The Art of Productive Communication
Blogger: Mary Keeley
You reach a milestone when your manuscript is finally “perfect.” You are now ready to talk to agents and editors about your sure bestseller. Then it dawns on you. Whoa,” you say. “I am going to have to TALK to these people.” Yes you are. You’re going to need to develop the art of productive communication that will serve to project you as a professional. You’ll need these skills throughout your career.
Don’t invest the hard work and long hours to get your manuscript publication-ready and forget to address the impression you will create of yourself, the author. You are a vital part of your whole professional package. And this doesn’t apply only to your first impression. After you succeed in getting an agent and then a contract, you’re going to need these skills in communicating professionally with your editor…and the marketing team…and the sales team…and in interviews and speaking engagements.
I’m not a communications expert, but I’ve been in the business world a long time and have observed and learned a few necessary skills. Here are several key areas you can develop that foster productive communication in professional settings:
Resiliency. One of my clients recently received a rejection of her manuscript. Her book had been under consideration for quite a while. The acquisitions editor was excited about it. An editor even gave her several tips for improving her manuscript in advance of a contract. My client followed her advice and I re-submitted the revised version. However, in the end the editorial team didn’t catch the vision for it. Disappointing for sure. But because of her years of business experience operating her successful marketing firm, she didn’t give in to discouragement. She trusts God’s plan and barely batted an eye. Resiliency.
Keep your emotions in check. Don’t let your emotions rule your words or your subtle—or not so subtle—attitude. Always PRAY before you speak, asking God to give you a balanced, realistic perspective when you’re unsure of yourself or sense your emotions rising to the surface. It might be in the form of a two-second plea in the middle of a meeting with an editor at a conference or a phone conversation with your editor about your book’s cover design. That’s OK. God will supply the answer if you are open to hearing his quiet voice guiding you.
Confidence. Continue to learn about the business side of publishing by following this blog, visiting publisher websites, and reading books on publishing to learn common terms used in the industry. You’ll be equipped to better understand what is being taught at writers conferences and discussed in your meetings with agents and editors. You will be self-assured in how to respond in the moment and present yourself as a professional.
Authors sometimes feel they have no say when it comes to decisions their publisher makes about their book. Remind yourself that the publisher has already invested in you and wants your book to be a success as much as you do. Speak up when you feel it’s necessary, but not until you have objectively thought through the issue from the publisher’s perspective. Having done that you can confidently express your views in a team player frame of mind. And part of being a professional is knowing when to bring in your agent to deal with the issue so that your author-publisher relationship is not bruised.
One of the reasons I’ve watched the Anne of Green Gables videos many times is I love to observe the civil dialogue between the characters. They can be forthright—even critical with each other—without any apparent malice or attempt to goad, belittle the other person, or puff up themselves. Relationships are not harmed. Of course this is fiction, but watch one of the videos sometime. There are positive communication skills being exhibited.
Grace. Extending grace is a key element. Last night in our couples Bible study, a friend shared an unfortunate personal experience in which another Christian had communicated poorly to him that he wasn’t chosen for a job. It was apparent the friend was still hurting from the experience. Yet I was amazed as the friend described the forthright but grace-filled manner in which he conducted himself in his follow-up meeting with the other Christian. I’m sure God was pleased with our friend. We should consider grace a non-negotiable as we conduct ourselves in our professional lives.
What communication skills can you add to the list? Describe a successful professional conversation you’ve had. What made it successful? What did you learn from a not so successful conversation in a professional setting?