Professional courtesy

Recently I was asked what I meant when I termed something a ‘professional courtesy’ so I’ve decided to use my spot on Take Five Authors to explain it.

The News Building small

Professional courtesy especially useful with your publisher

I’m an author. I consider myself a professional and I try hard to act professionally. In the course of my work I’m in contact with readers; publishers; agents and rights managers; promo and PR team members; bloggers; writers; conference, event and course organisers; booksellers; librarians; writing organisations; journalists and presenters; and a huge number of social media users. Obviously, all of these people can help or hinder my career but I’m not professionally courteous to them just because they’re useful to me – it’s because anything else would mean that I’m not doing my job well.


But the fact is that making myself easy to work with is advantageous to my career.

It’s surprising how much a professional discourtesy can rankle. And for how long it can be remembered. Professional courtesy might be ingrained in us if we are employed, particularly employed by a large organisation … butΒ  it can slip when we become freelance. There’s nobody to write our appraisal, after all!

I think professional discourtesy can cover anything from downright rudeness to not observing etiquette. Here are a few examples of discourtesy from a writer to another writer/reader/other publishing industry professional that I’ve observed:

  • Taking positive reader messages for granted and leaving them unanswered.
  • Making a private conversation public without clearing it with the other party.
  • Sharing a photo that puts the subject in a poor light, again without permission.
  • Rudeness, whether face-to-face or via email. Writers ought to be capable of summoning up enough non-confrontational language to get their point across.
  • Ranting, ditto.
  • !!!Stepping outside of your role and onto somebody’s toes. Group events, such as panels, are open to this – for example, one participant hogging the promo/available time or telling the chair how the panel should be run.
  • When involved in a group conversation, stating a point forcefully then leaving the conversation (also known as ‘flouncing off’), especially if we then broadcast our version of events.
  • Overrunning allocated time, for example at a literary festival or at a one-to-one opportunity during a conference.
  • Lack of reciprocity. The obvious one is not ‘sharing’ as generously as we expect our posts to be shared on social media or only sharing when we’ve got something of our own to promote. Sometimes a political element creeps in, for example not sharing someone’s posts because they’ve left the publisher we’re with. But if anybody’s ever professionally generous, such as putting our name forward for something advantageous, let’s remember our manners and reciprocate if we can.
  • Failing to remember that, at festivals or within writing organisations, many positions are voluntary. If someone is working to our benefit for Β£0 then they shouldn’t be rewarded with an ungracious attitude.
  • Tone: demanding rather than asking; throwing out objections instead of suggesting alternatives.
  • Forgetting to thank or acknowledge those who help us.
  • Writing negative reviews about another author while hiding behind an alias. Most of us would think this more than mere discourtesy, of course, but I felt I had to include it.
  • ‘Forgetting’ to take our turn on a group blog because we’re busy or we don’t have a book to promote right now.
  • Not answering emails.
  • Having to be asked three times to supply material such as bios or author pix. When I’ve been in the position of having to ask for these I’ve been impressed that the busiest and best-selling authors have been the first back to me with the requested material.
  • Treating other people’s time as less precious than ours. Pretty much any of the above could trigger this!

I’m not shining my halo, here. We all let our professional courtesy slip from time to time but doing so never has a positive effect. We make ourselves hard to work with and therefore nobody wants to work with us.

That’s not good for the ego or the bank balance.

37 thoughts on “Professional courtesy

  1. Pingback: Friday Roundup – 9th September | Stevie Turner, Indie Author.

  2. Really good points – can I also add that being rude or competitive about other people’s work is not acceptable. I heard quite a bit of this at the recent HNS conference and, whether people were dissing Downton Abbey or a genre or a particular author, it’s not professional and it’s not needed – rising tides lift all boats. Or, to be simpler, if you can’t be nice, be quiet or just tell the cat.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Professional courtesy – Take Five Authors – Jenny Harper Author

  4. You make some points we should all remember, Sue. I try to thank people and be courteous, but if we thank everyone who RTd every time, the internet would crash completely – and become very tedious. Any individual reader who gets in touch I reply to immediately, and I try to support others’ blogs and share their news as much as I can.

    Now – off to share this blog and try to attract people to its very useful content!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Brace yourself, I have a slightly different take on this.

    Of course it’s really important to be responsive and ‘professional’ which I guess is another way of saying let’s practise basic good manners. And I do agree in principle, but on-line can be a minefield of conflicting perceptions of what is acceptable, and what isn’t.
    The worst offenders in my experience (30 years) has been dealing with publishers and so called professionals. Failure to answer emails and their general lack of courtesy can be breath-taking.
    There’s nothing worse than being taking for granted and being ignored, but there’s always another side to the coin, even where the publishers are concerned.
    It usually comes down to time, no one has the time anymore because in the case of those editorial offices say, a single junior editor is dealing with a million enquiries.

    Personally, I find the constant ‘public thanking’, so everyone can see how polite you are, totally tiresome. It bogs down Facebook and twitter feeds to the extent that anyone looking in, will most certainly scroll on by. If someone has gone the extra mile, then I’m all for thanking them – and always in private, usually – but there is a ceiling on the kind of etiquette that requires one to publicly retweet everything, thank everyone and share everything. If one builds a readership for romance say, then it’s pretty pointless to share a crime thriller to those followers even it’s penned by your best friend. It isn’t right to use Twitter as a dumping ground either and constantly retweet everything, and then thank people for reciprocating. How is this going to engage followers, and will it sell your books? I’ve found it can actually have the reverse affect because it’s simply not interesting.

    I have a short list of fantastic blogger-reviewers but I could cringe at the amount of free books (some of them paperbacks too) I’ve sent out to readers who’ve promised faithfully to review and yet… 8 months later if I make a polite enquiry I may well get my head bitten off! I think part of the problem is that it’s easy to be rude on-line and there will always be a hard core of users who are probably like that in real life. Sometimes, we simply need to take a break, switch off the computer and go and do something else.

    And there’s always another side to the coin.
    At the end of the day, we can be horribly offended if someone has failed to respond to something we consider important, but when our friend lists exceed the thousands it’s important to consider that the offender may well be dealing with something difficult in ‘real-life,’ and selling books isn’t really all that important in the grand scheme of things…
    This has happened to myself recently and it can put into sharp perspective the petty squabbles which happen on-line because someone has failed to respond to something, not shared their book link, or ignored an invitation to attend their on-line event etc.
    So, I’m all for manners but we need to be kind and tolerant too. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • You raise some very good points, Jan! Although I took a ‘we writers’ stance as I’m a writer, I do feel that everybody we encounter professionally owes us the same courtesy that we owe them. I’m sure we all have had experiences where we feel hard done to or disrespected and we have every right to feel that way.

      Thanks for taking the time to write such a thoughtful post. The other side of the story is always worth exploring and a little tolerance doesn’t go amiss at all. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Excellent post. A while back I took part in a 5-way book promotion. 3 of the others involved did very little to promote it, apart from the occasional tweet or Facebook post; I eventually sussed out that I had probably been asked to be a part of it because I have 10 x more Twitter followers and spend much more time online – thus, I was to do the work. Re the sharing, RTing, etc – you can’t do everything, and I don’t just share every post that comes into my email inbox as some do; I like to think about what I share, but yes, I do notice those who only bother when they have something of their own to promote. LIke those who don’t retweet you for months, but suddenly do so when they have a book on half price. I feel like saying, look, I have over 70K Twitter followers because I worked to get them, and not just so I can do everyone else’s promotion for them. I choose who I want to help promote.

    As for writers who take compliments, reviews or others promoting their work for granted…. a quick ‘thank you’ takes less than a minute! Sometimes, though, when you have a lot going on, online, and lots of readers/reviewers posting stuff, it is easy to overlook the thanks by accident, alas.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I bet I slip up from time to time, sometimes I’m probably not even aware of it, but I was brought up to be courteous, thank god, and since that is how I like to be treated, with courtesy, its what I try to extend to others as well. What goes around comes around. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    A great post that was highlighted by Mary Smith on FB.. I realise that the older (in body not mind) generation were brought up to say ‘thank you’ as a social necessity.. now it has become a nicety.. You only have to watch television or films and read books that it is becoming customary to demand rather than ask and then not to acknowledge when that demand is met. Such as a waiter or someone serving in a shop. Generally everyone here in blog world is terrific but I do occasionally come across a writer who has missed the point. I received an email last week with an Amazon link… and a note saying that the book could go in the Cafe Bookstore.. not even a name attached.. Hello…no way… I am sure that they feel I am very rude for not replying!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I’m not sure I’d go as far as including myself in the older generation (even when I’m 90 I probably won’t! πŸ™‚ ) but I was brought up to be reasonably appreciative. And whoever based a career in annoying people?

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Great post, Sue, which clearly resonates with a lot of people judging by the comments so far. I agree with everything you say and I do my best to remain professionally courteous.
    I had a wry smile at the first one on your list. When I was first published, someone I greatly admired wrote me a letter (not an email or a FB comment – a real letter) to say how much she had enjoyed my book. I was stunned she’d taken the time and trouble to write. A few months later I met her. Her daughter said her mother had never received a reply from me and wondered if her letter had been lost in the post. I said how delighted I’d been to receive it but, of course, by then it was too late. I had honestly thought the woman would have been irritated by a reply from me rather than expect it. Lesson learned.


    • Thanks, Mary. Great that you got a reader letter so early in your journey! I think I’ve only ever two actual letters from readers. Happily they included their street addresses so I was able to reply but it’s easier with an electronic message because we can just hit ‘reply’. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh goodness! I hope I’ve never committed any of those misdemeanours, Sue. But in defence of sometimes not replying or acknowledging – this ‘world’ is more and more pressurised, and the number of online notifications, likes, shares and RTs are very difficult to keep up with. I could spend all day every day just thanking people and reciprocating, and not writing, so I am sure I must have fallen short occasionally. All my dealings with you have been notable by your speedy responses and clear explanations (the latter is something I’m particularly grateful for!). But not everyone is as punctilious as you, and even I, who is a very minor player, find there is a very uneven distribution of support and reciprocation from other authors.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Gilli. We can’t all thank every person every time for a share, I agree. When I’m out of the country I fall short on that one myself and hope I make up for it at other times. I was thinking more of those who have a strategy to gain shares but not so much in reciprocating. πŸ™‚ But thanks for your kind remarks! xx


  11. You have made some very valid points here Sue. Being professional is important and I suppose some people once they are freelance, let their standards slip. I never find that with you though. You always answer any questions I have straight away (unless you are watching F1 or teaching lol!) which I’ve always been impressed with. I hope that who ever this is directed at gets the hint and keep up the good work xx


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s