A week ago today, I attended the Chicagoland Authors Expo where I met with other Chicagoland authors and gave a talk. It was a very good event put on by Dominique Wilkins --the writer, not the basketball player. Now that I've gotten a chance to sit down at my computer, I've taken the liberty to post the transcript of the talk that I gave on professionalism because the more I log onto the social networks, the more I see authors putting down other authors under the guise of protecting readers or for the sake of putting down other authors to appear as if they're shining gold above us unwashed, indie authors in the eyes of their peers and readers alike.
I came out today to meet everyone in this room and to give a talk on professionalism and how it relates in today’s business of writing and book-selling. Unfortunately, the inspiration behind this topic comes from a lot of unprofessional behavior that I've seen online, particularly on facebook and kindleboards.
Being professional isn’t about how well you talk or how much you spam your social networks.
Professionalism extends beyond whether or not you hired a cover designer or a copyeditor. Its not about having purchased ISBN number or registering as a business.
And professionalism is not about putting on airs in a desperate attempt to stand out amongst your peers.
Let me expound upon that last point.
I’ve been seeing a growing minority of writers who engage in a daily ritual of putting down other authors for trivial matters such as publishing book with a homemade cover or not getting said work copyedited. I believe most of us agree that those aren’t the best practices for bookselling, but everyone has different reasons for writing and publishing books. Regardless of how we may feel we need to respect one another as peers even if you don’t agree with another writer’s method of conducting business. It is not our job as writers to put other writers on blast just because they don’t meet our subjective quality control standards. We simply don’t vet work that we’ve never read under the guise of protecting readers from making bad purchases. Fact of the matter is, readers are perfectly capable of separating good books from bad.
That’s how it always has been and that’s how it always will be. Readers are not stupid. They can make their own choices as to who they want to read and the books they want to buy. Let the marketplace determine whether or not a book is any good.
Speaking of which, its very unprofessional to hound a reviewer just because the rating that she gave you was lower you had hoped. Listen, reviewers in many cases do a thankless job of reading and reviewing unknown authors in exchange for nothing more than a free book. They are human beings giving their subjective opinion on a book. If a reviewer gives you a less than favorable review. Thank them for taking the time to review the book, don’t explain any perceived misinterpretation of your story, and certainly don’t send your fans to harass them. This is not professional. We need our reviewers to be able to feel comfortable giving their honest assessment of a book without fear of retribution.
One more thing about reviews, it is not professional to make accusations towards other authors of buying 5-star reviews just because you believe that they have too high of a number of 5-star reviews.
Don’t entertain or engage in any of this behavior because worrying about how other authors conduct their business is not going to positively impact yours. Voicing faux concern about the quality of books or gaming the review system is neither going to build your backlist, nor put money in your pocket. In all, unprofessional behavior is a big time vampire that accomplishes nothing.
So what is professionalism?
To put it simply, professionalism as a writer is about striving to improve your craft, making sure that you have the tools necessary to write a good books, and having the work ethic to write every day. Its about not giving up when you feel like giving up. Professionalism overall is about doing the right thing and not compromising your ethics to make a dollar.
So how can we as authors strive to be professionals?
Read a lot of fiction
I know that many people say that they don’t have time to read. Let’s face it, none of us have time for reading, so we gotta make time. Fifteen minutes during a lunch break, a half-hour before going to bed, a quick read during our metra commute. Fit reading in or as Stephen King says “you won’t have the tools to be writers.”
Write for at least an hour a day
Don’t wait for the eureka moment of the perfect idea falling out the sky before writing. Park your ass in front of the computer and type. Stephen King says that all writers should strive towards writing 2,000 words per day. For now, just worry about fitting an hour a day in. Don’t tell me you don’t have time, you can write 15 minutes during break, 45 minutes when you get home. Or just break it up into four 15 minute spurts. However you decide to do it, don’t tell me you don’t have time. If you have time to watch Love and Hip Hop, you have an hour to write.
Submit your book to a publisher, or self-publish it
This goes back to writing an hour per day. The more you write, the more work you’ll publish which translates to more income potential. Why? Because the more books you have, the more flexibility you have in running sales. Let’s say you’re at a book fair and you have several titles. You can offer sales like 2 for $15 or buy two, get one free, etc. In ebook format, you can drop the price of one book to $2.99 or give it away for free to introduce people to you without giving away your entire backlist. Writing more gives you more options.
Say please and thank you
Whenever someone reads and reviews your book, thank them. Whenever someone recommends your book to someone else, thank them. Whenever someone does something for you, thank them.
Network with other professionals
This is something that I need to improve upon, but look around. Today is a great time to begin our professional relationships with one another.
As every one of you move forward in your writing endeavors, remember one thing. BE PROFESSIONAL