Blogger: Mary Keeley
We are involved in many types of human relationships: spouse, children, parents, in-laws and other relatives, friends, church groups, neighbors, service providers. The list goes on. Add to these our professional relationships, which will be the focus of today’s conversation: authors and critique partners, agent, editors, publishing professionals, bookstore owners, interviewers. Relationships take work. Healthy professional relationships take deliberate action.
One of the best pieces of advice I received early in my career was to focus on what the other person needs. That shift of attention helps take your mind off yourself and goes a long way toward relieving self-consciousness and nerves. The challenge then becomes finding the balance where both parties get what they need. I said “working toward” because you can only control your own behavior and words and integrity. These tips will help you to do your best as a writer to foster healthy relationships with the professionals in your life.
Establish your foundation of honesty, integrity, and full disclosure.
I once had a client who was multi-published before we entered our partnership. You can imagine my surprise at learning of a broken author-publisher relationship from the editor when pitching a project, rather than from my client. Over time several more overlooked details surfaced and a trend began to emerge. A house, and a healthy relationship, cannot stand strong on a shaky foundation. I no longer represent that author.
Go the extra mile.
Take every opportunity to be supportive and make a contribution in someone’s professional life. Stay up late a few nights to turn in your manuscript early, easing your editor’s heavy schedule. You’ll win your editor’s appreciation. Offer to mentor an aspiring writer free of charge. What publisher wouldn’t enjoy working with an author who is willing to work extra hard to discover and initiate creative new ways to market and promote their book? Writers who are known for giving generously of their time and knowledge build a reputation as someone who is a pleasure to work with.
Assume that negative feedback from an agent or editor is meant to be constructive.
I don’t think any writers working hard to succeed will ever reach the point when bad reviews and rejections roll off their backs. And it shouldn’t because it may point to areas you need to improve. Occasionally though, a professional might be overly harsh in giving feedback. What a difference it would make for potential relationships if, instead of letting it crush your spirit, you were to choose to forgive excessive criticism—after all, we all have a bad day once in a while—and gratefully accept and apply the constructive comments. This mindset returns blessings to you:
- It nurtures growth of the thick skin you will need to rise above adverse circumstances throughout your career.
- You show professionalism, which will be noticed.
- You maintain confidence and a positive attitude.
Take responsibility for mistakes willingly.
If we’re truly honest, aren’t we all tempted to try to hide mistakes or failures sometimes? The author, agent, editor—any professional, really—who owns up to mistakes and offers a sincere apology, before it is requested whenever possible, shows trustworthiness, humility, and respect, the ingredients of a healthy relationship.
This is the area where balance is especially important. Communication involves listening as well as speaking. Being a good listener, you hear the other’s perspective—say it’s your editor—and then balance it as objectively as possible with your own perspective.
However, when it’s time to speak, it isn’t helpful to hold back from giving your honest assessment of critique partners’ work because you don’t want to discourage them. The key is to deliver it in a positive way. It isn’t in your book’s best interest to be less than forthright when you have serious issues with the cover or editorial changes or when the publisher hasn’t followed through on a promise for fear of being labeled a troublemaker. Being able to express yourself to professionals confidently with grace is vitally important to a healthy, balanced relationship. Always consult with your agent beforehand. She knows the best way of approach. Agents want to give clients the opportunity to exercise healthy communication skills, but certain situations might be best served by the agent’s intervention in order to preserve the author-publisher relationship. If communicating with publishing professionals is intimidating for you, read a business book on communication skills. Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People is probably the best known, but there are many others.
Which of the tips for healthy professional relationships is most challenging for you? Share a successful step you have taken toward a healthy relationship with a publishing professional. What have you learned from a relationship that didn’t go so well?
Five tips for healthy relationships with publishing professionals. Click to Tweet.
Healthy professional relationships require deliberate action. Here are five tips for writers. Click to Tweet.