Writing Etiquette Redux

I’m republishing this post for three reasons:

1) I mentioned I bought back my rights to the Mayhem Series. Without fellow writers lending advice and sharing their experience with me, I’d probably still be tryin’ to figure out how to Indie pub the first five books, never mind be ready to publish book 6. I have a new editor, whom I adore, and my favorite cover designer jumped on board, too. Wait till you see my new cover. So exciting!

2) I had the misfortune of reading an author’s “bad behavior” list on Twitter. This woman tweets out an ever-growing list of bad behavior by authors. Some of the things on that list of 100 is downright shocking. So, a redux seemed like a good idea.

3) I’m reading book 6 one last time before creating my ARCs. This is my neurotic stage, nitpicking every single word, and ignoring any compliments from my editor. Almost done, so I can probably shelve the crazy long enough to respond to comments. 😉

Writing Community Etiquette

One of the most amazing things about being an author is mingling within the writing community. Writers, as I’m sure you’ll agree, are some of the most generous, supportive, and kind humans on the planet.

That said, there are a few unwritten rules within the community. Let’s discuss to enlighten the newer members of our family.

Other Writers are NOT Competition.

They are our people, our tribe. The longer we’re in this business the more it becomes a kinship. I can’t even imagine working without other writers by my side. We share successes, as Joe so beautifully demonstrated last Saturday. We also share failures (privately, btw, never rant on social media). We lift each other up and try to help where we can.

Without other writers, imagine how lonely this profession would be? As it is, we spend countless hours alone at the keyboard, hanging with our fictional homies or burrowing down one research rabbit hole after another. What if we had no one to share our discoveries with? Or to bounce ideas off of? Or to help us celebrate a new release? Or to knock some sense into us when nothing seems to go right?

We’re better because of, not in spite of, our relationships with other writers.

Lose the Ego

If this business hasn’t taught you humility, you haven’t been part of the publishing industry long enough. You might be soaring now, but you will fall one day. It’s inevitable. Yes, celebrate your successes. Don’t let it go to your head, though. A reality check now and then is an important exercise. Chances are there’s plenty of writers who sell more books than you, who are more loved by readers, who has rocketed to heights you (or I) might never reach.

John’s recent post is the perfect example of success and humility. It’s one of my favorite posts he’s written because of its honesty and realness.

Don’t be a Jerk

Do you really need to point out a typo in a tweet? We’re all fallible. Smile and move on.

Do you really need to say how much you disliked a fellow writer’s work?

What you put out in the universe has a way of boomeranging at the most inconvenient times. It may not be today, but eventually Karma will bite back. Count on it.

When you first join the writing community, it may seem endless. Here’s the thing about skewed impressions. Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. Cross a fellow writer, and that circle can and will get downright claustrophobic. Why? Because writers protect other writers. It’s what we do; it’s who we are as a community. Just ask Disney.

Give More Than You Receive

Did a fellow writer blurb a book for you? Great! What did you do to help support them? I’m not saying you need to match the gesture by blurbing their next book. Maybe you’re not at that level yet. What should you do? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Review one of their books
  • Offer to beta read
  • Share their good news, new release, book cover(s), blog posts, interview, etc. on social media
  • Better yet, pay it forward to a writer farther down the rungs of the ladder—most writers will love knowing by helping Writer X, they also helped Writer Y.

The worst thing you can do is to ask for another helping hand when you’ve showed no appreciation for the last favor. And for the love of God, NEVER ask a fellow writer to fund your writing career because, in your eyes, they’re successful and you’re entitled enough to think you shouldn’t have to work a day job while you hone your craft. Yeah, those people exist. And they all seem to have my email address. Lucky me. 🙂

Common Courtesy

Treat fellow writers as you would like to be treated.

  1. Respond to blog comments. If someone has taken the time to comment on your article, don’t treat them like they’re invisible. Reciprocate with a response. Common courtesy is not rocket science. How would you feel if one day everyone stopped commenting on your blog posts? If you continue to ignore your audience, that can and will happen. If chatting with your audience isn’t important to you, then close the comment section. By leaving it open you’re obligated to respond.
  2. Share a fellow writer’s posts. Let’s take Twitter, for example. If someone retweets everything you share, or even if they only share one post, return the favor. They didn’t have to take the time to share your tweet with their audience, but they did. Do the same for them.

But Sue, what if their books have sex acts on the covers? If you don’t feel comfortable sharing their pinned post with your audience, then scroll through their timeline until you find a more appropriate post that you can share.

  1. Never hijack another writer’s social media timeline. We’ve all met the writer who thinks it’s acceptable to tag 90 authors in their book promos. It isn’t. If anything, said writer looks unprofessional and desperate. I have a few followers on Twitter who do it constantly, and it drives me crazy. The only ones I haven’t blocked (yet) are the writers who also RT my tweets. Does that make tagging okay? No. Unless you’re having a conversation with someone or sharing their work, pretend tagging doesn’t exist.

Lose the Automated Message

I admit, when I first joined Twitter, an automated message to greet my new followers seemed like a good idea. Let me set the record straight—they are never a good idea.

Nothing screams amateur more than an automated message. I once followed this writer whose automated message read: “I want to be your favorite author!” I wrote back: “I want to be your favorite author, too!”

Surprise, surprise, she unfollowed me. Good riddance.

I can think of only two possible exceptions for sending a private message.

  1. If you’re extending an offer that will benefit them, not you. And it’s free. You wouldn’t ask someone you just met at a party for money, right?
  2. If you’re having trouble finding their books and are asking for a link.

In both these non-automated scenarios, most writers won’t mind. But first try to find their email address. Email is less intrusive than private messaging.

Auto-Add Email to Newsletter

If a fellow writer accepts your friend request on Facebook or follows you on Twitter/Instagram or subscribes to your YouTube channel, that does NOT mean they’ve signed up to receive your newsletter. I’ve had friends add me to their list, but they’re actual friends who I chat with all the time. For everyone else, there’s a big difference between showing support for your fellow writers and signing up to receive their newsletters.

Think of it this way. I have over 12K followers on Twitter alone. Imagine if they all added me to their email list? My inbox would explode! The less-informed writer may be thinking: But Sue, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Oy. I hear that excuse all the time. Newsflash. Unsubscribing from a newsletter you never signed up for in the first place annoys most writers. Plus, it takes time away from writing, researching, marketing, or the gazillion other things we do daily.

Read the room, dear guppy (new writers a la MWA). A follow-back or an acceptance of a friend request is just that. Nothing more.

Final Thought

As I said at the beginning of this post, writers are some of the best people on the planet. Most of us would agree that without other writers, this profession would be a lonely one. But we’re never truly alone. There’s always another writer who’ll be there when we need them, just as we were there for them. We’re blessed, and that gift should never be taken for granted.

Over to you, TKZ family.

Did I miss anything? Add your tip! If you can’t think of anything to add, then share a story of a writer helping you or vice versa.

This entry was posted in #writers, #writerslife, #WritingCommunity and tagged , , , , by Sue Coletta. Bookmark the permalink.

About Sue Coletta

Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer and an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Feedspot and Expertido.org named her Murder Blog as “Best 100 Crime Blogs on the Net.” She also blogs at the Kill Zone, Story Empire, and Writers Helping Writers. Sue lives with her husband in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. Her backlist includes psychological thrillers, the Mayhem Series (books 1-3) and Grafton County Series, and true crime/narrative nonfiction. Now, she exclusively writes eco-thrillers, Mayhem Series (books 4-8 and continuing). Sue's appeared on the Emmy award-winning true crime series, Storm of Suspicion, and three episodes of A Time to Kill on Investigation Discovery. Learn more about Sue and her books at https://suecoletta.com

32 thoughts on “Writing Etiquette Redux

  1. I try to remember to say thank you. A lot. My fellow writers are doing me a favor many a time, and it costs them time and effort.

    Writers who blog have taken the time to create an organized essay on a useful topic – which makes my learning curve easier. Thanks! Comments are also a form of thanks for the posts – I’m always surprised by how few comments these are on many good posts.

    And writers are generous – even when the blog is a narrow topic – because some parts of writing are the same for all of us, regardless of what we write. I’m not writing crime right now (though I started there – and may go back), but the posts here – including this one on etiquette, many thanks, Sue – have allowed me a place to get some questions answered. I don’t know traditional publishing – but indies are very supportive of each other.

    One of the easiest things to do is to encourage new writers when they cross my path – often in the FB groups I’ve joined – I can still remember how good some of those milestones felt.

    • Totally agree, Alicia. Most writers help other writers, our community one of the most supportive.

      Also agree that comments are a form of thank you. Hence why I always try to leave a comment on posts I’ve enjoyed.

  2. “Common courtesy is not rocket science.”

    Like common sense sometimes, it seems so rare you wonder why it’s called “common…”

    To your point(s), though… please allow me to thank you all for “encouraging me” to comment here… and for what have often proven to be timely words of advice and instruction – both as contributors and fellow “commentors…”

    In addition to reading your books and looking for you on-line elsewhere, is there anything else I can do for y’all in return?

  3. Thanks for the reminders, Sue. Good advice that is worth reading a second time, especially in this era of so much division and discord.

    Congrats and good luck with indie publishing books 1-5, and publishing #6.

    I have certainly received invaluable help from many writing friends here. Thank you to all of you for your advice and sharing your knowledge and experience. This is the first place on the net where I go in the morning.

    Thanks, Sue, for all your wonderful posts!

    • Thanks, Steve! Books 1-5 went well. I survived the Zon gauntlet of getting my reviews transferred over, too. Yay!

      Thank you for all your words of wisdom, my friend. Btw, I just saw your pens on your site. Unbelievable craftsmanship!

  4. These should hold for all aspects of life, not just the writing community. I come from an age where my mother never showed up for a dinner invitation without a gift–often homemade. Always hand wrote a thank you letter–she called them ‘bread-and-butter[ letters. If someone brought food, the dish it arrived in was never returned empty. And then there’s Thumper’s mother’s advice … ‘if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.’

    • You’re right, Terry, they should. Common courtesy and social etiquette are not difficult to practice. Thumper’s mother was very wise. 😉

  5. Viewing other writers as competition—the very thought amazes me. I mean, yes, we know that we are competing with X number of books that are published each year, but it’s a weird thought to view other writers as competition. I mean just think of those here at the TKZ community–even though it’s mainly mystery/thriller/suspense, even within that genre group there is so much diversity of interest as to what type of mystery/thriller/suspense people write. More than enough room to not worry about viewing other writers as competition.

    • Precisely, Brenda. Plus, we need each other to fill in the gaps for readers. It can take months for us to write a novel, and a reader devours it in an afternoon. Then what? I have a few local readers who only read my books (that’s the only time they read), and the pressure is too much. Even though I recommend other authors whose work I think they’ll enjoy, some want no part of it.

  6. Sue, you could repost this every month. It would still apply, not only to authors but also to just about anyone who engages in activities of daily living involving social interaction. You’ve got a basic list here of the right things to do. Thanks again for the reminders.

  7. With respect,

    1. Pay forward what you’ve learned, and
    2. if you hear or read another respected professional doling out what you believe is damaging writing advice, don’t be afraid to offer a positive alternative choice. Having alternatives harms only those who stand to profit from there being no alternatives.

  8. Sue, you asked for a story about writers who’ve helped me. There are too many to count. I’m truly blessed.

    Back in 2017, Kathryn Lilley and Jordan Dane gave me the opportunity to join TKZ as a contributor. I am forever grateful to them for the best writing gig I’ve ever had. .

  9. Good morning Sue, this post is pure gold. Thank you for writing it, and for reshaping it. it’s a true keeper. I can only add my philosophy that as writers, we are all in this together. I’m very grateful for you and everyone else here. I’m extremely fortunate to be a part of this wonderful writing community.

    I’m currently working away on the final revisions to “A Shush Before Dying” before sending it to my copy editor. Happy nitpicking to both of us, my friend!

    • Happy nitpicking, sweet friend! Hey, did you see the polar lights last week? I haven’t been on Twitter much lately. Need to check your timeline. 😀

      • Alas, we’ve been nearly totally socked in here the past few days. I managed one Moon photo during a brief cloud break, which I shared to Twitter, and glimpsed the stars in Gemini and Canis Major, but that’s it.

        • I didn’t get to see them, either. *sigh* Many others in New Hampshire did, though. Sorry you’re socked in. How awful for a stargazer. I’m a wreck if I miss the moon and stars for more than a couple nights. They nourish my soul!

  10. Thanks for republishing this post, Sue. These common sense behaviors really can’t be emphasized enough.

    I feel so grateful to be a part of the writing community. It is such a generous and helpful bunch, especially the TKZ crowd. I hesitate to mention names because I’m afraid I’ll leave someone out, but I have to give special thanks to Debbie Burke, Steve Hooley, and James Scott Bell who have done so much to help me in my writing journey.

    • Excellent shout-out! I fear leaving others out, too, Kay. Many writers have helped me at different stages of my career, and I’m so grateful.

  11. Auto-add to your newsletter IS A VERY BAD IDEA. If you use a service like Constant Contact or MailChimp they will drop you, it is a CAN-SPAM violation, and they want no part of that. You don’t want to deal with complaints either. It can get expensive.

    You can send back a subscription request. Remember if someone says don’t subscribe, don’t send them stuff.

    Disclosure time. If you get Elaine Viets newsletter, I sent it for her. I love MailChimp. They have some great tools and you can get started for free.

    Dead of Night Elaine’s newest book drops tomorrow!
    https://mailchi.mp/140e4e463087/need-a-good-beach-read-elaine-viets-shop-till-you-drop-is-free-16895462?e=bc82f330f3

    • Good point about CAN-SPAM, Alan. Yet, I still get added to multiple newsletters. I used MailChimp for years before switching to MailerLite. Both are excellent.

      Congrats, Elaine!

  12. I couldn’t agree more and as a rookie the writing community at large has been generous in every way, even when there’s no profit to be gained.

    The New York cops have a saying, that you need a rabbi. That’s a persojn who is interested in your professional development and advancement, and I’ve found that both here and in the two writing groups I attend I’ve gotten more than one rabbi.
    Thank you all at TKZ.

  13. Thanks, Sue. I have about four writing sites that I follow religiously (TKZ included) and it amazes me that I have FREE access to incredible content and advice from established writers.

    Another rule should be: If you digest content on a site regularly and your budget allows, BUY THE AUTHORS BOOKS as a thank you or use the tip option if there is one.

    I’m definitely trying to do better myself.

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