Wait, Does RSVP Really Mean “Respond, Dammit?”

Remember learning that RSVP meant “répondez s’il vous plaît?” And, if you learned that as a kid, do you remember how cool and
sophisticated it made you feel? I sure do. Not only was it French — the most romantic of the romance languages — but it was like I had been given yet another key to open another secret grown-up door. And, in this case, I was picturing a very swanky, high-class door. How cool was that? All I had to do to become part of the club was to communicate. Usually in writing. Even better, am I right?

All I had to do to become part of the club was to communicate. In writing. Click To Tweet

Do You Care About Getting Your Stuff Read?

So what does RSVP have to do with writing? Not much — if you don’t care about having your stuff read. But if like many of us, your goals include getting your beautiful book babies in front of readers, then you are probably engaged in far more marketing, outreach and networking than you ever dreamed possible. You may still not be seeing the connection but, trust me, I’m getting there.

You post on Facebook and Instagram. Or Pinterest and Twitter. You interact with readers and other writers. You re-tweet and re-post in support of good people, products, or ideas but, when it comes to your own work? You’re frequently committing professional malpractice.

I’m going to break one of the cardinal rules of online communication. I’m going to (virtually) shout at you. Ready? Click To Tweet

And, to make sure you don’t miss it, I’m going to break one of the cardinal rules of online communication. I’m going to (virtually) shout. Ready?

When someone offers you an opportunity for increased exposure? RESPOND, DAMMIT!

What forms of increased exposure, you ask?

  • You’re offered an interview? RESPOND.
  • Someone asks for your author photo? RESPOND.
  • A reviewer has requested a copy of your book? RESPOND
  • A Twitter chat leader invites you to co-host and needs a bio for the promos? RESPOND
  • And what do you do when one of your contacts asks for a high-resolution copy of your book cover? Let’s hear it from the tenors, now: RESPOND.

And, for the hundreds of other opportunities that might come your way? Let’s hear it in unison, loudly, for the people in the back… RESPOND DAMMIT!!!

And Here’s a ‘Respond Dammit’ Don’t

And here’s what you shouldn’t do: DO NOT WAIT.

Believe me, I am well-aware of how busy a solo practitioner (aka indie author) can get. And, I promise you that I’ve dropped the ball on more occasions than I can count. That’s probably why I get so agitated about it: I always hate to waste a good mistake.

What no longer works is an e-mail auto-responder — or slotting these things for “later, when I have time.” You’re not going to have more time later — and email is not where many of the requests will come from. (It is, however, useful for longer communications, such as the Q&A for an online interview, but more about that in another post.)

Believe me, I am well-aware of how busy an indie author can get. And I've dropped the ball too many times. Click To Tweet

But… HOW to Give a Fast Response?

So how does a busy, perhaps traveling, author make sure she’s able to respond? The answer, my friend, is in the cloud. Not only do I keep author photos, bios, and book covers on my desktop, I’ve got them stashed in various locations in the cloud: on a private page of my website, in a documents folder in my iCloud, and in the DropBox folder that comes with my Amelia Indie Authors membership! (shameless plug).

Why does a fast response matter so much? As stated before, you’re busy. We know that. But so are the people making the request. And the longer it takes for them to assemble the pieces they need to reference (or feature) you, the less of a priority you — and your beautiful book — become. And, if you sit in virtual limbo for long enough, the initial idea becomes untimely. Or irrelevant. And it takes more work to figure out how and what to do with you. You’ve gone from being an interesting addition to a mildly annoying loose end. And that’s surely not your intention. Or your wish.

So how about looking at those requests as invitations? Invitations to a more grown-up, professional place in the writers’ community; invitations that come with an RSVP.

How about you just RESPOND, DAMMIT?

Merci beaucoup. 

 

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Not only does Andrea Patten speak French, she is our Director of Operations, currently tasked with keeping all of the plates spinning. In her “spare time,” she does her level best to keep up with her dogs — and her own writing.

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Patience, Tender Writer

As a journalism student in college, I learned several lessons about patience, deadlines, and editors. First of all, editors have no patience with late or sloppy writers. And deadlines are everything.

Often within the span of hours, a newspaper reporter has to come up with a story idea, pitch it to the news desk, research it, conduct interviews, write and deliver a compelling story, allowing enough time for the editor to do his/her thing. In this case, there is no time at all for them to mollycoddle. They might read the first sentence and toss it back at you. “This sucks. Rewrite it.”

Or, things like “It’s wordy.” “You buried the lead.” “Move paragraph three to the top and start over.” Or just, “Nope.” And don’t even think about a clever ending, because it very likely will get cut to make space for a last-minute ad placement.

Growing a Thicker Skin

Such treatment definitely helps tender writers grow thicker skins. But for those whose path to writing has bypassed this rewarding experience, the first time their precious work is edited can be a painful experience. And here’s where patience comes in.

If the editor returns your work quickly, you can suffer the quick rip of the bandage and get back to work much more easily than if they sit on it for weeks and months. Take their suggestions seriously. We all need an objective viewpoint, and what we think does not always come across clearly in what we write. One day you will love your editor.

We all need an objective viewpoint. Click To Tweet

If they take a few weeks or longer to return your work, you can feel stuck in the mud, no place to turn. You’ll manufacture scenarios. They must hate it. They can’t bear to read it. They never made it past the first page and threw it down. Why else would it take so long? Or, maybe they love it, they can’t think of anything constructive to say? What if it’s so good, they are already showing it to an agent, or a movie producer? What if someone gets hold of it and is sending you a contract right now?

Oh, the creative mind does wander. Click To Tweet

Oh, the creative mind does wander.

An editor may do all sorts of things, like add your work to the bottom an already impossible pile. Read it in small bits between trips to the grocery store and childcare. Read it once, set it aside for a week or so, and then read it again to see if their impressions have changed. Fill in the blank with any number of scenarios. Editors are humans after all and have their own priorities.

Feedback is necessary. Suffering is optional. Click To Tweet

But whether well-seasoned or new, a writer is not required to suffer.

Some tips to help the impatient

Patience, for me, is almost an offensive swear word, but I know it’s my challenge to conquer. Here’s what has worked for me so far.

Expect the best, but prepare for the worst

If you’re new to writing and haven’t been edited before, your best course of action is the same as preparing for a hurricane. You’ve done your best; now let it go. Feedback will come quickly or slowly according to wind speed, but come it will. When it does, stand up and take it. Repair after.

Distract yourself

I always have several other projects that need my attention. Right now there are eleven items on my desk, not including this post and the stacks of family photos I’m supposed to scan. Immersion in any one of them will take my mind off the waiting, and hopefully reduce the number of projects staring back at me. I get frustrated and sometimes overwhelmed, but I am never bored.

Get physical

My absolute favorite is to go outside and weed the flowerbeds. I mean weed them, rip those suckers out with brute force. It’s a form of editing and can be immensely satisfying. Plus, you can see your accomplishment before you; what you managed to uncover is more beautiful than when you started. Immediate gratification. Um, you could also just go for a swim.

Pleasure and relaxation

My go-to for this is chocolate and a walk on the beach, maybe some shopping, and if I am really brain-frazzled, just an old movie and a blanket. I don’t recommend alcohol; it’s depressing and highly detrimental to brain cells, especially the creative ones. Ice cream or a magnificent espresso concoction will do the trick much better. As will a massage.

When the feedback arrives — whether you like it or not — put on your big kid pants and deal. Be grateful someone took the time to read your work and pay careful attention to it. You worked very hard on it. You want it to shine. Editors do too.

5 Ways to Love Your Editor

When members of writers’ groups become friends, a wide variety of unintended consequences can arise. Catching-up on life can overtake story reading and feedback can become diluted. The line between encouragement and useful feedback can disappear. It’s easy to sit around and laugh and say “kill your darlings….” easy, that is, until the executioner editor comes along and kills them for you.

If you’ve never experienced a good, hard edit it can be a jolt.  It can leave even the most competent of writers with a lump in the throat and feeling a tad sick to the stomach. This is true, too, if the most recent feedback you’ve received is on stuff you published 108 years ago.

There's a gulf between what the writer writes and what gets read. A good, hard edit can be a real jolt. Click To Tweet

Well-meaning family members can also contribute to your big letdown. They tend to offer the sought-after but completely useless phrases “I like it” or “It’s good.”

What the Writer Writes vs. What Gets Read

There’s a gulf between what the writer writes and what gets read. The developmental editor is tasked, in part, with bridging that gap. Not only is she your first line of defense against total embarrassment, but she is also tasked with reading your submission in multiple ways. First and foremost, she will read it as a prospective reader. Are there things that stayed in the writer’s head? That never made it to the page? The brain’s tendency to self-correct won’t allow you to see those for yourself.

Well-meaning family members can contribute to a big letdown about your #WIP They offer the sought-after but completely useless phrases *I like it* or *It’s good.* Click To Tweet

She will make a pass-through for redundancy and obvious factual errors. She will determine whether or not the order is correct. And she will likely save you from embarrassing beginner mistakes such as a “forward,” prologue and epilogues. Just start — or end — the damned story already. And, once upon a time “foreword” was the most frequently misspelled words in finished volumes. (It’s not ‘forward’ as in ‘forward movement’ but ‘foreword’ as in ‘the word that comes before.’)

A Different Set of Questions

Some editors also employ proof-reading software and beta-readers at this stage. These are not tools to be used in place of his judgment, but simply to offer some back-up and raise a different set of questions.

Different editors work in different ways. Some will redline the heck out of something you think is perfect and bounce it back to you. However, if you’re working on a tight deadline or there are many authors involved, the editor may take on a role resembling that of a ghostwriter. In this capacity, she will try to capture your voice and intent… to make sure the page reflects what you meant to say.

Having worked both ways, I can assure you that neither one feels good — and, when I’m open to the process — both teach me a lot about becoming a better writer.

Some Do’s and Don’ts

Here are some things to keep in mind when working with an editor at this stage:

  1. DO check your ego at the door. The reason any of us has any sort of editor is that we cannot view our work objectively. This is not a criticism — it’s just how the human brain actually works. The writer sees what he or she meant to put on the page — editors see what actually made it.
  2. DO keep your eyes on the prize. The editor’s goal is the same as yours: to create the highest quality, most reader-friendly document possible. Nobody is criticizing you or trying to hurt your feelings.
  3. DO remember what your spouse may have said: sometimes your jokes just aren’t funny.
  4. DO take a step back. It’s easy to do contradict your own style, to split an infinite, to misplace a modifier, to miss a cut and paste error, to trust spellcheck when you shouldn’t, to inadvertently change voices or points of view….
  5. DON’T argue. Editing is just as hard as writing. Editors don’t need to get beat up by your intention or inspiration. They’re not unfriendly, they just don’t care — it’s not their job to care about those things. If they added or deleted something to your piece, it’s simply because it wasn’t working the other way.

Remember, nobody wants to hurt your feelings — and somebody needs to kill your darlings. If you don’t, your editor will. Print lasts a long time.

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Got some praise for an editor? Please share it in the comments. We’d love to read all about it!

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