Blogger: Rachel Zurakowski
Location: Books & Such Main Office; Santa Rosa, Calif.
The third quality I admire in authors is professionalism. I’m not saying that you need to wear a suit and tie or a dress and nylons whenever you’re near me (and please don’t expect me to dress up very often). Professionalism is much more than looks. Below, I’ve listed the qualities that come to mind for me when I think of professionalism. Some of these are pretty obvious, but I believe that each of us can work at growing these qualities in our lives.
Professionalism includes, but isn’t limited to:
1) Good communication skills–very important when you’re working with an agent. You need to be able to listen to your agent and articulate your dreams/concerns. Communication is so important these days that you can go to school and get a degree in it. 🙂 My roommate in college was a Communications major, and she would often read snippets of Deborah Tannen books to me. Interesting stuff!
2) Ability to show respect to those you work with–this will help in your relationships with your agent and editors. If you are disrespectful, people don’t want to work with you no matter how wonderful your material is.
3) Ability to think before speaking (or blogging, or twittering, or…)–I suffer with the “foot-in-mouth” affliction. I’ve kinda learned my lesson on this one, so I often sound a bit slow because I’m thinking through what I’m going to say before I say it. I’ve learned it’s better to sound a little stupid than to hurt someone unintentionally. This translates into internet “talk,” too. You can really hurt your writing career or your relationships with editors and agents by posting without thinking on twitter, blogs, Facebook, etc. It’s best to slow down and think things through FIRST before there’s a problem. I still make mistakes though! We can definitely work on this aspect of professionalism together.
4) Ability to follow through–when I read a book idea that has merit but isn’t quite ready for publication, I’ll frequently write back to the author and suggest changes be made. So many times I never hear back from that person again. I know this is the case for many agents. When we write suggesting changes, the project really did interest us. When we suggest changes, we’re often testing your ability to follow through because this becomes an important part of the author/agent relationship once you are a client. For example:
a) contracts involve finishing a book on deadline
b) a publisher could request revisions on a project that need to be made quickly
c) your agent might request you work on building your platform to help promote your book
We need to be sure you can complete the tasks that are set before you so that we can easily work together to get your book on the shelves and into the homes of readers around the world.
5) Attitude of cooperation–If you go into each day with a good attitude and a desire to work with people to make amazing things happen, I think you’ll have a better chance of having a blessed and productive day. A willingness to work with and learn from others goes a long way in forming strong relationships.
Do you have any professional qualities to add to this list or thoughts on what I’ve written? Please share them with us!