Hi folks, it’s blog time again. This one is a pared-down version of an interview conducted by the author C.C. Adams for his recent blog series, probing the thought processes, values, and strategies of people he feels have ‘got game’ when it comes to the business of writing – or in my case, editing. You’ll find links to the full interview and the rest of his blog series at the end. Cheers.
Game talk – how do you organise and manage your game? How has it evolved?
I knew from the start I’d have to build relationships. Editing is a covenant of trust, and that takes time and effort to build. Conventions were my route into the writing community, and social media my means of growing and maintaining those contacts. It helped that I wasn’t in any rush in those earliest of days – acquaintances grew into friendships quite naturally.
One thing I’ve discovered, to the cost of my health, is that the willingness to work is not enough; I’ve got to work smart. So I’ve been figuring out a plan recently, really digging into the behind-the scenes stuff: an actual honest-to-God analysis of where I am, where I want to get to (financially speaking) and how I can get there. I’m talking about attracting and retaining customers, adjusting my prices, reducing my costs, breaking down my work-pattern, systematising where possible, diarising tasks, producing regular content to engage people with etc.
It’s going to be exhausting at first, but this is a fundamental shift of practise and, as activity becomes habit, this is what will become my engine – regular, rhythmic, driving my business on to greater success. At least, that’s the plan…
It’s great if things go according to plan. Tell us about when it didn’t; how did you handle it? What were/are those challenges?
Oooh. Okay. Hm. I mean, I’ve had things not go to plan, but I can’t say I’ve had any disasters yet. More like wobbles that have thrown me off. I managed to publicly embarrass an author at FantasyCon by being too effusive; I’ve got surnames mixed up to the point now where one publisher absolutely despises me (according to my brain weasels) because on numerous occasions I’ve talked about ‘him’ within his hearing – eliciting hard stares in my peripheral vision – when I was actually talking about somebody else; I’ve had testimonial requests rejected from people I thought everything had gone swimmingly with and so on. Social stuff. Patchable to a degree, but fundamentally there are some things you have to let go of. Allow them to wash away in the river of bygones.
One thing I’m constantly having to learn from (and refine my responses to) are those odd occasions when I’ve inadvertently upset a client with my appraisal of their work, or to be more precise, with how I’ve phrased that appraisal. A couple of people stand out in my mind as being particularly aggravated, and that blast of pure anger can be pretty traumatising at the time. Relationships are vital to my business though, as I’ve said, so repairing that damage is equally important. It takes time, care, and a proper empathic consideration of the author’s position. None of us are correct 100% of the time, the job still needs to be done to the best level possible, and for that you have to have an atmosphere of good will and trust. That’s why I think it’s so important to own my mistakes when I make them, and to apologise with sincerity where feelings have been hurt.
Of course, prevention is better than cure. I habitually review my Comments now before sending them off, checking them for tone and content, imagining myself as the reader and how I would feel to be given that piece of information. Better to over-explain, I think, than to be inadvertently dismissive or derogatory. It’s a work in progress, as are we all.
Give a pep-talk to someone on game in your field.
i.) If you want to improve your game, you need to build a good reputation. That doesn’t happen overnight, but you need to keep it in mind with every interaction and every job. The biggest thing you can do to get a good reputation is to earn it. Put in the work, do the best job that you can, look for ways to improve at every turn, and – key to it all – make sure that the people you are working for feel that you have genuinely helped them improve their work.
ii.) It’s not a competition. You don’t need to be better than everybody else in order to build a career. There are vastly more writers out there than editors, all of whom will benefit from the safety-net observations and thoughtful insights of an editorial review. Develop yourself and your business as much as you can, of course. You want to be successful. But you can’t edit for every publisher, you can’t click your fingers and have people hammering at your door for help, and you certainly can’t turn every client into an author of unparalleled genius. Just do the job, improve where you can, and keep on keeping on.
iii.) Value yourself. This comes in two flavours: pride and price. When I started my career, my main concern was earning my stripes; any money I earned was a bit of a bonus. Testimonials were my true prize back then and, I have to say, they remain a strong benchmark of success—particularly when I’m having a low day on the emotional front. Reading those nuggets of praise reminds me of my value to others, and that gives me pep like little else.
However, now I’m reliant upon it to live, my income has become a greater concern. There is a tendency towards desperation when you begin freelance work – a race to the bottom of pricing in order to attract new clients, and an agreement to work on pretty much anything just so long as the work keeps coming in. BUT, as I said earlier, there is no shortage of potential clients out there. So think about what you’re doing and why. If you price yourself as cheap as possible, you will only attract clients for whom cost is more important than quality. That means more people, more often, but it also brings the tendency to lower quality manuscripts, each of which demands more work.
So aim high. Stand out as a mark of quality.
Ambition gives you work you can be proud of, clients who are more likely to succeed (and whose testimonials therefore hold greater reputational value), as well as an income that might actually be able to support you through these difficult times.
Okay, well that’s what happens when people ask me questions: my brain just unspools. If you’d like to read the whole of my interview, please pop on over to C.C.’s site, where you can also find the rest of his Game Talk interviews. More are coming, I believe, so keep your eye out.
If you want to find out more about my business journey, I wrote a recent piece on Getting Serious. More will appear periodically.
C.C. Adams is an absolute machine when it comes to writing. Dedicated, focused, and prolific. If you want to know how he does it, you should check out his own personal Game 101 post. It’s an eye-opener and no mistake.
You can connect with him via Facebook and Twitter, and if you ever meet C.C. in the flesh, you should do yourself a favour and ask him for one of his legendary hugs. (I mean, maybe have a chat first…)
Have a good one.