We must take extra precaution over what, where, and how we write.
Reams of research exist on the reputations of small presses, literary agents, editors, and publishers, but only a few pages discuss the writer’s reputation. No one is born with a magnificent reputation. Each of us must build the right writer reputation to nourish our goals and dreams.
If we speak inappropriately face-to-face, then we apologize hoping that, over time, our poorly chosen words will fade away from the offended person’s memory. Conversely, on the Internet, our written words stay alive for years in ezines, Blogs, Blog commentaries, or emails, even if only in archives.
A writer’s reputation embraces immortal visibility across the Internet through search-engine access. If I want to investigate a writer’s background, I use Google, and if I feel the need, I further check along other search engines. Public information exists all around us, even in old forum posts, newsletters, and newspaper clips. They can display professional snippets, including the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I don’t generally check another writer’s work unless I think it seems familiar. As a former college instructor, I had the unfortunate need to verify many of my students’ works over the years. Nothing tugged at my heart’s chords more sharply than the moment I verified suspicions of plagiarism, followed by a confrontation and failing grade.
Ironically, it’s similar to my work today. As a contributing editor, if I think a manuscript submission sounds familiar, or if intuition taps me on the shoulder, I check the writer’s background and hunt for a rewritten work. My intuition works here, too, on writers who try to pass off reprints as first-time publications. Those writers’ names will stick in my mind and other editors’ minds as truly unworthy of future work. It’s too bad for them. Technology simplifies research!
My experience emphasizes the importance of planting our reputations with foresight. Solid reputations are vital to our long-term existence in the publishing industry.
We need to consider what we write as well as where we write to document our words for posterity. Just because publication A will print our first piece immediately, for example, doesn’t mean it’s the best career move. Sometimes waiting for publication B, a place with a great reputation in the industry, means the difference between no exposure and a buzzing network and paycheck later on.
How we write our words bears significance too. If profanity peppers someone’s writing, even if it’s only in a Blog commentary, then that writer might send the wrong message to a prospective client or editor, ending in a loss. Some of my past emails made me wonder, “Could I ask her to delete that?” Of course, simply asking the question told me I shouldn’t have written that particular email in the first place or I shouldn’t have clicked the send button!
Plan ahead and take precaution with your reputation. It makes sense, and you’ll be glad you did.