I've read some disturbing posts recently about people who aren't playing nice during writing contests. Everything from agented writers entering contests designed for unagented writers, to general snarkiness when providing feedback to fellow contest entrants.
I don't want to turn this post into a rant, but clearly the don't be a jerk for the sake of not being a jerk argument doesn't always resonate, otherwise the interwebs would not be a buzzin' with stories of writers behaving badly. So I thought I'd make a different argument.
Being a jerk is bad for business.
If you've read any of my previous marketing posts, then you know that in the writing world your name is your brand. And like any brand, if it's tarnished with negative feedback it will negatively impact sales. Said another way, regardless of how awesome you are at your craft, behaving badly can lead to negative feedback that will have an adverse affect on your brand and your future sales. Period.
Let's use the Oscars as an example.
If you lightly follow celebrity news, then you know that Anne Hathaway was slammed in the press throughout this year's award season for seeming disingenuous and annoying during interviews and acceptance speeches. Then after she won the Oscar, word got out that she threw a hissy fit because Amanda Seyfried planned to wear a similar dress as hers to the Oscars, resulting in Hathaway swapping dresses at the last minute for the now infamous white nipple-dress. See the nipples...er, dress, on the right.
Winning an Oscar should catapult Hathaway's brand into the celebrity stratosphere, but instead her award winning performance was overshadowed by bad press, even garnering the new nickname Anne Hathahate. Will people still go see her movies? Sure. She's a good actress. But the negative press has damaged her brand enough that there are former fans who won't be willing to see her next movie simply because they don't like her. That means less ticket sales, less revenue for production houses, and over time that can snowball into less movie deals for the Oscar-winning actress.
Here's the deal - in a world dominated by social media, your online behavior is public. As an unpublished author you might not think that matters, but if you use social media then you have a social media persona, and regardless of your publishing status, you are already beginning to build your brand. And that pre-publishing reputation can follow you into publication.
The thing every writer needs to remember is that writers are readers too. In fact, they're probably some of the most engaged readers because they're actively involved with social media, and likely read a lot of books and review a lot of the books they read. That means that the person you just p*ssed off during a writing contest is your future target market. Do you really want to p*ss off your future target market? I really hope the answer to that question is no.
And like it or not, some day you might need your fellow writers to help you promote your book - whether it's through blog tours, positive reviews or positive word-of-mouth. People like to help people they like, and if your fellow writers remember your bad behavior, the simple fact is they aren't going to want to help you. And they probably aren't going to want to buy your book either.
Don't be a jerk. It's bad for business. Instead, be like Jennifer Lawrence at the Oscars. Be humble. Smile after you trip on the stairs. Say please and thank you. And always, always remember that social media platforms - blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, tumblr - are public forums, and what you do and say on those forums will directly impact your brand.
*steps off soap box*