From Nathan Bransford:
In the past, nothing has quite brought out the snide emails and comments like suggesting that writers should do more than just write. (Remember when I said it’s helpful to be able to type fast? I sure do!). There’s a certain slice of writer who bristles at any suggestion that their beautiful art won’t carry the day on its own.
Look. If you want to just write, just write! You have no argument from me. It’s a wonderful and meaningful way to spend your time.
If you want to seek publication, on the other hand, it’s not enough to just write, and despite whatever gauzy nostalgia you’ve been bathing in, it’s never been enough to just write. Sorry. I don’t make the rules now, and I didn’t make them in the olden days either. As long as publishing has been a business (as in roughly 100% of the time), there have been business realities for authors too.
What I’m going to cover here isn’t that hard. You don’t need to be a TikTok star selling NFTs in the metaverse. Sure, you might need to learn a few skills or shake up some old habits, but what I’m talking about here isn’t going to upend your life.
. . . .
If you’re pursuing traditional publication, publishers want to know that you’re going to be a professional author who will do everything you can to help promote your book. If you are self-publishing, you have to find a way to give your book a boost to reach your first readers.
And these days: that means being at least somewhat online and being able to communicate in a way that’s conducive to being productive and part of a bigger team.
The pandemic has only accelerated pre-existing trends that were pushing us online. Publishing employees are now physically scattered and have finally ditched old school habits like sending out paper contracts and manuscripts.
. . . .
Understand email etiquette
Let’s start with your email address. It should be professional and shouldn’t be an address you share with your spouse. Whatever email program you use to send and receive emails shouldn’t make your missives look like gobbledygook to people who use more common email services like Gmail and Outlook.
Gmail is free and easy to use. So is Outlook. It’s (usually) not hard to move over your old emails so you keep receiving them at your new, more professional email address. You’re really not stuck forever with whatever email service you signed up for in 1998.
But apart from your email address, I also think it’s really important to understand email thread etiquette. You should not be in the habit of changing subject lines and sending emails to publishing professionals without the previous correspondence, particularly when it’s an ongoing conversation about a specific topic. You should try to get a sense of email tone, particularly when it comes to things like all caps, and make sure you’re not inadvertently coming across like you’re screaming at someone.
Be conversant in Microsoft Word
For better or worse, Microsoft Word is still the default game in town for sending and receiving word processing files. If you’re sending your manuscript to a publishing professional, chances are they’re going to want your file in a Microsoft Word (.docx) file. Not a PDF.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to use Microsoft Word on a day-to-day basis. Other word processing programs like Apple Pages or Google Docs and fancy writing apps like Scrivener will export to .docx files. (I use Apple Pages as my day to day word processing program and export to Word).
Familiarize yourself with industry standard formatting, and utilize functions like page breaks. If you’re working with an editor, chances are they’re going to send your manuscript marked up with line edits and margin notes, so you’ll need to learn how to engage with these too.
Out of all the hoops you’re going to have to jump through in a publishing journey, formatting is one of the easiest. It pays to be professional here.
Link to the rest at Nathan Bransford
As many visitors to The Passive Voice know, these and the other items mentioned in the OP have been standard for online business communications since The Stone Age, aka DOS.
It certainly is a cultural and class thing, but if you’re going to deal with traditional publishing and its various elements, you need to talk the talk, etc.
The same thing goes if you’re going to self-publish your book. Spell check, Grammar check, ideally one or more beta readers who will pick up your dumb mistakes, etc.
95% of the work you do to get a book ready for submission to a publisher is exactly what you do for self-publishing. If you doubt your own skills for proofing, grammar checking, formatting, etc., you can pay someone to perform these tasks, but, it’s still a good idea to know something about how to do it yourself.
If you’re intelligent enough to write a decent book, you’re intelligent enough to do what is necessary to self-publish that book.