From Writers Helping Writers:
Now that in-person conferences are back, it’s a good time to review proper etiquette for these gatherings. I’ve been teaching at writers conferences for over twenty years, and I’ve seen a ton of aspiring writers in various stages of disequilibrium. Everyone wants to get a book contract and everyone’s a little scared they never will. They hear stories about the odds and it sends shivers to the tips of their typing fingers.
In the course of these conference years I’ve seen a number of writers who have gotten that contract and gone on to be published by major houses. I’ve even helped a few get there, which is nice. And while it’s nearly impossible to judge why one manuscript makes it and another—which is comparable or even better—does not, I have made note of one item: The overwhelming majority of writers I’ve seen make it are those who look and act like a professional.
When you meet unpublished writers who act like pros, you form the immediate impression that it’s only a matter of time before they make it. This impression is not lost on agents and editors.
So what are the marks of a professional?
Successful writers-in-waiting look professional. They do not come off as slobs or slackers. They dress sharply though unpretentiously. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but we do it all the time with people. Don’t shoot down your first impression by looking unkempt or having stink-breath that can kill low flying birds.
Professionals know something about their profession. They spend time reading blogs and books and the trades, though not to the exclusion of their writing.
To the Point
A pro has the ability to focus on what the other person (e.g., an agent) will find valuable and, most important, can deliver that in a concise and persuasive manner. You should be able to tell someone, in 30 seconds or less, what your book is about, in such a way that the person can immediately see its potential.
Common courtesy goes a long way, especially these days. If you have an appointment with an agent, be there two minutes early. When you’re done, thank them. Follow up with a short and appropriate e-mail. Don’t call them unless you’ve been invited to. Don’t get angry or petulant, even if there’s a reason for it. Burning bridges is never a good career move.
Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers
PG is certain the author of the OP is knowledgeable and meant well with his suggestions, but, for PG’s PG-ish tendencies, especially in the morning, the OP represented a great many things he dislikes about the traditional book business.
We only deal with the right kind of people.
Fit in or else.
Remember who has the power and who doesn’t.
A little groveling goes a long way.
We don’t need you but you need us.
A great many people PG has dealt with in the traditional publishing establishment think they’re smarter than they are.
He’ll rant on lawyers who work for publishers because, for PG, they represent tendencies he sees in many different areas of the publishing biz.
- They’re not very good lawyers. Nobody who graduates from a decent law school with decent grades wants to go to work for a publisher. For one thing, they can make a lot more money working elsewhere and for another, the work they do on a daily basis isn’t very challenging or interesting.
- They aren’t very good negotiators (one of the most important talents of a good business/contracts attorney) because they don’t think they have to be. After all, every author needs a publisher more than the publisher needs them.
- They spend most of their time dealing with literary agents, not other lawyers. Some agents are intelligent and competent, but anybody can call themselves a literary agent. There are no entry requirements, no classes they have to take, nada. And every agent needs a publisher way, way more than the publisher needs an agent. (There may be a small group of elite agents representing gonzo best-selling authors who are more important, but the gonzo combination is pretty rare.)
- Like everyone else in publishing, they secretly know that Amazon has changed the world, but they don’t like to think about that because they’re not sure where else they could find a job.
PG will stop being uncharitable for awhile, but he has always been annoyed by paper-thin establishments that act stupidly.