Publishing Etiquette Tips

Avoid the Pitfalls when Interacting with Industry Professionals

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

The publishing industry is like any other—fraught with unwritten rules and etiquette norms.  Add to that the wild wild west of social media and the new writer can commit faux pas that spell career disaster.

I’m grouping them together in pairs to give you an idea what works and what doesn’t. But although I may not cover the exact situation you’re facing, I hope you’ll be able to take these general guidelines to heart and apply them.

Interactions with Publishing Professionals

These suggestions are almost one hundred percent true when we’re interacting with those higher on the publishing food chain. They are also true—to a lesser degree—even with those who are friends and equals.


Send a private message through social media when you’re interacting professionally. This is especially true with professionals who have greater experience or authority within the industry. That means it’s not okay to send a private FB message to an author and ask for an endorsement for a book.


Send a private social media message asking for an email address. This gives the professional the opportunity to say no. You may elude to the topic you wish to address within the email, but don’t go into any great detail.


Send a private group message to industry professionals. I find this extremely annoying, especially on Facebook. Every time anyone in the group replies, it comes to me in the form of an email and clogs my inbox with junk. I’m not the only one that this practice irritates. It’s been the topic of many conversations that begin with, “You know one of the things I hate most after attending a conference….” Believe me, you don’t want something you’ve done to be referenced in a professional gathering.


Send a request to add industry equals to a private social media group message. There are times when a group message makes sense. Almost always that’s when the group is comprised of equals. Even then, be sure to ask before just adding someone to a group.


Send industry professionals unsolicited material to “look over,” “edit,” “give advice on” or especially “endorse” unless you first ask permission. Publishing professionals are extremely busy individuals. While your single request may not sound like much, multiply that request by ten, twenty, or even fifty. And what we do for one, we try to do for all.


Send an email first asking for the professionals policy about such “favors.” Sometimes we’re happy to help. Other times we may be on deadline or just plain busy.


Pop in with a quick question on any kind of instant message. There are a lot of places to instant message someone, Facebook, Google and Skype are the ones that come to mind right now. There is nothing more irritating than to be in the middle of working on a project online and have this IM box pop up from someone we barely know. This is a huge imposition on the professional and a very unprofessional behavior that we must avoid at all costs.


Send an email and ask if it’s okay to instant message the professional. It may seem like an unreasonable step, but believe me it’s an important one. I’ve had to completely hide my presence on these networks to avoid unwanted interruptions.


Call an industry professional without first making sure a phone call is okay. My time is at a premium and when I do interact on the phone with other writers, it’s after they’ve set an appointment with me. For me, a phone call is never okay. And you’ll find that this is a fairly common attitude.


Send an email asking if it’s possible to speak with the industry professional on the phone. There are times when a phone call makes the most sense. But I guard my writing time and never accept phone calls during that time-frame. I’m happy to set up appointments, but that’s the only time I want to talk on the phone with someone other than family or very close personal friends.


Presume to take a professional relationship to the next level of interaction. If I’m friends with someone who’s more respected in the industry than myself—for example, a more experienced writer or editor or agent—then I leave it to them to dictate the level of interaction for our relationship. Follow the lead of the person with the most seniority.


Interact on the level that the more senior person sets. You can be enthusiastic and let them know you enjoy their company, but let them dictate the pace of the developing friendship.


Assume that a Facebook friendship means an open invitation to a friendship across the board. Accepting someone’s friend request on Facebook is very different than having a friendship in the real world. This should not be misunderstood to mean that  it’s okay to take liberties like the ones I’ve warned against above.


Enjoy the online friendship. Often times a Facebook friendship will grow into a more solid friendship in the real world. But again, make certain you’re following the lead of the more senior industry professional.

Bottom Line

Of course there are exceptions to every single DON’T or DO I mentioned. But remember they’re called exceptions because they’re NOT the norm. The industry professionals you’re going to encounter are generous to a fault. They give of their time and experience to help other writers find success. But these are still INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS and should be treated with respect and not taken advantage of. Be respectful, grateful, and cement your own reputation for tact and professionalism in the process.

Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the Director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy. She’s also the Military Family Blogger at Guideposts. Com, Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine and the Senior Editor for Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook

To make reservations for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference, call 1.800.588.7222

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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10 thoughts on “Publishing Etiquette Tips

  1. Great post. I’d never thought about the IM’ing of industry professionals at all but I’m definitely glad to be forewarned! Thanks for always giving us such great info, Edie!

  2. Edie, good advice. All the do and don’t suggestions can be boiled down to two principles: Treat industry professionals with respect, and observe the golden rule in your interaction with them.

  3. Edie, Thank you for this list. I tweeted it. I’ve been Private Messaged on Facebook for business. Thank you for letting me know I’m not insane by preferring email. I love your new picture. See you soon.

    • Cherrilynn, nope, you’re not crazy. Plus, if someone private messages me, I often can’t find the place where they contacted me. Thanks for the comment on my new pic – Mary Denman is AMAZING!

  4. Great advice, Edie. Making me examine my own behaviors. This world makes it so easy to assume friendship or a relationship that’s not really there outside of online.

    And by the way, love the new headshot!