Have we been professionally forsaken?
Remember the days of old when professionalism was an automatic notion? Where have those days gone? You know what I’m talking about, the days where in spite of one’s differences, manners were a must. Can this old art form be recovered?
I was flabbergasted during a recent trip to a local department store. In times past a sales associate would rush to my aid to take care of my every need. For he or she knew that in addition to gaining a new sale, good salesmanship and professionalism could only help their commission prospects. To my surprise, after ten minutes of perusing the store, none of the available sales associates bothered to offer me any assistance. I decided against the large purchase which was my sole intention for the visit and opted for a pair of stocking instead.
I was even more floored when I approached the checkout stand and two cashiers were yelling across their registers expressing hatred for their jobs and how they would be calling in on the next day. I stood for a moment waiting for a manager to appear and immediately fire the young ladies on the spot, but it never happened. The young lady that rang up my items never acknowledged me and never even looked at me, even when she gave me my credit card receipt to sign – let alone a “Thank you for your business.”
Recently a colleague expressed her frustration as she held the door for three men, who in turn never gave her a thank you. Are you kidding me?
My experiences don’t stop there, so imagine my frustration with the lack of professionalism I’ve come to find in the literary industry. In my lifetime, I’ve worked in many career fields - from being a nursing assistant to a stock broker, from a bill collector to a private investigator. No matter what my job title, I always practiced professionalism.
Professionalism has been one of the pillars in which successful careers have stood on. So why don’t we as literary representatives take our positions seriously and professionally?
Being the owner of Literary Wonders! and Bryant Consulting, I’m always getting submission requests, review request, critique requests, editing and other literary requests. Far too many times I find that the people making these requests have seemed to have forgotten what professionalism is; or had no idea in the first place. In which case, let me help you out here.
A simple ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ can take you very far. The mere acknowledgement of the person or entity that you are asking to do something for you can be a matter of acceptance or rejection. I often find myself frustrated at someone who has asked for a friend request via a social network such as Facebook, who immediately appears in your chat book after you’ve accepted their request, only to ask you have you read their profile yet or looked at their web page. Or better yet the person that blindly sends you their manuscript via e-mail, of course expecting you to edit or critique it, with no introduction. They totally ignore the fact or never even look at the disclaimer on the LW! Site that says we do not accept blind inquires and that we do not accept emailed manuscripts unless prior approval was granted. These requests go directly into my file 13.
Instead of bombarding someone with your work because YOU think they should drop what they are doing and honor your request try this on for size:
1. Introduce yourself. We don’t know who you are. And if we do, you still need to introduce yourself.
2. State your request clearly.
3. Before you even attempt step one or two, research the person, company or entity that you are making the request to find out their rules
4. Don’t assume anyone owes you anything because they don’t.
5. End with a simple thank you or some words of appreciation.
Now that wasn’t so bad was it? I’ve heard many wise people say, “You’ll catch more bees with honey than vinegar.” What does that mean? Simply put, be pleasant and professional and courteous.
In this literary industry, as in any field, it is also important to remember to put your best foot forward because what you give out is a representation of you! If you put forward sloppy work, people will not take you seriously and therefore not utilize or consider you for anything.
It’s the same as applying for a job using a resume. Would you turn in a sloppy, unprofessional resume, riddled with errors to a potential employer? I should hope not. I recently interviewed reviewers for LW! I asked for a sample review, and I tell you I cannot believe what I received. I had to ask myself, was this person serious? Certainly they couldn’t be.
I’ve gone to networking events where I have exchanged business cards with other networkers. In one instance someone passed me someone else’s business card and hand wrote their information on the back. I’ve had instances where others have torn off a piece of paper and even a napkin after they printed their contact information on it. Again, are you serious? How am I supposed to take you serious?
I can go on and on about this issue, but I think you get the idea. If you are a writer, it is okay to fake it until you make, however, you have to put the best possible foot forward. There is no reason you shouldn’t have a website. In this day and age, they are extremely cheap. Your website should be www.yournameorcompany.com not www.yournamandcompany.bravehost.com. And your e-mail address should be email@example.com not firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you don’t know how to build a website, hire someone to do it for you, learn how to do it yourself (there are several online tutorials that are FREE) or barter with someone. Secondly, there is no reason you should NOT have a proper business card. If you can’t afford them right now, companies like Vista Print (www.vistaprint.com) Will give you 250 FREE cards – you just pay shipping and handling. Even with a decent printer and business card paper, you can make one on your own personal computer.
When corresponding with someone for the first time, introduce yourself. Do your research. I cannot stress the importance of research.
And finally if your professionalism and courteousness does not render your desired result, still, remain professional and courteous. You will never know when you might need a favor somewhere down the road.