Owing to a recent event I witnessed where a writer claimed to be an editor and author with Random House (and very much wasn’t), I thought it prudent to share my thoughts on the subject. The sad thing is that this incident isn’t isolated. I can’t count the number of people I’ve come across who tried to inflate their status with false claims or exaggerated ones. Many “award-winning authors” won their awards at a tiny venue with a single book club of ten people, many so-called editors are just scam artists who prey on writers, many “publishers” are second-rate hacks who know nothing about the industry or the process.
Being anything but honest will come back and eventually bite you in the butt. This means marketing yourself as yourself, being honest if you’re a novice, and not claiming to be more than you are. I’ve been in the industry five years and have no trouble admitting to people that I’m still new at all of this. I don’t know everything, and I want to learn more. As my friend and mentor, Randall “Jay” Andrews quoted to me today: “Education is not the filling a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” (William Butler Yeats)
So many people use false credentials – both in writing and in business in general – because we have fostered this notion that just being ourselves isn’t good enough. I’d like to say that it is, in fact, good enough. It may not be good enough for every project all the time, but being yourself and being honest is what will make the difference between success and failure. When people pitch their books to Insomnia I am honest with them that it is a new company. Folks can take that risk or not, and they aren’t judged on it. The contracts are transparent, and we are open and clear about everything. There’s no reason not to be.
Through the years I have developed a name for myself editing and writing, and through no point of that process was I dishonest with my clients. I have even turned down clients who I didn’t feel I could help. I could have taken their money and tap danced on their manuscript for awhile, but what was the point? The money? Sure, I could’ve done it for the money, but if I become that money-centric that I sacrifice my integrity then I am doing something very wrong.
The take away lesson from this is that your integrity is valuable. Don’t pretend to be something or someone you aren’t because you want to be more than you are. Accept who you are, and if you don’t like how things stand then learn. Grow. Change it.