Being a Literary "Snob" Can Be Costly To Your Career

Jennifer Brown Banks

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Being a “Wine Snob” is impressive in many social circles. Being a literary “snob”? Not so much.

In fact, it can come back to bite you in the gl(ass)! It’s true. Snubbing and condescending to others you consider to be beneath you on the ladder of success in the publishing industry can adversely impact your reputation, your future referrals and your bottom line. Not to mention, it’s just not smart business.

And I should know. It happened to me some years ago, causing me to sever ties I previously had with a popular editor for many years.

Allow me to elaborate here for greater clarity.

Creative differences will occur from time to time in the publishing industry; that’s a given.

“You say tomatoe-- I say tomato. You say potatoe-- I say potato.”

That kind of thing. But a snub is quite different than a “snag”.

A QUICK REWIND TO PROVIDE THE BACK STORY TO TODAY‘S STORY…

In August, 2013, I sent a submission to an editor with whom I had worked (without incident) for about a decade. I had placed many articles on her long-standing, award-winning site and we had a fairly good working relationship.

One day, I briefly emailed her to simply inquire whether or not she had received a submission I had formerly sent, due to computer problems I was having.

Mind you, I was not asking about the status of my submission; I merely wanted to verify that my email went through amid the technical glitches I had been experiencing.

Well, this simple follow-up caused an unexpected melt down!

Instead of just responding “yes” or “no” she proceeded to tell me that my actions were “irksome” and that my request took time away from her other responsibilities.

Initially, I decided to overlook it. I figured she was probably just having a bad day.

Who hasn’t?

Plus, I admit that I have been known to follow up nervously on my work when in doubt before.

(Remind me to tell you the story about a submission I waited three months to get a response on, only to later discover that the editor had never even received it).

FAST FORWARD…

Shortly thereafter, I was reading this same editor’s weekly newsletter and she actually wrote about our incident in an editorial piece. In detail. Really? Ironically, she didn’t have time to check the status of my submission, yet she found time to “rant” about it in her personal column.

I guess she figured that I wasn’t “big” enough to merit respectful and responsive treatment. She simply saw me as a lowly, annoying freelancer perhaps.

Big mistake on her part. Word to the wise: Never underestimate someone’s reach, influence, connections or their future trajectory.

Don’t be dismissive and unkind. You just never know who might be in the position to help you with future projects in your creative career.

Here’s a perfect example to illustrate my point.

Recently, I received an email from the Vice President of one of the leading writers’ organizations in the Midwest, (with a large membership base) seeking my assistance.

It read as follows:

“Hi Jennifer,
I know you have a lot of connections in the blogging world – can you recommend any bloggers, writers in particular, who have content appropriate for our website, that we can post and link to on the blog? We are particularly seeking diverse voices. Thanks for your help.”

The LESSON here? The moral of the story?

It pays to be well connected and well-regarded in professional dealings.

NOW, LET’S LOOK AT HOW THAT FORMER RUDE SNUB POTENTIALLY COST THE EDITOR REFERENCED EARLIER …LET ME COUNT THE WAYS!

  • I STOPPED SUBSCRIBING TO HER NEWSLETTER.
  • I STOPPED SENDING HER FREELANCE ARTICLE SUBMISSIONS.
  • I STOPPED SERVING AS AN AMBASSADOR FOR HER PRODUCTS, BOOKS, SERVICES.
  • UNBEKNOWNST TO HER, I WAS (AND AM CURRENTLY) THE PRESIDENT OF A COMMUNITY-BASED ARTS ORGANIZATION WITH THE ABILITY TO CONTRACT BOOK AUTHORS (LOCALLY AND NATIONALLY) FOR LIBRARY EVENTS.

The fall out to her bottom line? Potentially thousands. Not to mention the lost of respect for her due to a lack of professionalism.

ALWAYS MAINTAIN YOUR PROFESSIONALISM

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve been in her shoes. In my former life I was the senior editor of a popular regional publication. In this capacity, I hired many staff and freelance writers.

Some are well known writers in the publishing industry today that are likely familiar to you. Suffice it to say I have worked with all kind of individuals. In addition to juggling my own personal writing career.

But, here’s the “skinny“.

No matter how many deadlines I had looming or how difficult some folks were to deal with, I made it a point to maintain a level head, proper protocol and a certain decorum.

As professionals, we all should. No one deserves to be disrespected because we’ve had a bad day.

In times ahead, no matter where you may fall in the literary hierarchy, let this sage quote guide you…

“It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”---John Templeton

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Veteran freelance writer, award-winning blogger, thought leader, herbal tea enthusiast. My mission is to entertain, engage and inform readers with articles that are interesting, enriching and diverse.

Chicago, IL
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