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Your Writing Career: How to Make Sure It's a Real Short Trip

Publishing Reference Your Writing Career: How to Make Sure It's a Real Short Trip

By Atlin Merrick

Photo of the word 'RUDE' done up in orange-red neon with the rest of the image having a purple-dark background

First: I hope you have a fantastic writing career, full of exciting challenges, wondrous peers, and the respect of a dozen editors and publishers.

Now let me tell you how not to have any of those things.

How to be Sure Your Writing Career is Short

Be rude.

That's it. That's the whole post.

Be rude to your editor or publisher and it's the best way I know to make sure you have a really short writing career.

I'll refine what I mean by 'rude' by saying first that no your editor isn't out to get you. We want to work with you. I want your story or your book to be exactly what we both love.

If it's not, I will do my best to kindly tell you that. Sometimes I can share why exactly it doesn't work, make suggestions to how that might be fixed, and then encourage you to submit the story again.

When you are rude about any of that process you will not work with most publishers again, and rude looks like:

• Taking offense to suggested edits

You can always decline edits, that's not the issue, it's being angry we even asked. And for the love of six kinds of headdesking, please don't withdraw your book because we asked for some major changes.

Again, we can't and won't change your book without your permission, but we've also been around this editorial block and if we tell you your story really starts at chapter four, it probably does and if you yank your book in insult, well you may resubmit it elsewhere and hear the same thing.

Give yourself a breather before responding if an editorial email's upset you, talk to a friend, then think about what your editor has asked. Usually (not always, but usually), you'll find they're absolutely right and once you take time to get over the sting (because it does sting, for all of us), you may see their point.

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• Taking offense at how long it takes to publish your book

I'm genuinely sorry for this unfortunate truth but, big publisher or small, you're part of a queue and it can be two years from manuscript to publication; griping about it doesn't help any of us.

And please, absolutely do not tell your editor you've noticed them posting frivolous things on social media, so surely they have time to edit your book faster. Again, you're part of a queue and also for the love of all that's computer-screen-and-comma-related, let your underpaid and overworked editor relax or they just may set someone's hair on fire.

• Treating your publisher as an employee

See the above, where you unkindly told your editor what you expected when, because here's the thing: you never, ever pay your publisher, so you are not their boss and they do not work for you.

If you do pay your publisher they are your employee because you're self-publishing and that's a whole other thing – see 'The big, big difference' above.

Confusion is Natural When Publishing for the First Time

If you're new to publishing, if you're new to a particular small press, if you don't understand something we understand that, and we want to answer your questions – and none are dumb. We all start somewhere.

Sometimes the publishing process can be confusing, annoying, anxiety-making, or a dozen other things, and we get that. We're also truly happy for you to bring your concerns to us. All we ask is that you're professional about it. Professional here equals polite.

If you're not polite, it doesn't matter how good your writing is because there's someone else with writing just as good, and if they're easier to work with, we'll work with them, not you.

If you want a long writing career here's the best two things I can suggest:

Write a lot and don't. be. rude.

Image: smashkirk Flickr Rude

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