As I’ve mentioned on here before, although writing is the passion I’m focusing on for this blog, my other passion is editing (and, honestly, I’m a much better editor than I am a writer). I work two different jobs right now: the one that pays the bills is a job as a copyeditor for scientific journals, which is rewarding in that I know my hard work is helping the scientific community (and thus humanity), and the other, which is more personally fulfilling, is my job as an assistant editor for a small independent book publisher in Cambridge, MA.
This past weekend, I attended a (truly inspirational) writers' and editors' retreat for the book publisher, during which we held a party for anyone associated with the press to join. This was a great social networking opportunity—face to face networking, to be specific, which, although it has taken more and more of a back seat to online networking in the past 5 or so years, is still an incredibly important aspect of getting your name out and getting others interested in you. Writers, if you can’t represent yourself overall as the kind of person people want to talk to or be involved with, you really can’t expect them to be interested in representing you—your writing itself may be great, but if you’re flat out rude or insulting, nobody is going to be interested in you (whether you’re looking for beta readers, agents, editors, etc).
Case in point: I was at the party, schmoozing with various people, when a man looked at my name tag and said, with a sneer, “Oh, you’re one of the editors here? I bet you’re one of the editors who rejected me.”
…Did any warning flags go off in your mind? How this man thought this was the appropriate way to approach me I will never know. Writers, I am a writer, too. I understand the pain of rejection and the tendency to take it personally, but as an editor, I know that this is absolutely not the case. For the record, this man had never submitted anything to me—but regardless, starting off a conversation with an editor (an editor you might be submitting your stories to in the future, no less!) with a bad attitude and an offensive, blaming tone is NOT going to incline us to think well of you.
I assured this man that if his story had been rejected, it certainly wasn’t meant to be a personal attack (his story may have been amazing, for instance, and might have just not fit with the theme the editor was going for with the particular anthology this man submitted to). The man then went on to make a snide remark, saying that he was already writing before I was even born (which was probably true, but I'm not quite sure I understand how my age affects my ability to edit)—at which point I bit my tongue, made an excuse, and left the room.
This seems obvious to me, but, judging from this man’s behavior, it isn’t. Here’s the thing about social networking, no matter what field you’re in: every word you say, every smile or sarcastic or rude remark is representing not only your personality but also your work itself. It’s true that some famous writers are rude in real life—but I guarantee you that those people, when they were starting out and first trying to impress editors and agents, turned up the charm and kept their snide comments to themselves. Don’t forget that for every one bridge you burn, that bridge has told one, five, or ten other bridges to avoid you, too. The publishing industry is a small place; if you don’t treat others with respect, don’t expect them to treat your work any better.