In honor of “Awkward Moments Day” (March 18, 2013) I thought I’d mention an awkward moment all authors should strive to avoid:
The moment when a prospective publisher looks at your Internet presence and asks “What on earth was (s)he thinking?”
Because they look. Before they sign you. And while I can’t guarantee that an author’s awkward, offensive, or overly whiny presence will make the difference between an absolute yes and a maybe, it can absolutely transform a maybe into a no.
So … how to avoid turning off a publisher (or a reader)?
1. Talk about other subjects more often than you talk about yourself. Obviously, your blog exists to express your views. Ditto your author Twitter and Facebook pages. But there’s a difference between interesting content and navel-gazing. Learn that difference.
2. Smile and the world smiles with you. Whine and you whine alone. Self-evident, but true: people – including publishers – would rather sign (and read) a happy person. That’s not to say you can never express a critical view – but pay attention to the tone of your social media presence. Positive people attract and keep more readers.
3. Produce valuable, interesting content, and tread carefully when your subject is divisive. You don’t have to avoid charged commentary altogether (though that is a legitimate choice), but when you do engage on sensitive topics, do so with maturity and finesse. (Note: name-calling does not constitute “finesse.”)
4. Remember: Memory is long, and Google is forever. You can delete offensive or ill-advised comments, but people will remember that you made them. More importantly, Google’s caching protocols allow savvy users to pull up content even after it’s been erased from a website.
Don’t write a brilliant manuscript and then drop a bomb on your writing career.
Your reputation doesn’t start when a publisher signs you. It started the moment you made your virtual presence known.
Be smart. Be positive. Be professional.
And remember: Emperor Maximus Angryfish disapproves of all shenanigans – but especially those that can hurt an author’s career.