The Tea House: Rocking It as a Professional (V)
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given is to be nice to people, and it’s great advice for any working artist.
It was a professional working writer who first gave me this advice. He said that when I’m running around in the writer community, I may not always know who people are or who they’re connected to, so it was best to be nice to everybody. The writer told stories of aspiring authors who were impolite to their favorite famous authors’ best friends, editors, agents and spouses. And you know what? People have a long memory, and the famous authors heard about the treatment their colleagues and loved ones received.
Since I received this advice, I’ve expanded on it slightly. It’s best to be nice to everybody not only because you don’t know who they are or who they’re connected with, but because you don’t know who they’ll become. Writers often start out as fans. Today’s fan boy could be tomorrow’s best seller.
Anyway, treating others nicely is the right thing to do.
Now, this doesn’t mean that if someone treats me poorly I don’t stand up for myself. It’s essential to stand up for yourself if someone doesn’t treat you respectfully. But there’s a polite, professional way to do this, and then there’s sinking to the impolite person’s level. Don’t do that. Always behave as a lady or gentleman, and treat others with respect. Be kind. Be nice.
I’d like to share a couple of real life examples where someone wasn’t nice to someone else in the writer community and there were consequences.
About twenty years ago, two new writers were on a panel at a convention. One of the new writers was incredibly rude to one of the other writers, in front of the other panelists, the audience, etc. We’ll call the rude writer Janet and the other writer Paul.
Paul went on to have a successful writing career. In fact, he’s a New York Times Bestselling author. About five years ago, Paul was editing an anthology and received a submission from Janet. Though Janet’s career had gone nowhere and he hadn’t run into her since the original panel, Paul remembered Janet well, recalling how unkind she’d been to him when they were both starting out as writers. Paul didn’t even read Janet’s story. He immediately rejected her submission.
More recently, two other writers had a bit of a run-in on a panel. We’ll call these writers Maddie and Doug. Doug was an established writer with a very small cult following, and was in the process of building his career. He’d finally sold a book to a major publisher and was waiting for his career to finally start going places. Maddie was a brand new author and had just had her first book released under a pseudonym.
Doug and Maddie had actually interacted online several times before they met in person at the panel. Maddie was a fan of Doug’s and a mutual friend had introduced them through email. Over the next few years, they continued to interact on the internet and were part of the same online circles. During this time, Maddie promoted Doug’s work to her friends, trying to help him build his career.
When Maddie found out she and Doug were attending the same convention, and that they were going to be on a panel together, she was ecstatic. She couldn’t wait to tell him how much she enjoyed his recent work, buy his newly published book, and show him her first book. However, she didn’t get a chance to chat with him before the panel began and let him know he was on a panel with her, not her pseudonym.
Once the panel began. Doug ridiculed Maddie and treated her horribly. After the panel was over, he trashed her in the hall to other authors, and told these authors how much better he was than Maddie.
Maddie didn’t go up to Doug and talk to him after the panel. She did not buy his new book. (Nor has she bought his follow-up book, the one that’s supposed to help Doug break out.) She quit promoting him to her friends. She also mentioned her experience to one of her closest friends, who just happens to hold a significant role at Doug’s new publisher. Maddie’s friend mentioned that if she wasn’t more ethical, Doug’s career at this publisher–the one who has published what Doug is hoping will be his breakout book–would be toast. And don’t forget, Maddie and Doug ran in the same writing circles online.
I could go on and on. For example, an author we’ll call Dan was rude to another author we’ll call Sue. Sue was just hired as an editor at one of Dan’s publishers. Author Philip was rude to Shannon at a convention. Shannon and Philip’s agent are now working at the same agency.
So, keep this in mind: be nice to people. You don’t know who they are, who they’re close to, and you don’t know who they’ll become.
Anyway, as I mentioned above, it’s the right thing to do.
Spike Marlowe has held a number of odd jobs, including working as a detective, a Bigfoot researcher, a writer for an internet content farm, a busker and as a performer in a wild west show. These days she’s a writer, blogger and bizarro editor for Eraserhead Press, with a focus on the New Bizarro Author Series. Her first book, Placenta of Love, is available at all the usual locations. You can stalk her online at her website or on Twitter at @spikemarlowe.