Tips on professional behavior for the writer

It’s a good time of year to stick to those resolutions you made. I find that toward the end of the year, some of my best behavior gets sloppy. So here’s a reminder of how to present yourself as a professional author in all your dealings:

1) Courtesy. The simple art of “please” and “thank you.” No, this has not gone out of style. Or at least it shouldn’t if you want success. “Please help…” “Please take a look at…” And then “Thank you for your time.”

2) No blanket requests—make each one personal. I cringe when I see people put out a blanket request such as: “Anyone want to host me for a blog tour?” You may get a few replies, but it looks as if you haven’t done your homework to find blogs that really apply to the type of book you write and the kind of post you want to write.

3) Do what you said you’d do when you said you’d do it. This applies in person as well as in writing. I have been surprised at the number of blog posts I’ve turned in and received this reply: “Thank you for being on time.” Blog hosts tell me they get late submissions all the time. Why would you think it’s okay to be late? And then be surprised when a host says “No, thank you” the next time you ask?

4) “Good enough” is not good enough. The true professional goes a step further and gives her best effort. It’s worth going over your manuscript one last time to make sure you’ve done your best. Correcting typos is the least you can do. Go back and look at the paragraphs that keep nagging you. Figure out why you aren’t quite satisfied. Be sure the timeline is correct. Check for overuse of your favorite words. Go one step beyond “good enough” and make it “excellent.” I’m not talking about perfect. I just mean not being satisfied with “okay.”

Tips on professional behavior for the writer

5) Write professional letters. Have you made every effort to make sure you are addressing the right person? Is your letter short and to the point? It’s worth reading your letter one last time. Just as with a manuscript, make sure it’s sharp and without sloppy errors.


6) Assume that the time of everyone you come in contact with is as valuable as your own. That’s the reason for all the foregoing tips. “Sorry, but I’ve been so busy” is no excuse.


7) If you fail to do these things, apologize. Did you waste someone’s valuable time? Did you fail to be courteous? Did you drop the ball? Apologize…without excuses. Better to admit: “I fell behind.” Or “I goofed.” You don’t have to have to be obsequious, but you do have to be sincere. Most people understand the occasional lapse and are quick to forgive and move on.

8) Take a tip from super-successful people. I find they are almost inevitably among the most courteous people I’ve ever come in contact with. It doesn’t mean they will drop everything and hold your hand (although sometimes they will). But most of them have mastered the art of being professional with everyone they meet.

BIO: Terry grew up in Texas, and her Samuel Craddock series, set in the fictitious town of Jarrett Creek, is based on the fascinating people, landscape, and culture of the small town where her grandparents lived. The first book in the series A Killing at Cotton Hill received the Macavity Award for Best First Mystery of 2013. It was nominated for The Strand Critics Award and a Left Coast Crime award for Best Mystery. The Last Death of Jack Harbin was nominated for a Macavity Award for Best Novel and was named one of the top ten mysteries of 2014 by Library Journal. MysteryPeople named Shames one of the top five Texas mystery authors of 2015. Her sixth, An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock, a prequel, January 2017, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, which called it a “superior” novel with “resonance in the era of Black Lives Matter.” Read more from Publishers Weekly on An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock.