Sign up to the newsletter

Author etiquette

Endless stories circulate in publishing about which authors are most troublesome to deal with. If you are a sufficiently good writer, and your books are selling well, you can be as awful as you like:

‘Be nice or be vile but don’t vacillate; I like to know where I am. If the book sells I can put up with you even if you are a shit.’
Andrew Franklin, MD, Profile Books addressing the Society of Authors AGM, September 2006

As an author, you may see endless opportunities to be critical of your publishing house, but feeling empowered to comment is usually a mistake:

‘Be nice. Don’t correct the grammar or spelling mistakes in their emails – or if you must, do so in your head, not by return of post.’
Stewart Price, author

Apart from being rude (how would you feel if someone paid attention to your single mistake rather than to the overall thrust of your message), such a response to a marketing person is badly targeted. In general, whilst all publishers tend to be people who care about words, it is the editors who will be most careful about how information is sent out. Marketing staff are a different breed – more inspired by the idea than the format. They are likely to send you a quick email to outline an opportunity; this may be less than perfectly phrased because they are under pressure. If you respond to their enthusiasm by making them feel small, the chances are that you may not be offered another similar opportunity. Most marketing people have too much to do, and are chasing ideas that crop up at the last minute. These may be pursued with more vigour on behalf of authors who respond to their ideas with enthusiasm rather than with pernickety criticism. You have been warned!


If you found this article useful, you might want to take a look at:

Authors v Publishers

Things publishers dislike about authors

Death of the diva