So often when I see it bandied about – particularly as it pertains to the publishing industry – it seems to have most or all to do with appearances. Writers are told to look professional, as if professionalism were an aesthetic. That rubs me wrong, because it sounds so superficial and snotty. Look like what the infamous They have decided counts as professional, or you’re assumed to be lesser than.
I’ve always understood professionalism to be more a matter of competence, and of attitude. My “professional” means punctuality and promises kept. My “like a pro” evokes skill and confidence. In my world, the pros are the ones who know what they’re doing. …Or the ones who fake it like whoa.
You want professionalism in publishing? Treat it like a profession. Sure, that can in part mean showing up in your power suit – your fancy book cover, your elite-approved font, your slick BigShotDomain.com with the killer coding. I’m not knocking those things. No shame in putting your prettiest face forward. That is, after all, exactly why I ran that GoFundMe campaign: To pay the photography and design professionals to make my next Outlaws of Avalon novel looks its beautiful best. But that stuff’s hardly number one on the list of “must do”s, if it belongs on the list at all.
Writing’s never struck me as a power-suited position. Dressing for the job I want involves an assortment of hoodies. And possibly a wizard’s robe. …or a Dark Lord’s.
You want to come off as a professional writer? To me, that’s like math homework: Show me your work.
I’d rather not see a slapdash cover, an illegible font, and a messy web presence not because it says “automatic amateur”, but because it makes me question how much time and care you put into it. I want you to demonstrate that you take your work seriously, whether or not you’ve yet come to the realization that neither you nor any of the rest of us have a clear clue what we’re doing. More than the visual itself, that means a sure command of language. That means engaging with your peers and your public with basic levels of courtesy. That means giving your writing career the best you’ve got.
And personal bests will vary – from person to person, and from Past You to Present You to Future You. Some people will like some bests more than others. That’s individual opinion, which everyone’s got a right to. That’s subjectivity, which for better or worse is the name of the game, in the arts. That’s why I don’t want you telling me or anyone else what their work has to look like to count as professional. Go for what you’re going for, and give it your 120 percent.
“We interrupt what would have been your regularly scheduled Interactive Theatre skit,” says Will Scarlet, “to bring you ‘Imminent Danger And How to Fly Straight Into It (Redesigned)’!”
“Wait, what?” says Allyn-a-Dale.
Will shoves a three-ring script binder into the minstrel’s hands. “Just run with it.”
Allyn/Narrator: In the far-gone year of two thousand and twelve, a naive young authoress with a trusting heart gave unto a company called iUniverse thousands of dollars with which to publish her novel.
Will/Young Authoress [waving a handful of prop hundred-dollar bills ]: Shut up and take my money!
Disturbing Voiceover: Gladly.
Allyn/Narrator: But alas! For this foolish young authoress did not realize the assisted-publishing path was fraught with peril, and the thousands paid were not in value received. Control was relinquished, prices did skyrocket, and the young authoress cried out to the heavens…
Will/Young Authoress: Woe is me! Would that I had done this publishing business myself!
Allyn/Narrator: And the young authoress did take it upon herself to publish the novel, commissioning a talented artist to provide her with a new cover that doth more accurately capture the spirit of her novel. And lo! The new cover is revealed.
[The curtain rises on the larger than life cover, as displayed below.]
Will/Young Authoress: I love it! The lights, the colors! The glitz, the glam! And just look at how it harmonizes with the novel’s blurb!
Allyn/Narrator [taking his cue to begin reading the blurb ]: High school junior Eris Miller thinks she’s having a bad day when her roommate’s boyfriend catches her stepping out of the shower wearing nothing but a towel.
[To the right of the onstage cover, a spotlight falls on a towel-clad Marion Hood.]
Marion/Eris: This is as bad as it gets!
Allyn/Narrator: Then she gets abducted by scaly six-armed aliens with a strange fondness for the color blue, and her day suddenly gets a whole lot worse.
Marion/Eris [getting hauled offstage by a multi-prosthetic-wearing Little John ]: I stand corrected.
Allyn/Narrator: Trapped on a spaceship bound for the slave markets of Sirius B, Eris fears she’ll never see her home again. But then fate whisks her away from her reptilian captors and into the arms of Varrin, a fast-talking space pirate who promises to deliver her safely back to Earth. He claims to have her best interests at heart, but Eris soon discovers that her charming rescuer has a hidden agenda.
[Marion reappears in the spotlight, this time dipped low in the arms of a space-piratical Robin Hood.]
Marion/Eris [breathlessly ]: What aren’t you telling me?
Robin/Varrin [oh-so charmingly ]: That’s for me to know, and readers to find out.
Allyn/Narrator: As they race across the galaxy, outrunning a villainous figure from Varrin’s past, Eris begins to realize that their relationship is putting her planet, her life, and her heart in imminent danger. She knows that trusting Varrin could prove deadly … but what other choice does she have?
“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will. “For those of you in the audience crying, ‘Author! Author!’…”
“I’m not sure that’s what they’re crying,” says Allyn.
Ignoring him, Will carries on, “Here’s a bit about the co-writer of our little skit, and the brains and beauty behind ‘Imminent Danger’!”
Michelle Proulx was born on the market moon of Vega Minor where she spent her formative years reading, writing, and gambling at illegal underground jsgarn fighting rings. While en route to Alpha Centauri, Michelle crash-landed her space yacht on the planet Earth. She now lives in Canada and divides her time between observing the local fauna and repairing her star ship.
“Thanks for inviting us to be part of your cover reveal, Michelle!” Will calls.
“She invited Danielle.”
“#PackageDeal. ‘Til next time, friends: Will and Allyn out!”
** The Creative Writing Club of Wisconsin Lutheran College, no less! Bless them, as well!
Also believe it or not, I didn’t actually take the time throughout the day to chronicle the hour-by-hour happenings in a notebook, like one might think a writer would naturally do. So the following journal entries are totally forged after the fact – though I’d like to think I managed to hold onto a ring of authenticity, even so.
* * *
Monday, Apr. 28, 2014, 10-ish a.m.
Camped out on the front steps so I can keep an eye on the street. I haven’t seen Megan since we were Town Criers together at the Bristol Renaissance Faire last summer, and I’ve never seen her car, but once I spot the former, I’ll assume that the latter she drove up in is hers. Or that she’s a car thief. That could prove interesting.
Whoop, I think that’s her! Farewell, Mother! Later, comforts of home! For today, I throw comfort to the wind and talk to strangers!
* * *
After the drive (and little thanks to the GPS that tried to lose us inside a forest preserve, of all things)
Chillin’ at WLC, home of the CWC with which I’ll Q&A. (Acronyms… acronyms everywhere…) While Megan’s taking care of last-minute business for the meeting – ordering refreshments, messaging club members to remind them where we will and will not meet – I’ve been tearing through this script she wrote. “aMUSEd”, it’s called, and just guess what inspired it? INSPIRED, that’s what! Or its cover, anyway! She took one look at the portrayal of Luc and Annabelle, and a little lightbulb full of ideas winked on over her own head.
The best part of all? This play rocks! It had me whimpering in sympathy on, like, page 2, and laughing for pretty much the rest of it. I love emotion couched in comedy. Boy, I hope Megan brings “aMUSEd” to the stage, sometime in the not-too-faraway future. I want in it! Or at least in the audience of it. I’ll take either one.
Aaand now we’re going back into the rain to grab some beverages from the grocery story. Back in a bit, hypothetical diary.
* * *
Later in the Afternoon
Just finished sitting in on Megan’s theatre class. Now we’re in the meeting room with a few earlycomers (sure, we’ll say that’s a word), and I’ll do a more participatory sort of sit-in with them doing their club thing, with my official Q&A portion of our assembly to follow after that. I’ve got no idea how any of this will go down, yet, so I’ll just dive face-first into social interaction and hope it comes off as more endearing than obnoxious. (I can never tell.)
* * *
Halfway Through the Meeting
Oh my word, these people are hilarious! They were supposed to all read some prompt-based writing exercise they were assigned, but nobody actually brought in the assignment (ah, college… it’s all coming back to me, now), so President Megan* decided to wing it.
* Nobody’s called her President Megan, but she’s running this show, so whatever, she’s totally President Megan.
She divided the room of sixteen into teams of four, each team writing four stories on the fly, one sentence at a time. I mean, obviously every story is written one sentence at a time, but in this case, Teammate A only gets to put down one sentence before passing the story on to Teammate B, who does the same before giving it to Teammate C, and on it goes to D and back around to A – blather, wince, and repeat, all the while doing the same for the stories begun by Teammates B, C, and D.
If that explanation didn’t make sense, consider it a metaphor for most of the stories we read once we’d finished the game. President Megan was kept busy at the white board, stating on record that much of the stories’ subject matter was in no way a reflection of the values of the Creative Writing Club or its affiliates.
* * *
Stories Read and Pizza Consumed…
…Up I went to the front of the room to act all professionally authorial and stuff.
After giving the crowd my backstory, I fielded questions about my creative/publishing process, how self-pub works vs. working with a small press, how to sniff out writing opportunities… all that jazz.
Not gonna lie, though: My favorite part had to be toward the end when one of the club members, not nicknamed The Voice for nothing, came up to read the back cover blurb of INSPIRED in the most epic announcer way possible. I mean, having the deeply gratifying pleasure of selling and autographing a few copies of the novel to the room before Megan drove me home was super great, too. But an epic announcer voice reading your words like they’re gonna be a movie next summer* is its own level of cool.
*It is not, to my knowledge, actually going to be a movie next summer. There’s still that script for a play inspired by it, though! Like I said: Creeping my way up in the world. (:
Once I got back home, things were pretty much business as usual, for a while – y’know, guests posts by a Merry Man and Merry Woman, rescuing words like a language-loving boss on Save-a-Word Saturdays… that sort of thing.
Then the world exploded in a blast of awesomesocks.
After years of little to report to inquisitive friends apart from, “yeah, still writing, still hoping, no big breaks yet,” I had not one, not two, but three amazing pieces of publishing news to share, back to back to back! An anthology, self-published novella, and a novel debut, oh my!
It all made for a very busy Danielle, lemme tell you, but I still tried to make time for reading, both for pleasure and as favors to friends. Over the course of Ever On Word’s “being or associated with the second in a series” year, I managed to post reviews for the following:
Not too shabby, for a gal with a weird phobia about writing reviews. (:
I was able to pick up a couple of nice reviews for “The Swan Prince”, too, during the Blogger Book Fair in July. I’d only recently heard of the event, and it was my first time participating – spotlighting fellow authors here at my blog, guest-posting over on theirs, and, ohhhh yeahhhh, winning the Reader’s Choice Award for young adult fantasy, thanks to your votes! 😀
So, yeah. All told, it’s been a pretty big year for this little blog. And glancing ahead at what I know to be coming – (including but not limited to the release of “The Stone Kingdom (Book Two of The Wilderhark Tales)” in, like, two weeks) – it’s a safe bet Year Three will be easily as huge. #LezDoThisThang!
It may mean “to [have taken] reservations beyond the capacity for accommodation”, but when I hear the word “book”, my mind goes in a reading/writing direction.
For instance, it might make a good term for a writer who’s suddenly got so many awesome things happening on the publication side of things, she sometimes worries she doesn’t have the time to write anything new.
For my full five-minute reflection on life as I currently know it, hit up the link. And if it sounds like a phase you’ve been through, feel free to leave your pearls of wisdom in the comments, hers and/or mine. (: