Author Etiquette – Some helpful advice - Part 2 by Georgie Donaghey
Here is part 2 of our Author Etiquette article.
- Critique groups are a vital step in a writer's development. If you have the opportunity to join one you should jump at the chance.
- Groups are made up of like-minded people who are at different stages of their creative journey.
- Always read and adhere to the critique guidelines set out by the administrator of the group.
- Provide honest, helpful meaty feedback with encouraging suggestions.
- Do not attack the author or their work.
If you are able to see other group members comments it's a good idea to provide your feedback before reading others comments. This way your feedback will be your feedback and not swayed by other comments from group members.
If you are unable to critique for any reason, let your group or administrator know. Everyone has things that come up from time to time, it's only natural you might have to take a step back. It you stop commenting or attending group meetings; when it's your turn to submit, members might not offer your work the feedback it deserves. If you do miss critiquing some members work, try to catch up if you can.
Never feel overwhelmed or intimated by anyone else's experience in this industry. We are all looking for help and welcome the feedback from other's eyes.
There will be many times when you need to ask your colleagues for help.More often than not, they will be only too happy to assist you. There may be times when they are rushing towards a deadline or have commitments that don't allow them any spare time, so if your request is denied, don't take it personally. It may just be that the person you are asking is too busy right now. Instead, thank them and perhaps you can do something to help them, which will be remembered next time you need assistance. If they are able to assist you, remember to thank them and don't treat them like an ATM that you can keep taking from whenever you want to.
This comes back to you doing for yourself and not expecting others to do the hard work for you.
If you are looking for feedback or guidance for something as detailed as a sizeable manuscript, website or blog, it might be best to look at having these things assessed professionally.
You don't want to strain any relationships before they have really begun. Questions or requests should be easy to answer and not require a lot of time from the person you are asking. Don't monopolise their time with continual questions or emails.
Again remember to thank them for whatever response you receive. How you respond will be remembered.
It is extremely frustrating if someone is trying to assist you and takes the time to respond to your query, then receives no acknowledgment from you. It is also unprofessional to ignore repeated attempts to contact you through emails, when it is clear in the content that a response is required.If you email or ask something of someone, you would expect a response. A quick response doesn't take too much time, and remember if you need that person in the future they will remember how you ignored them.
Always read the guidelines.
Never tell the organisers of that competition they are wrong unless you legitimately find an error within their guidelines.
Never request to make a change to your submission after the competition date has closed.
If it is a paid competition, always ensure your entry fee is paid days before the close date.
It's better to submit payment before sending your manuscript, as making payment the day before the competition closes doesn't guarantee they will have received the funds. Some banks might not process payment for a few days especially if payment was made late on a Friday evening.
If both payment and manuscript have not been received by competition closing date, your entry could be disqualified.
It's best to ensure your submission has been thoroughly checked for grammatical and spelling errors.
It is unprofessional to submit and then request the competition organisers to accept subsequent versions because you discovered an error. In many instances, it would be best to leave as is unless your error dramatically affects your plotline. Most competitions are run for emerging authors and the organisers take this into account at judging time.
Requesting to resubmit or just emailing without explanation can be confusing and frustrate the organisers, many of which are volunteers and not paid.
If you disagree with the outcome of the competition, don't send complaint emails to the organisers or judges.
Most guidelines state that correspondence will not be entered into.
Many judges of writing competitions are people of standing within the writing industry such as already published authors, editors, agents, etc. Complaining is not going to do you any favours in your quest to be published.
Of course, if you believe there has been a serious breach of the competition guidelines perhaps contact the Australian Society of Authors to discuss.
Submitting to Publishers
If you adhere to the following, you are well on your way:
Always read the submission guidelines.
Always adhere to the submission guidelines.
Never complain about the submission guidelines.
Read your work thoroughly before submitting
Tick off the criteria listed in the submission guidelines before submitting.
Be patient once you have submitted.
Keep your submission information in a spreadsheet. (See Tracking your Submissions for more information)
Work on your next submission.
Continue to be patient for a reply.
Do not harass the publisher for a reply. Sometimes you won't get a response at all. If you do it is a bonus if you haven't after the time stated within their guidelines, submit it to another publisher.
Again be patient. Responses can take between 6-24 months. Now pick yourself up off the floor.
If you do receive a response or feedback from the publisher, don't get defensive or dismiss their comments. They have a lot of experience and know what they are talking about.
If you are invited to rework your submission and resubmit it, take on board their suggestions. If you feel you can work with their suggestions and would like to be published with that publisher, follow through with them.If not, politely decline and take your work elsewhere. It is after all your work and while publishers have experience, your work is your work and you may believe it is fine the way it is. Keep an open mind but follow your instincts.
Writers in their early years often think their work is the next big thing. Sorry to burst your bubble, but that is rarely the case. Your writing will blossom as you mature as a writer and put in the hard work. I guarantee if you look at your first manuscript after a number of years, you will cringe.
If you receive a response from a publisher, even a thanks but no thanks, feel privileged. Publishers are extremely busy and taking the time to comment is good news for you. They may see something there, but it might not be right for them in its current format. You just need to keep fine tuning and chipping away at your manuscript.
Should you be paid?
The ultimate struggle with should I charge to speak at a festival, library, school etc? That is a tough one and it depends on your experience, but the overall consensus is 'Yes.'
Authors and Illustrators often feel uncomfortable charging for their time at events and there is no reason they should.Just as Mr Plumber and Ms Lawyer (from Part 1) wouldn't hesitate to charge for their time, neither should you.
If you are new to this industry and have limited knowledge to share, it may be worth your while donating some of your time. This will not only do you well for future events, but will also add to your confidence levels. You could look upon it as part of your writing apprenticeship. If you are required to travel a distance from your home, you could discuss part payment with the organisers of the event.
As you grow within this industry, you can revise when and if you donate your time. Remember, you are a professional too. Your job is a children's author and you are no different from other professionals who are paid to do their job.
Always say 'thank you'
As I mentioned earlier, always say thank you and when asking for something, always offer something in return. Remember it's not all about you! You receive what you give.
Never take someone for granted and NEVER be abusive or demanding.Word spreads very quickly in this industry. Everyone knows one another and we do share.
We are all one big team in the children's writing industry. We are all at different stages on the same journey. Don't feel overwhelmed by someone who has more experience than you. They were once where you are and can appreciate the steps you are now taking. Remember, they too are still learning from people who are more experienced than they are.
- No one owes you anything.
- You need to earn your stripes and put in the hard work.
- Always leave a good impression.
- When you enter the children's writing industry, leave any sense of entitlement at the door.
- Take time to recharge your batteries.
- Writing is a solitary life and not restricted to 9-5.
- Never give up!
This is a rewarding, nurturing and giving industry to be in, one that you will never want to leave.
Good luck and Happy Writing!