Don’t Sabotage Your Career: Part 1

In the years I’ve been editing professionally, I’ve seen just about everything:

● Cover letters that say, “God dictated this article to me.”
● Submissions claiming to be from extraterrestrials.
● Envelopes spray-painted gold.
● Hand-written submissions on lined paper.
● And now, in the age of word-processing with 400 fonts, submissions that look like ransom notes.

To keep from sabotaging your career, avoid:

1. Unprofessional email addresses

One of the worst I’ve seen: snugglebunny777@internetservice (I changed the name of the ISP).

Addresses at,, and are okay, I guess, but better, get a domain name and a host that will allow you to use that as your email address., goes to my Yahoo account, but all you see is the domain name.

2. Unprofessional Facebook and Twitter posts

Keep your Facebook page for family and close friends separate from the page for your professional presence.

People following your writing career don’t want to know what you’re fixing for dinner—unless you write cook books. And unless your brand is “Cat Whisperer,” don’t post pictures of your adorable kitties.

Make sure every post provides value to your readers and fits your brand (see point 5).

3. Non-existent or unprofessional web presence
When your book proposal comes before a publisher’s approval board, the first thing the editors and marketing people do is look you up on If you don’t show up, you don’t exist! And if you don’t exist, you don’t get a contract. Have an active website, blog, and Facebook and Twitter accounts.

An unprofessional presence can be just as bad. With and, anyone can have a free blog. But many of their free templates—with animated .gifs, cutesy art work, kitties, etc.—don’t look professional.

Your web presence helps determine whether a publisher will consider your proposal. To be seen as a pro, invest in professional help to create a professional-looking site. Then have a professional edit the text.

4. Unprofessional business cards
Just because you’re a Christian writer doesn’t mean your business cards must depict a cross, dove, icthus, empty tomb, or tongues of fire. Keep it simple, saints!

And including “Professional Writer” makes me suspect. Would you go to a “Professional Brain Surgeon”?

5. Not being branded
That sounds painful, but branding is a buzz word in publishing. It’s what readers expect when they see your name on a book. Do some soul-searching and determine your unique role.

My brand is “Hope and Humor.” So whether I’m writing, speaking, or blogging, people expect hope and humor. (Writing bloody murder mysteries would kill my brand.)

What does your audience (or tribe) expect? Be specific, then deliver.

James N. Watkins is an award-winning speaker and author of 16 books and over 2,000 articles. Read more at

© Copyright 2012 James N. Watkins

Image credit: icetray / 123RF Stock Photo


  1. Donna Cullen says

    I am just starting out and as of now have had several articles published in magazines, and one coming out in another persons book later this month. I write in the christian fiction genre. I would enjoy having any advice and help along the way.Will look forward to news letters from you at my Email address. Thank You, Donna Cullen

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