Think Like A Professional

I try not to bash other writers as much as I possibly can on here, because well…karma.  And class.  And it’s just poor form.

But I have to say that something a fellow author did the other day has really been bothering me.  I’m not going to name names here, but anyone who follows the forums and blogs will probably know what I’m talking about.  What I’m referring to was reposted on a prominent blog and then on a popular writing forum as well.

Here’s what happened: An author who decided to self-pub posted the offer e-mail they received for their series word-for-word and then talked about how well they’ve done in comparison.

Now, they thought it was fine because there’s no identifying information in the e-mail, so it’s okay, right?

No, no, no.

My professional businessperson side cringes to see that e-mail posted.  That author–who may not care at the moment because they’re self-pubbed–just burned a lot of bridges.  With the agent who forwarded the offer.  With the editor who made the offer.  And, quite frankly, with any other agent or editor who sees that.  Not to mention any author who wants their private information to stay private.


Well, it’s a bit like taking the love letters one suitor wrote you and posting them on your blog to show how lucky you are to have moved on to your new suitor.  It’s breaking a confidence.

If I were an agent, seeing that and knowing how some folks could be, I’d probably start including a non-disclosure clause in my agreements with clients.  Because having a client that’s so loose-lipped about your private negotiations is damaging.  It’s a reflection on your judgement.  Fair or not.

As another example, it’s like posting a job offer you received and bragging about how much more you’re earning at your new job instead.

Now, this author has done a very good job of leveraging the trade publishing offer they received to boost their name recognition and sell more books.  They’ve been doing this since day one.  I’m sure there are authors out there who’ve turned down big deals and self-pubbed and not said a word to anyone.  But this author made the news when they did so.

Turns out with this latest post they just happen to be giving away the book that started it all for free right now.  How charmingly coincidental.

Look, I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Writing is a long con.  You can’t make short-term decisions that will come back to f you up later if you want to stay in this long-term.  Sure, right now self-publishing seems like the only possible choice for some authors.  Who would ever want a trade pub deal when they can self-pub and make millions, right?

(Gives that comment a long, hard stare because it’s so not true for most writers who say it.)

Well, what if Amazon decided to close down KDP tomorrow?  What if it decided that policing and dealing with indies was just not worth the headache and it preferred to use Kindle Scout and its own imprints to source exclusive new material instead?

You don’t think it could happen?

If you’re running a business, you should consider it as a possibility.  So, what happens then?  What happens when your major sales channel goes away?  Or, if you’ve diversified, one of your major sales channels?  (Borders, anyone?  You don’t think that hit publishers HARD?)

Or what happens when you get tired of all the promo and design work and just want to write.  There are A LOT of self-publishers who’ve taken trade deals.  A lot of the big early names.  What do you do when you decide that’s what you want but you’ve burned all those bridges by proving yourself unprofessional and not to be trusted?

If you’re big enough, you may get a deal, but not as good a deal.  You’re a liability and any business partner will need to be compensated for taking the risk of working with you.

Look, I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination.  And in my professional career I have on more than one occasion said the wrong thing or revealed something I shouldn’t.  (And paid the consequences…)

But I think it’s important that we all remember that when we blog we aren’t talking in private with a few close friends.  We’re talking to anyone in the world who has computer access.  Anyone.  And what we say now may not even come back on us for years, but it may very well do so at some point.

So proceed with caution.  With everything.

And I’d urge any writer (aspiring or otherwise) to be cautious about discussing deal terms, revenues, or negotiations, especially without permission.  (Although I do love to see these things because that information is pure gold.)

Also, just because you strip off someone’s name from an email doesn’t mean that those who know don’t recognize the source.  I bet money that if I were an agent who had dealt with that house or editor before that I’d know exactly who had written that email…

(Just like I know that anyone who knows me and suspects this is my blog would recognize me in my posts although random strangers don’t.)

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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