Category Archives: professionalism

If You Don’t Know What Professional Means…

Look it up!

If you are a writer putting a book out there, or an editor offering editing services to writers, then you are purporting to be a professional. I say ‘purporting’, because that’s the expectation, but not always the reality.

If you are putting yourself out there as a professional, then you should be holding yourself to a professional standard. There are some obvious issues that always get bandied around in these discussions, including:

  • Having a book cover that doesn’t look like it fell off the back of a truck;
  • Ensuring the book has been edited to within an inch of its life;
  • Making sure the book has been thoroughly proofread;
  • Ensuring the book is properly formatted, particularly ebooks, where all sorts of formatting pitfalls await; and
  • Having a professional website (for writers and editors).

There are, however, two issues that are less discussed:

  • The way you comport yourself – this means behaving with a certain level of dignity in the public sphere. It doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with someone, but for god’s sake, don’t get into flame wars with trolls; and
  • Conflicts of interest.

Public Behaviour
This means don’t engage with someone regarding a review they wrote of your book, or a book that you edited. Don’t attack them. Don’tmass your fans to attack them. Don’tcall them a troll. And if any of this happens completely independently of you, demand that your fans stop. If it’s your editor who attacks a reviewer, then rein them in!

Part of being professional means that you accept that the work you wrote, or edited, is out there in the public eye. You can’t stop people reviewing it. You can’t stop people giving it bad reviews. Just accept them with good grace, learn from any valid criticism that may be contained therein, and move on. Your book should have been through so many beta readers, editors and proofreaders that your skin should be thicker than dragonhide. If it hasn’t, then there’s every chance you deserved those bad reviews. 

There may be rare occasions where it is appropriate to address someone’s concern but do it in private, and with due courtesy and grace. Never engage in a shit-throwing contest in a public forum.

Conflicts of Interest
What are they, and what should you do about them?

A conflict of interest is where you have some personal stake that influences your judgement or assessment of something in a way that is contrary to the making of a proper assessment or judgement.  In the writing arena, this usually relates to reviews. If you write a review, and something influences the way you review that book other than the actual merits of the book, then you probably have a conflict. 

 Some conflicts should be avoided all together, and others need to be managed. 

Here are some examples of conflicts of interest:

  • Writing a review on a book you were paid to edit – because you’ve been paid, you are predisposed to give it a good review. Impartiality is difficult (or impossible). I would suggest that you never do this;
  • Writing a review for money – even if you aren’t guaranteeing a particular outcome (which is just dishonest, misleading, and potentially fraudulent) again the fact of payment may influence you to write a more favourable review than you would have if you weren’t paid. This one can usually be managed by disclosing the payment (prominently) so then the reader can assess the review in light of knowing that a payment has been made. Legally speaking, this practice may not be allowed at all in some jurisdictions. If you are posting the review on a site other than your own, you should check the allowable practices;
  • Review for review arrangements – as bad or worse than being paid for a review. Writers have been known to hold reviews hostage until they get a good review for their own book, and even honest writers may be motivated to write a good review for someone else to avoid receiving an undeserved bad review of their own book. Should be handled with care;
  • Sponsored blog posts – if someone pays you to write a blog, you may be inclined to say nice things about them just because they are paying you. Like a paid review, the fact of payment should be disclosed. Check any applicable legal requirements in your jurisdiction;
  • Reviewing the book of a friend or family member – you are unlikely to be completely honest for fear of hurting the writer’s feelings;

You might look at these and think there’s not necessarily a conflict. For example, an editor might be capable of being honest about a book they edited. This is true, but:

  • Even if the editor can be honest, there is still a perception of a conflict. A perceived conflict is just as bad as an actual conflict – remember, perception is reality.
  • An editor might not give a 5 star review, but they might give 3 stars, instead of the 2 they really think it deserves, because they don’t want to upset their client, or because they hope to get repeat business from that client.

If you aspire to be a professional, then you have to think about conflicts. 

What sorts of unprofessional behaviour have you seen from writers? Can you think of more examples of conflicts?

WANTED: An Editor Who Wants Me – Guest Post by Kelly Stone Gamble

Today I am hosting the fantastic Kelly Stone Gamble, bringing us an excellent rant on editors. Let’s not get started on the debate about whether writers need an editor. For the sake of argument, let us assume they do. But I’ve met my share of people who don’t like editors or, even, *gasp* think they are the spawn of evil, and Kelly may have hit on a few points which led to the scarring of said individuals…

Every writer needs an editor. No matter how good you think your work is, how engaging your neighbor found the plot or how interesting and complex your mother finds the protagonist, a second (or third, or fourth) set of eyes to go over it is necessary.  I get it. I agree with it. As a person who spends a lot of time editing for others, I would never claim that I don’t need one myself; and I’ve been looking.  

In my quest to find that perfect freelancer who is going to ‘take my work to the next level’, I’ve discovered something very important.  Yes, writers need editors.  But, guess what? Editors need writers, too.  And because you need me (that is ME-as in Self Appointed Representative of Writers Seeking Editors), I am going to tell you a few things that you have to do to gain my business.  Oh, yes, freelance editing is a business, and I, SARWSE, am a customer.  

1. Have a website.I know, it requires that you actually spend a few hours to get it going, but, look at it this way.  Amazon has a website. Billy Bob’s Discount Books does not.  I do not shop at Billy Bob’s.  I know nothing about him.  I’m not really sure he isn’t some guy in Arkansas selling me books from the local library.  I’m going to trust you with my baby, one that took me years to produce.  The least you can do is have a storefront for me to look at.  If you don’t have a website, go no further in this reading, because trust me, I have gone no further in considering forking over my money and my manuscript. 

2. Make your prices public.  I realize that until you actually see someone’s work, you have no idea the amount of time it will take to make it sing.  However, we, as shoppers, need to know what we ‘may’ be looking at.  “Send me a few page and then we’ll discuss the price” doesn’t work for me.  That is the equivalent of going into a store and trying on that perfect dress without knowing what you are going to pay for it until you check out.  I look at the price before I even try it on.  That’s just me. Here’s a suggestion: three (or four) tiered pricing.  If I decide to send it to you for a critique only at price A, feel free to tell me that you ‘highly suggest’ I let you line edit the entire manuscript at price C.  I can live with that.

3. Prices – Part Two.  Hourly rate versus price per page or word.  Think about this for a minute. I know how many pages and how many words are in my manuscript. I do not know how slow or how fast you are at doing your work.  

4. Give me a timeframe. I visited a website today that said: It will take at least six weeks to edit your manuscript, longer depending on the length, starting on the date that your work comes up in our queue. We cannot estimate when that will be. Okay. So I send you my money, and whenever my turn comes up, you will let me know, and then at a minimum, six more weeks.  Can I count on seeing it, let’s say, by the year 2016?  You’ve got to do a little better than that.  Here’s an idea.  On the website (smiley face) put a statement like this: Due to the high demand of our services, we are currently running at an eight to ten week turnaround time.  Oh, I like that. You are in high demand and I have another book to write, so go ahead, put me in the queue. 

5. Back to the website. If you have several spelling and/or grammar errors on your website, chances are, you aren’t going to make my list of people to trust my work to.  I can make those errors all by myself, I need someone who will find them, not make them.  Professional presentation, remember, this is a business. 

6. Be yourself.  I have to say, I saw a freelance editor’s blog the other day that made me laugh, in a good way.  She made some snarky remark about cats, and I thought, “this is someone I could talk to.”  

7. Be honest about your interests.  If you don’t like historical fiction or erotica or dragons or zombies, that is fine, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you will get scratched from the list.  Maybe I am convinced that my Victorian era, sex-starved, zombie dragon is so awesome that I can win you over.  “I will edit anything” is fine, but I would like to know what makes you tick.  We are, however, going to be entering into a relationship.  Sometimes opposites attract. Who knows. 

8. Tell me about your work. Preferably let your clients tell me.  I called Billy Bob’s the other day, and his mother told me that he’s sold a truckload of books to people as far north as Sioux City, Iowa.  She didn’t know how many actual books he has sold, how long it took him to deliver those books and had no contact information for any of his customers. You may have over a thousand clients, but how many were manuscripts? Blog posts? Journal articles?  Can you get some references or blurbs from some of those customers? Are they willing to let me contact them?  A great place for me to see these is, of course, your website. (Insert happy face)

Okay, I know, this is a lot to ask.  Or is it?  I want an editor that I can form a relationship with because I don’t want to have to go looking again.  You, I would assume, would love to have clients that return to you time after time.  

But, in the end, it is your business, and you are free to run it any way you see fit.  

However, I am the one with the check in my hand. 


Was that free to run it, or ruin it, any way you see fit? Thanks, Kelly, for your insights and saying the things that somebody has to say – but all too often, nobody will! I’ve heard some real horror stories about editors, and if those editors had just followed Kelly’s advice, the experience wouldn’t have turned out so bad for either party. 

Writers are forever being told writing is a business, but hey, guess what? So is editing. Remember, for every customer who is complaining to your face, nine are bitching behind your back! Word of mouth is a powerful thing. 
Kelly Stone Gamble is a freelance writer and author of the historical novel Ragtown.  

You can find Kelly here:

Now I know this is not Flight of the Dragon, where I post a picture of a dragon on every entry, but since Kelly mentioned zombie dragons…

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