thought I would share some publishing horror stories. You know, as sort of an informative concept of things not to do. Of course, I know none of you would ever do anything even remotely unprofessional, but you might know someone who has, or does, and who finds it funny.

A little background.

People in publishing know other people in publishing. If I don’t know a particular person, I can reach out to that someone and they will respond most likely. The point is that publishing is a relatively small industry.

And people talk to each other.

There are chatrooms and conferences for people in publishing, where publisher A can ask for help from editor W, or chat over a cocktail. It’s that sort of thing. These groups are also places for publishers and editors to blow off steam.

About authors.

Mind you, this doesn’t happen often. Most authors are spectacular. MY authors are spectacular. But, every once in a while someone special comes along…

…and submits something to somebody somewhere, and that somebody found the manuscript to be not right for their publishing house at that particular moment. That somebody sent a rejection to the author. That is standard, right? Don’t you think? But then the author responds back and tells the poor somebody how stupid they are, and how they are a **********!! for three pages. Seriously. This happens in real life. And more often than you would expect.

So guess what? That somebody tells somebody, who tells somebody, who tells somebody, who will probably then go to one of the online groups and tell everyone present, or mention the author at the next conference. And now there are many somebodies who know that author’s name. And since publishing is a business, and accepting or rejecting a project, which is a financial risk to the publisher, is a business decision…why would somebody want to get into business and work with that author?


There are also things like author signings at bookstores. The bookseller (who knows other booksellers, etc…) is THE person who will make the decision about whether to put an author’s book on a particular shelf. You should be nice to the bookseller. If you act like an (insert word here) when you are doing an appearance, you can bet the bookseller will not order your book for their shelves, and they will talk to other booksellers. People talk. And if you are signing at a bookseller conference for example, where there are 500 booksellers present, and 100 publishers, and a few editors and agents, and you act like an (insert word here) and throw yourself on the floor and wail because things are not as you demand them to be, well, people talk.

I haven’t seen another book put out by that particular wailing author for the last several years. Bookselling is a business, and who would want to work with someone who acts like an (insert word here)?

You get my drift. These are things I have seen and experienced. No third-hand stories for you. I have some names of authors in the back of my mind that I don’t want to ever work with, I hate to say. And if someone asked me about such-and-such-author, yeah. I would share the horror story. People talk.

Writing is a business. Publishing is a business. The point of books is to sell them. View yourself as a business with good customer service and create the best possible product and you’ll be fine.

That’s all.

I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Next week, we press on to something interesting!

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