A little over two months ago, I wrote an article for a newsletter and decided to share it here.
Authors are often the best supporters that other authors can have, but sometimes we can overlook a few things that highlight our bad manners with writers, with editors, and with readers. As I looked back over some of my own experiences as an author and as a “fan,” I came up with ideas that might help me and others to be better mannered.
Don’t hog an author’s attention at a signing. I’ve been guilty of this, I’m afraid. I’ve also had this happen when I had a signing. Of course everyone is thrilled to visit, actually talk to an admired author or maybe one known way back when. However, visitors need to move over or fade into the background so that others can visit and/or get their books autographed. Then, if and when the author is no longer busy, a person might visit some more.
Remember to buy other authors’ books, too. We need to realize when other authors buy our books, we need to return the favor. Of course we can’t buy everyone’s books: Some may not be well written (although, I have a few rather unimpressive books I bought anyway); some may be the genre we won’t buy no matter who the author is; sometimes we don’t have the money to buy anyone’s book. However, we should try to buy at least one book from authors we know have bought a few of ours.
Don’t ask an author to critique your work. A person can inadvertently take an idea from something read months and years previously without realizing from where it came. Authors don’t want to be accused of “stealing” someone else’s story. Therefore, we shouldn’t be offended when an author says she or he can’t read our manuscripts.
Actually, unless we are in a critique group with authors, or know them very well, we shouldn’t ask at all. Just because we think we know authors through their writings does not mean we do “know” them or that they know us.
Unless, an author offers, don’t ask him to review your book, or unless you know the author well or are in a group with him. Also, if an author should agree to review your book, don’t pout if you don’t like the review. I have some books sitting behind my desk that people requested I review, but I cannot recommend anyone read them. Some need extensive professional editing. Therefore I face upsetting authors no matter what I do – either because the review would not be flattering to the book or because I don’t review it.
The Golden Rule is a good rule to follow. We should try putting ourselves in the other author’s position, and then treat her or him as we would like to be treated – truly would like to be treated. For example, I think I’d rather my book not be reviewed than have a reviewer undeservedly destroy it in print.
Insincere praise is worse than saying nothing. Believe it or not, we do not always have to gush over a celebrity, or even a friend. A sincere smile is better than making up something “nice” to say. Well-known authors enjoy hearing we like their books, but we need to mean it. We should also not layer on the flattery, making it worthless.
Working with a professional editor (whether one who volunteers to help, one paid for services, or one provided by a publisher - should one be fortunate enough to be accepted by a publisher) requires that we as writers cooperate. A good editor is a partner with the author, helping the book be the best it can be. An editor is not the enemy, but he/she is more objective than our friends and/or writing group. I’ve been on the receiving end, and sometimes it hurts to see our “baby” criticized or harmed. However, when I worked with the editor, the result was an improved manuscript. Does that mean we have to make every change suggested, or make changes as suggested? No, but we can use what the editor says to see what we can do to clarify and improve those areas that are noted as requiring improvement.
I hope my few thoughts help us become more mannerly in our dealings as authors, with editors, and for readers.