Always be nice. You never know who you’ll encounter again.

You need to be nice to everyone you encounter in publishing. Interns become assistants and assistants become editors and agents and so on. Never be rude or ungrateful because it will come back to haunt you.

This is a small industry and it runs in tight circles. Just because someone’s title is intern or assistant they probably do more than you think they do. And often they read agency slush piles and manuscripts before more senior editors do–so if you want to make a good first impression it lies with them.

I know frustration can get the better of you when things aren’t going your way. (I’ve seen way too many nasty responses to submission rejections to support this fact.) Remember, it’s not personal, it’s just business and everyone is simply doing their job.

Nothing in particular spurred me to write this post–and I won’t share any unbecoming stories that I’ve encountered–but I want to facilitate respect and support for everyone growing in this business, emerging interns and assistants as well as budding writers.

If you have something negative to say, you can write your email response or blog post, but never hit send/publish. Simply file it away and push all that negative energy away with it.

There are tough days, but don’t make it a miserable day for everyone involved. Layer up that thick skin and be respectful of everyone that makes this wonderful business a joy to work in.

Image via Happiness Is…

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

14 thoughts on “Always be nice. You never know who you’ll encounter again.

  1. You see it al the time on blogs where writers blast interns and agents for either a lack of response or a form response. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Great post and a good reminder.


  2. Put another way – don’t step on anyone on the way up, you never know when you’ll need a hand on the way down. I totally agree that being nasty to the minions is unacceptable, not only in publishing but in all our interactions. How true is this though Ms. Watters in publishing. I may have watched The Devil Wears Prada too many times, but from the movie it did seem that light and sweetness wasn’t what propelled Mdm Editor upwards!


  3. I think we all need to be reminded of this from time to time. Your suggestion of typing but not sending is a good one. I’ve read that writing about frustrations for twenty minutes promotes good mental health.


  4. Even if I’m angry, I keep my mouth shut. I know whatever my response will be, I’ll either end up embarrassing myself or in some other way saying/doing something I will regret in about five minutes. But unlike writing, in real life, you can’t take words back. There is no backspace button for life. Or escape button. So I make sure to think before I open my mouth. And I wait until I know what I want to say and why, before I do so.
    Although – I’ve never actually gotten mad due to a rejection letter. It would be like getting mad at a potential reader in my opinion. If someone doesn’t want to pick up that book and read it, its not personal. Its called personal preference. Big difference.


  5. Excellent advice, for the writing life and all others. I am still running into people from a career I left almost 20 years ago. This summer I was standing in a hotel in Monte Carlo and a woman standing at the registration desk said, “Teri McClard?!” My name pre-marriage, right there in the south of France. She is the wife of a man I used to work with — in Phoenix.

    The older I get, the smaller the world gets. Love it.


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