Friday, October 17, 2014

Professionalism with Cat Urbigkit

Reflections On Conferences (Part 2)
by Cat Urbigkit

Social media posts help to build your brand --
that is, your reputation.
Being professional in how you present yourself is an important part of a writer’s career. That means studying industry resources to be sure you are submitting work to a house that accepts the genre you create. It means following submissions guidelines and presenting only polished work, in standard industry format, without colored paper or other attention-getting gimmicks, and accompanied by a flawless cover letter (free of typos and submitted to the correctly spelled name).

There is much talk about "branding" for writers and other creators, but dear reader, you are not a Disney character. What branding really means is reputation. Make sure your reputation is that of a professional.

It's great that you are involved in social media - building your brand are you? Take a look at what you are putting out there for the world to see. Is it nothing but "buy my book, buy my book?" That's not social - that's ego-centered promotion. Post about current events that pertain to your books, your creative process, or give glimpses into your life to help your social media contacts get to know you better, mentioning your books every now and then, perhaps as you have speaking and signing events, or experience creative milestones. ("Yaay, chapter one finished," "Ready to tackle the revision process on this tiger of a manuscript.") Be sure your social media is just that - social. You are sharing your life, your process, and your work. Make it professional and interactive. Give your contacts a reason to follow you, a reason to care, a reason to take time from their own busy days to see what's happening in your world.

Alexandra Penfold of Upstart Crow Literary ran through a list of things “no-no’s” for authors. She told stories of authors submitting a query or manuscript over the weekend, resubmitting “just in case” the first email wasn’t received, and then calling the office a few days later to confirm. Slow down, and have patience, Penfold recommends. And it’s a bad idea to send a "gift" when presenting an unsolicited manuscript to someone who does not know you. Yes, even chocolates. Would you want to eat chocolates sent in the mail from someone you don't know?

Alessandra Balzer of HarperCollins reminds us to treat others as we wish to be treated. That means conducting yourself with professionalism, and to be sure that professionalism is apparent when engaging in social media. Political, religious, and other rants - don't do it. Don't complain about your publishing house, editor, cover choice, etc., on writer's forums. I believe this is called shooting yourself in the foot. You are hurting yourself.

If you have an agent or editor considering your work, be assured they will Google you. If they don't find anything, that's okay. Finding nothing is preferable to finding content that casts you in a negative light. If they find upbeat and engaging content, good on you! You're doing it right.

Your public persona should be a reflection of the seriousness of your commitment to craft. Literary agent Erin Murphy noted in dealing with potential clients, she likes to see indications that the author is grounded, confident, and open.

Cat Urbigkit is a full-time author, photographer, and sheep herder in western Wyoming. She writes nonfiction books for children and adults. Her 10th book, When Man Becomes Prey, has been released this month by Lyons Press.


  1. Grounded, confident and open... I'm going to tattoo that somewhere. You'll never see it, but it'll be there to remind me of those wise words every time I take a shower. Great post - lots of thinks to think about and do. Thanks!

  2. Great information! If I want to make money at writing (or at least be respected), I need to treat it like I do my regular business.


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