Mar. 13th, 2009

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I guess I'm still cranky today, so let me set forth some GENERAL guidelines about Social Media and Author-Editor Etiquette. These are not response to anyone in particular who may have posted or commented on recent entries or status updates, but are GENERAL ideas about social interaction between authors and editors, some of which I have been mulling about for some time.

Let me say up front that I'm a big fan of various new and less-new social media tools, on both a personal and professional level.

As a reader, I love talking about books with other people who love books. As a writer, it's great to be able to hear directly from people who have read my work (and maybe let them know about new things they might also be interested in), and also to interact with other writers, whether in celebrating or commiserating about the ups and downs of this crazy field or discussing aspects of craft or other parts of the business. As an editor, it's useful to be able to get the word out about various projects to contributors and potential contributors.

I still don't quite grok twitter, but I haven't been on it very long; I have much fun on facebook; Myspace hurts my brain from all the visual and other noise; and of course, I have this blog, which is perhaps the most public or open of all these tools.

I think many authors lose sight of the fact that blogs or these other social media tools are PUBLIC forums. Even though it may SEEM like an intimate conversation, it is not one; it is public, and it should be treated as such. (And while something like Facebook is more of a "closed" forum, since I now have over 3500 contacts on my Facebook page, this is a rather sizeable audience that is potentially looking over one's shoulder at anything posted there; not to mention the fact that my Facebook page is publicly accessible since it's become one of the ways people find me and interact with me from many of the different genres and areas in which I write and work--not to mention in my social life.)

Most authors would not stand up in the middle of a panel discussion and ask, from the audience, if I was accepting or not their submission.

This is, essentially, what many authors do however, when they ask such questions in the comments of a blog entry instead of in a private message, which is where such material belongs.

Yes, it's often easier to just hit add comment instead of opening your email software and typing in a private message to me. Taking the time to do that is, however, the only professional way to act.

That, at least, is my personal stance on the subject.

If you have questions or concerns about a project, ask me about them in private.

It is humiliating both for the author in question and for me when wearing my editor hat to have to discuss such things in public, especially if the answer is negative. Maybe I'm just not enough of a sadist to reject someone in public, but the entire situation makes ME uncomfortable, so I seek to avoid it (and as authors, you should seek to avoid putting editors in uncomfortable positions). I'm hereby publicly asking people not to put me in such positions. And if you do go ahead and put me in such a position, I will likely ignore you, or if I get cranky and pushed too far, I may use you as an example of why this is not a good thing to do to an editor, though I hope not to get that cranky or pushed that far.

As an editor, if I talk about projects online, I do so in the most general of terms.

If you wonder if what I have had to say applies to you directly, DROP ME AN EMAIL.

Especially if I am complaining about something, in general terms, I am absolutely boggled that anyone would post "I hope you're not talking about my submission" in the comment section. I can totally understand FEELING that, and even dropping me a private message to say so. But in the event that I were talking about your submission, do you really want me to reply to your comment, IN PUBLIC, and SAY SO?

Think about it.

The biggest issue is the fact of these being PUBLIC SPACES and what is appropriate author-editor interaction.

Just as I won't reject someone in public, I'm not going to accept someone in public, either--aside from not considering it appropriate behavior as an editor, there may be other contributors who are reading the status update or blog entry whose work I have rejected or have not yet responded to. This is also why I tend to wait until all responses, both yea and nay, are ready before making any official acceptances or rejections, especially for projects with open submission calls. (Aside from the fact that the final balance of the book may still be tottering until the very end as subthemes and threads and so on are considered and counterweighed, or if there are multiple editors involved, until we come to a consensus on what to include or not, or if we're waiting for rewrites which may or may not in the end work, or etc.)

I'm sorry that it slows the process down, especially when I'd also like to share the good news and celebrate the great work that was submitted and I'm using, but as a courtesy to everyone who submitted, I want to avoid having people who haven't heard yet read elsewhere about acceptances (and it's normal to blog the good news of your acceptance, I expect it, which is why I wait until all decisions--to accept and to reject--are made and communicated) when they're still waiting to hear.

So, to summarize: These various social media are great, fun, useful, etc. And also, they're PUBLIC spaces. Please remember this, and act accordingly.


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Lawrence Schimel

July 2009

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