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On being a professional

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Guest post by Nicole R Murphy

Attending a conference like Conflux can take you into the area of being a writer that can be extremely uncomfortable – being a professional.

Yep, even if you’re not getting PAID like a professional, it behooves you to behave like one.

Yay me for using the word ‘behooves’.

Here’s the thing – publishing is very much an industry built on relationships. The work you do with a publisher as an author isn’t just focussed on the words – it’s very much about how you relate and interact with each other. And it’s becoming much more important in this new publishing environment, where having a publisher who will work as a partner is valuable.

Working with an editor successfully requires a certain understanding and sympatico – not all editors/authors can work together successfully. Working with publicists and marketing requires the same. Working with an agent can be almost like a marriage in terms of how the two of you need to have similar views and aims for your career (and breaking it off can be almost as hard as ending a relationship, so make sure you choose a good agent when the time comes).

Because publishing is such an industry, everyone looks warily at the troublesome author. The one with a ego. The one who isn’t able to get along with people. The one who only takes and never gives.

Here’s the other thing – publishing is a REALLY small industry. And you know what? They talk to each other. Publishers. Agents. Editors. They know the authors who are difficult to work with and in this day and age, with authors seemingly more prevalent than ever before, they get to pick and choose who they work with.

So don’t be the difficult author. Here’s some dos and don’ts on how to act professionally at Conflux.

DO talk to people outside your friendship group – if you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself, then get on panels or volunteer to do work at the convention to get to meet people more naturally.

DON’T overstay your welcome – people are happy to have a chat, but they’re also there to have fun and catch up with their friends so if that editor you’re talking to announces it’s dinner time, it’s NOT an invitation to you unless they specifically say “Want to come?”

DO mention your book in conversation. Have the Elevator pitch aka a quick few sentences about your book ready to tell people who ask.

DON’T talk exclusively about your book. You are more than that. Let people get to know you, not just your book.

DO talk up other people’s books, and buy in the dealers room to support. Remember that word of mouth is THE most valuable way to sell books, and also that publisher you’re wanting to shmooze? They’ll only have a job for as long as the books keep selling.

DON’T bag other books to an editor, agent or publisher. Seriously, even if it’s something that everyone is bagging, don’t do it. Show that you respect other people’s work. If the conversation is happening, say something like, “There must be something of value in it for it to be selling so well,” or “I bet the author put as much work into it as I do my books,” or even swing the conversation away: “A much better example of that genre is Book X, because…”

DO have fun. The Australian industry is a cool group of people, so be prepared to hang out in the bar late, boogie at the masquerade, attend the social events.

DON’T get drunk. No, really, don’t. It’s never a good look. Have some drinks, get relaxed, but don’t get so blottoed that you think table dancing is a good idea. It’s not.

DO get inspired by what’s going to happen. Conventions are fabulous places to have your writerly spark renewed if it’s been a bit flat lately.

DON’T think you’re going to sell your book at the con. Okay, maybe you will but more likely is that it will take months or years for the seeds you plant here to bloom. Keep them watered and time will tell.

 So think to your future, think to your reputation, think to the relationships you want to achieve and ACT PROFESSIONAL.

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