Be nice!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. - Maya Angelou

Have you ever gone to a conference and heard editors and publishers bashing the very clientele they depend on to make their business a success? Yes, we all have our moments, and if we had someone recording us all the time we would be found guilty at one time or another of complaining about the people we love or work with.

That's why it is important to have friends or family you can trust when you have a bad day and need to vent. These are private conversations that no one else hears. A few friends and I invoke the "Cone of Silence" principle (from the old Get Smart television show when sharing sensitive information not to be repeated). And that cone is respected.

So imagine my surprise recently when I read instructions on a writer's public website that basically gave visitors many reasons not to contact this author. The message this writer has put out to the world is Don't bother me.

I wish I had so many people asking me questions about my work that I had to put up a "rules and regulations" page to discourage them from asking me the same questions over and over again. Isn't that the problem all writers want to have?

As a teacher, I admit I do get tired of hearing the same questions in class, sometimes immediately following relevant instructions. It's frustrating, yes, but I always answer them, even though in my mind I am rolling my eyes.

The author's website in question also stated that if you're trying to reach a different person (who has a similar name), the request will be deleted. Wait, what? Why not take a moment to reach out and let the potential fan know that you are not that person, but add a link to the correct site, plus your own short bio, just in case he or she didn't know you were an author who sells books you might enjoy.

It just takes a minute to be welcoming, and you might have accidentally found a new fan who buys your books with real money. Why not say something like "If you've landed on this web page by accident, please take a moment and look around! Or, "Thanks for stopping by!"

It never hurts to be nice, so use your cone of silence sparingly!

Mary Horner's short story Shirley and the Apricot Tree is being published this month in Kansas City Voices. She teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Mary--One, you brought back a memory that had been buried for a long time. I had forgotten about the "cone of silence."

Two, you offer reasonable advice. Be kind. Don't jump on someone the instant they make a mistake. (And as a fellow teacher, I too roll my eyes in my head occasionally, but since I work with middle-schoolers, sometimes I actually roll them.)

Joanne said...

Excellent advice!

Angela Mackintosh said...

I think the author could've done this in a different way where it wasn't so...I don't know, off-putting and rude? As a website owner though, I personally know that you'll become a worn out shell if you answer every question and respond to every request that comes across your inbox. If this author is popular and has a large following, there are solutions: hire a publicist or personal assistant if you can't do it yourself. Choose twitter to communicate like a lot of agents do if you prefer that method.

Marcia Peterson said...

I've often thought that being nice is underrated. :) As Patton Oswalt says in his new Netflix special, "It's chaos. Be kind."

Margo Dill said...

I'm wondering: Is this a famous author or someone who has published and is having some success?

Mary Horner said...

Sioux, I think all teachers have experienced this, but I still think having empathy works, although as the semester goes on, I find it harder to not be sarcastic!

Thank you, J. Glenn!

Angela, what a good idea, I hadn't even thought of that, but of course that is what this author should do if he or she is feeling overwhelmed.

MP, I just watched the Patton Oswalt special and I agree, it's good advice for many situations.

And Margo, I'm not sure, I wasn't familiar with this particular person, but that doesn't mean a lot since I'm not always up with who is popular and who isn't!

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