Things Writers Shouldn’t Do… Part 1

Most writers are intelligent people. I mean, it takes a lot of concentration and thought to sit down and put 80,000 words on page, to have a story with a beginning, middle and end, to have a work that makes sense. In fact writing is one of those things everybody seems to want to do, but few people can do. A lot of people sit down and start books but so few people ever finish them. Because it’s hard.

So if you are one of those writers who actually finishes a book, pat yourself on the back. You deserve it. You’re ahead of millions of other people. We all get excited when we type THE END. We all have dreams of taking the publishing world by storm. Of getting our books out there for the world to see and many of us will jump through hoops to make that dream happen. But lately I have been noticing some seemingly smart people do some very stupid things in order to get their books on the shelves.

So I’ve compiled a list, (I do love a list.), of thing you should never ever do when trying to get published.

1. Query an agent on Twitter. Of course unless they ask you to.

I was going through my agent’s Twitter feed and I noticed a writer who pitched her book in one line and followed it up with the question, “Can we talk?” My agent is always polite and professional and directed the woman to the agency’s website with a link. Which I thought was nice. But curiosity got the best of me and I clicked on the pitcher’s name to see that she had tweeted the same message to about twenty other agents. Some responded politely, like my agent did, most ignored. A couple of agents said please follow the rules and submit the correct way, to which the pitcher responded, “Can you send me the link to your website?” (Nutso!)

But one agent was kind enough to give her advice. He basically said that part of a writer’s job is to do their research and find the agent that is best suited to their projects. He also went on to say that agents only want to work with sane, reasonable people and mass tweeting a pitch was not going to work in her favor. I agreed.

I went through query hell. I had to research and look at website after website and make sure I was following all the submission guidelines. And believe me it’s soul sucking and depressing and anxiety producing but once you get the agent at the end it’s a badge of honor. I was almost prouder of getting an agent than I was a book deal. (Weird, I know.) But my point is; following the rules works. Especially if you want to go the agent route to publishing.

2. Act crazy at a pitch session. 

I had the pleasure of over seeing the pitch sessions at my chapter’s conference. I love that job because I’m a people watcher and seeing the dozens of writers go in and out of the room all day was like a gift from the writing gods.

There was one writer who was asking the agents and editors when their birthdays were and all kinds of creepy personal questions. (Don’t do that. Don’t ever do that!) I could see the horrified expressions of the A/E’s faces as the woman jotted notes about them in her note book.

There was also another writer who talked about how great everybody thought her book was and that all her friends and family thought it should be published. (Don’t do that either. It makes you sound really unprofessional and delusional.)

There was a writer who didn’t wear a bra, but I already blogged about that and most of you know how I feel about that one.

3. Be crazy and show up at the publisher’s office asking if they got a chance to read your manuscript.

This happened to my editor recently. OMG and WTF! Who in their right mind does that? You could be perfectly sane, but the nice people at the publishing company don’t know that. They’ll think you’re crazy and have the security people escort you out.

4. Call an agent or an editor and ask them why they didn’t like your book. 

Sometimes they’ll be nice enough to offer you feedback, but many times they won’t and that’s all part of the business. Don’t be a nut and call them (As a rule you should probably never call an agent, unless they are your agent.), even emailing to ask why is crossing the line with some agents and editors. Remember agents don’t spend their days just answering query letters and reading manuscripts. They are busy working on behalf of their established clients. Sometimes they just don’t have time to respond personally. Plus by doing that you are ruining your chance with other agents. They talk to each other. The publishing world is not so big. You don’t want to be the crazy writer that everyone avoids.

That’s it for part one. Check in next week to see what I add to the list. What are some things you think writers shouldn’t do.

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10 thoughts on “Things Writers Shouldn’t Do… Part 1”

  1. Great list, Jamie. Definite no-no’s! It probably goes without saying, but stalking A/E at conferences and giving pitches through bathroom doors is always a bad idea:-)

  2. Agree on all counts. Especially when you see an agent or editor at a conference, where you know they’ve been sitting in a room all day listening to pitches, come out to grab a cup of coffee and stretch their legs–just don’t do it! Let them have a rest. They will love you for it.

    1. Yes, agents and editors are people too. Sitting in a small room and listening to writers talk about their books ALL DAY is probably not the most fun part of the job. It just seems humane to give them a break.

  3. I just got back from a conference and I heard some horror stories from an agent–female agents getting manuscripts shoved under the bathroom stall door (gak!), women asking this agent where his room was, just craziness. At this particular conference you were able to formally pitch one agent/editor (they were only on duty for an hour and a half), and you were encouraged by the organizers to mingle and pitch informally throughout the rest of the conference. Honestly, it didn’t seem that the agents and editor (there was just one) wanted that, as they tended to band together (probably a survival strategy!) in the bar and at the meals. I didn’t try to pitch anyone other than my assigned person (got a positive result). It just felt predatory and unprofessional. At the end of our conversation I did ask the agent I was chatting with if he was interested in a story in my genre and if I could send it to him using his submission guidelines (and got a yes). Didn’t even tell him what it was about, just left it at that. My story will speak for itself.

    One thing you might add to your list, Jamie, and talk about next time is social media. Writers should never, ever tweet or FB post about their experiences with agents or editors, unless it’s something very, very positive. There are people out there who post their rejections and flame the agent–thereby making themselves look petty and stupid and angry and pretty much ensuring that nobody will want to work with them, ever. I got it straight from the agent panel: Many of them do check Absolute Write Water Cooler, FB and Twitter to see how professionally a prospective writer behaves. If you’ve got trash-talking out there in cyberspace, take it down and don’t do it again.

    And yes. Please, please wear a bra.

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