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Judging an Attitude by Its Cover

You are your brand. Whether published or not, whether an author or not, we live in a world where each of us has become a brand. College students interviewing for jobs have Twitter accounts, Facebook pages and resumes. They have a brand. Authors searching for publication have social media accounts and query letters. They have brands. Agents, editors, publishers, each of us probably works for a brand, but we are also a brand onto ourselves.

Knowing how your brand is judged or how your brand represents itself to the public is critical to your success. What kind of message are you giving with your Tweets, with your resume, or your query letter? Are you self-effacing, are you an optimist, are you engaging? All of this matters. Of course it does. We know this. What I think we often forget is how important our personal interaction still is. We talk so much about social media that we forget that talking to others still counts.

This entire blog post stems from a series of conversations I had with the same editor. These conversations were so off-putting that I’ll be very reluctant to submit to her in the future. While I know she’s kind, bright and a good editor, her current attitude gave me the impression that she’s not the kind of person I want to work with. She just doesn’t seem to be someone who is really going to go to bat for my clients, and I only want editors I know will fight for my clients whenever necessary.

While I encourage all of us to be real, I also encourage everyone to pay attention to the impression you give. Giving hard news or even a rejection is one thing. What matters is the attitude with which you give it. If I’m continually being told how hard things are, how much has changed and that you can’t buy a certain type of book anymore, and you come across as if the sky is falling, I’m going to be concerned. I just don’t know that you have the guts and ambition to be the editor I want for my clients.

Rejection is fine, and sometimes you just hate something. That’s fine too. The difference is your attitude. Are you still looking to see more from me? Are you ever disappointed that you weren’t given the go-ahead to make something happen? Do you want to see more from me and what? Are you excited about anything?!

I don’t want an editor who seems despondent and defeated. I’m pretty sure authors don’t want an editor who seems like a defeatist, or an agent for that matter. Thinking about our brand, and how we present ourselves to others, is an important part of building our success stories.

**Please note that this doesn’t imply to client-agent conversations. If a client is feeling discouraged or despondent about her career I hope she will always call to discuss her concerns and we can build strategies for turning things around.

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6 comments

  1. I hope that editor was just going through some tough issues at work and that attitude isn’t a permanent one. Your post did get me thinking about how people are drawn more to positive personalities than “Debbie Downer” types. How much more kindly I remember the person who smiles and seems genuinely glad to see me compared with the one who’s just going through the motions.

    It’s hard to always be cheerful, I know. And our society has a tendency to equate “honesty” with “letting it all hang out.” But I think it’s best to reserve such “honesty” for those who know me best and will judge my behavior accordingly. I’m imperfect, and I’m not fooling anyone, but I can still try to always leave people with positive impressions (despite my inner cynic).

  2. I’ve wondered a few times whether the constant “being professional” wears people down, you know, from constantly being on social media and being on email/mobile call even when on holidays?

    But I agree, it’s hard to have confidence in someone who takes a ‘glass half empty’ approach.

  3. So well sais, Jessica Faust! One of the reasons I knew Jessica Alvarez was the perfect agent for me (besides her PM rankings & #MSWL that seemed to fit with my book), was her ability to share her enthusiasm for my work while still clearly explaining the problems she had with it, offering suggestions but not necessarily instructions. Having just submitted the 2nd of a 3 book deal to my publisher based on Jessica’s feedback, I am so grateful for her support. Along with a “great job!” she also gave me 25 or so specific comments that vastly improved my manuscript in ways that I might never have been able to figure out on my own. Thanks, JessicaA!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Aw, thanks, Tara! You’re a pleasure to work with, and I loved Book 2 just as much as Book 1! I can’t wait to see how the third book turns out!

  4. Yeah whether we like it the age of digitalization has encouraged everyone to find out who you are through Social Media. I guess you can say it’s a boon and a bane, but the question that arises is, will be learn to use it properly, or will we immerse ourselves in it and forget the world around us? Like any other new toy given to a five year old kid, with time we will understand

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