Blogger: Mary Keeley (Repeat of popular post. I’m out on vacation.)
The thought of talking to an agent or editor causes a fair amount of anxiety in many writers. Are you one of them? It’s important to represent yourself well with just the right proportions of professionalism and warmth, assertiveness and willingness to submit to advice, confidence and humility, collaborative spirit and individuality. When you have those measured out, blend in your pleasant personality, your passion for writing, and your unique book ideas and you have the perfect recipe for successful interaction. Oh, and don’t forget to add that special ingredient, a positive attitude. Simple…right?
On paper maybe. It’s in the practical application of the total blend that your hands sweat and your mind goes fuzzy. But there is a way you can feel assured that, in the moment, you are representing yourself well. Using the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22-23) as the framework, below is a list of definitions specific to writers that I’ll call the “fruit of the Spirit for writers.”
Each of these is necessary in working with other professionals in our industry. Put these words on a Post-It note or index card as handy reminders during your phone conversations and email exchanges. The intent of this little exercise is that, while you have those cues in front of you as a self-check, your mind will be freer to concentrate on what’s being said and what you want to say.
- Love, Joy – in all interactions, even those that are tense. Nuf said.
- Faithfulness, Goodness – Agents and publishers want your book to succeed as much as you do. Approach your interactions willing to compromise wherever possible for the greater good of the book and working relationships. Trust they are doing the same. Don’t speak ill of your agent or editor simply because you disagree about something and they won.
- Peace – When anxious or agitated, your voice can rise to a higher pitch. You might not be aware of it, but the person on the other end of the phone surely will, and this can cause some concern, even angst on their part. He or may even dig in his heels, and the end result will be unnecessary discord. Spend a few minutes before a phone call or writing an email to meditate on the fact that God is present with you, he is for you, and he knows what is best. This will help muster a quiet confidence that will calm your voice and your mind.
- Patience, Kindness – Agents and editors are unbelievably busy. I know, you’ve heard that said many times before. Blah, blah, blah. Unfortunately, it never seems to change. We function in varied degrees of being behind. We’ll never catch up, so be patient as you wait for a response. If it’s been four or five days without a reply from your agent or editor, send a kind reminder. She might have had computer problems or was involved in an emergency. Patience and kindness are equivalent to a spoonful of sugar in the medicine.
- Long-Suffering – It isn’t fun receiving rejections. But hopefully you received constructive feedback as well. If not, request it. Some agents and editors don’t initially offer their reactions because they recognize there’s a certain amount of subjectivity. But if they still don’t respond, it usually means there is something wrong with your manuscript, so start there. Work to improve your craft and revise your work. Recognize that in this process you still are in forward momentum toward your goal of publication. And keep your spirit in check by recognizing God is at work.
- Gentleness, Self-Control – Don’t nag your agent or demand your way with your editor. In a particular situation you might think it’s in your best interest to force your will. However, it is counter-productive and never reaps positive results in your relationships.
In all your dealings with your agent, editor, marketing person, and your readers, exercise the fruit of the Spirit for writers and you will acquire a reputation as a wonderful writer to work with. It could tip the scale in your favor, not to mention reflect Christ-like character.
Which of these qualities do you struggle with most? Share an experience in which you exercised a certain quality, and you benefited greatly. Or share an experience that will help other writers to learn from your mistake.