Saturday, 11 August 2012

Etiquette for Authors

I'm very lucky this week to have a guest post by the renowned Sir Stanley de Winter, author of de Winter's Guide to Etiquette and Deportment, now in its twenty-seventh edition. Take it away Stan!

Thank you Mr Cross. I shall pardon you for that indecorous introduction, as I am told that you didn't have the benefit of a proper public school education. But that is where my allowances will end, because it has come to my notice that authors all over this fair country of ours have been behaving most unsuitably. It seems as if an epidemic of griping over money and status has afflicted our once-noble breed of British scribes. From my ancestral towers, I am dimly aware that there is some sort of recession in progress, but I am sure that Her Majesty's properly-educated Conservative Government will soon bring the problem in hand.

In the meantime, where is the famous stoicism and positive outlook that made this country great? Clearly, it is my task at hand to correct matters. I present to you a list of what are (colloquially) termed "Dos and Don'ts" for author deportment. Please read them with all due care and attention.

Don't say: "I am never going to get published. I should give up."

Do say: "I could not stop writing even if I wanted to. I will persevere until I reach my proper social status by seeing my books in print."

Don't say: "The publishing industry is impossibly slow (and becoming slower)"

Do say: "That five month wait for an agent to read my opening chapters will give me suitable time to improve my manuscript."

Don't say: "All writers are mentally unstable and I am no exception."

Do say: "I am able to draw on my own personal experience to make this insane serial killer character more believable."

Don't say: "That agent made me do five months of revisions and then rejected my manuscript for some completely made-up reason. "

Do say: "Thank you, agent, for all of the helpful feedback and support you gave me through this important learning period. I knew in my heart all along that I was avoiding the very changes to the manuscript that would have pleased you. It was clever of you to test me by never mentioning those problems while I was making the revisions."

Don't say: "I write commercial fiction because I'm desperate to get published."

Do say: "I never write with a reader in mind. I can only write for myself and if anyone else likes it, that's a bonus."

Don't say to your agent: "I can't believe you couldn't sell that book! My cat could have sold that book! You're sacked!"

Do say to your agent: "What a terrible shame we were unable to close that deal, despite the book going to auction in five countries. I am sure that you are just as sad as I am. I will immediately go home and start work on that book idea you suggested. I think that a biography of a famous and distinguished etiquette expert is exactly what the market is crying out for."

Don't say: "How on Earth did your book get onto the Carnegie longlist? It's a pile of crap! Who did you sleep with on the awards committee to pull that off?"

Do: Press "Like" on their Facebook status.

Don't say: "With my pitiful advance, I can barely afford to buy a notepad, let alone feed my children."

Do say: "I have decided to take additional part-time work in order to broaden my outlook on society and become a more astute observer of the human condition. Would you like to buy a Chocolate Orange for only a pound?"

Don't say: "My book won an award! I am totally awesome and you are a bunch of clueless losers!"

Do say: Nothing. Wait for someone else to notice and post up the details for you. Accept the congratulations gracefully and with all appropriate humility.

And there you have it. I hope that has been a useful primer for you all in the proper behaviour that is required of you. Remember that, as authors, you set the tone for polite society. Never allow yourselves to descend to the level of the riff-raff and never, ever, resort to base humour. I shall be watching.

Stanley de Winter KBE CBE BBC LMFAO.


  1. Wise words, Nick! Not sure about the last one though. I'd be so chuffed about an award I think I'll find it hard to keep it in.

  2. Brilliant.
    I award you a ROFLMAO.

  3. Deep gratitude, Lord Stanley, sir.

  4. I think you should get Sir Stanley to ghost-write your books,Nick.

  5. He he! I have taken notes and shall apply them on a daily basis!

  6. Nick, sorry Sir Stanley, you are my guiding light.

  7. Well said Sir Stanley! I'd press 'Like' on his Facebook page if he had one!

  8. That was so funny, I'm now grinning like an idiot.

  9. Is it true Sir Stanley will be hosting a 'The Apprentice' style programme for writers on BBC 4 later this year?

    1. I'm not sure he would ever do anything so vulgar as to appear on television (unless in the presence of The Queen). Perhaps if the programme was on Radio 4?