Jan Flanders

As everyone who has not been dwelling under a rock for the past half century knows full well, Jan Flanders is a world-renowned expert on writing, editing, and publishing fiction. A bona fide member of the landed gentry dating back to the Jamestown, Virginia, settlement and a magna cum laude graduate of Ms. Finicky’s Foundational Finishing School of Fiction for Well-Bred Females (FFFSFWBF), she resides with her three Angora cats in the heart of the deep South on the plantation, sadly diminished, where she was born and reared, and which her family has owned since the early 1700s. God forbid she would ever allow it to fall into the rapacious hands of any vile Northern carpetbagger! Rest assured that will happen over her cold dead body. She is still mourning the lamentable outcome of the late War of Northern Aggression, and if you know what is good for you, you would be well-advised not to bring up the subject unless you wish to have your ears pinned back. If anyone knows etiquette, it is our own Ms. Flanders, and she is doing you a favor by sharing her expertise. If you do not demonstrate proper gratitude and humility, she is likely to give you a brisk rap on the knuckles with her ruler.

Fiction Etiquette with a Southern Twist Twisted Southern

Good mornin’ once again, class. Ah see by your upturned, shiny little faces that you are gratifyingly eager for your next dose of admonishment in the Sacred Laws of Fiction Etiquette, which Ah am, of course, supremely qualified to deliver. Without further ado, let us—

What are you sayin’, baby doll? Will we be havin’ a Valentine’s Day party? Mah dear, if you do not know for a fact that Valentine’s Day is not a holiday your own dear Ms. Flanders will celebrate with the likes of you, you have not been payin’ attention. Ah have yet to run across a body worthy of receivin’ a valentine from me, and you are not an exception. Of course, my own private celebrations are another matter altogether. After endurin’ the rigors of admonishin’ such pea-brained young’uns as y’all, I need as much bracin’ liquid refreshment as Ah can get. But as you know full well, that is none of your business, sweetheart.

As I was sayin’ before Ah was so rudely interrupted, let us begin with today’s question. The envelope please.

Dear Ms. Flanders,

I’m a new author, and my first novel is coming out this fall. According to my publisher, getting endorsements from multipublished authors will help tremendously with promotion. But how does a new author go about securing endorsements when you don’t personally know any famous authors? I belong to a large writers’ organization to which several published authors belong, but I am hesitant to approach them without a formal introduction by a mutual friend. I’ve thought about posting a request for endorsers on the e-mail loop. Is this acceptable, or would I be violating proper protocol?

Puzzled and Confused

Mah dear, you are well-advised to enquire about proper protocol before embarkin’ on a solicitation of the highest rank of authors. The very last thing you want to do is to place yourself on the wrong side of those who can make your lifelong dreams come true . . . or consign you to the outer darkness of the publishin’ world where there is weepin’ and gnashin’ of teeth. So pay attention, darlin’, to every jot and tittle of mah instructions if you wish to succeed.

First and foremost, before you do anythin’ else, you must ensure that your work stands at the very pinnacle of perfection. If a bestsellin’ author actually should agree to take time out of his or her busy schedule, which is unlikely, to do an unknown like you a favor by readin’ your work, only to discover that it is sadly marred by defects, they will not only not endorse your work, but will most likely cut you publicly at your organization’s next social function. And don’t be tellin’ me that just because you managed to get a publishin’ contract, your manuscript must be in perfect condition. Why do you think publishers employ editors, hmmmm? It is their onerous task to take the raw material that falls from your brain pan and shape it into a work of outstandin’ beauty and power—without, of course, allowin’ any panderin’ to the basest emotions of the human character. Or lack thereof.

Which reminds me of a most distressin’ situation: With increasin’ frequency Ah am seein’ a shockin’ number of grammatical and formattin’ sins in the books bein’ published nowadays. Ah am beginnin’ to wonder where in the name of my Aunt Fanny’s furbelows these new young editors are bein’ educated. Or not. It’s obvious to me that not only are today’s writers not bein’ properly drilled in grammar, syntax, and logic, but the editors upon whom our publishers depend to maintain the highest standards of excellence were undoubtedly noddin’ off in class as well. Let me assure you that if they had been schooled by your own Ms. Flanders, they would have been attending to their studies at every instant or they would have been favored with a smart rap across their fannies with mah ruler.

Because there is such an urgent need for admonishment in these matters, Ah will be delvin’ into this subject at more length in our next class. However, for the time bein’, your best course is to hire a professional editor of the highest qualifications to bring your work up to snuff, which will also avoid your fallin’ victim to any unfortunate shortcomin’s of the editor at your publishin’ house. Once your manuscript is in pristine condition, do not under any circumstances put forward a solicitation on your e-mail loop, which is just too vulgah for words and will cause you to be looked at askance. You are correct in assumin’ that a formal introduction by mutual friends is in order in this situation. But don’t be disappointed, darlin’, if no one deigns to take notice of the likes of you.

Now, wasn’t that easy and fun? Didn’t you learn a passel of vital information? Be sure y’all take it to heart or Ah will not be held responsible for the unpleasant consequences.

Speakin’ of Valentine’s Day, Ah am off to discover what delightful treat that wicked little cupid has delivered to mah wine cel—ah, mah basement recreation room. Nevah let it be said that Ms. Flanders does not know how to celebrate!

Upcoming Topics

March: What are the worst writing mistakes you’ve seen, and how can we avoid them?

April: Is it proper to attempt to communicate directly with an author if you’re a huge fan?

June: What is proper etiquette on writers’ e-mail loops?