It’s About Rules … the Unwritten Ones in the Publishing Maze

Have you been to a writer’s or publishing conference where you are a newbie? You quickly learn, and not so quickly, learn where stuff is; what’s the buzz; who the must hear speakers are; what’s the protocol for the conference. You learn the Rules … and many times, the ones that matter the most are the Unwritten Rules. One of my Unwritten Rules is to avoid publishing predators … in reality, it should be a Written Rule!


There’s a classic scene in the movie, A League of Their Own, when manager Tom Hanks sees one of his outfielders approaching the dugout and she’s crying. He says (actually yells), “Crying?! There’s no crying in baseball!”

Hmmm … now where would that be in the player’s policy manual? It’s not. Our outfielder has been hit with one of the deal breakers of the workplace—the unwritten rules. How was she to know that there was no crying … unless someone told her about it?

The unwritten rules reveal the true culture of any environment. The conference you are attending and groups that you belong to. It’s how people treat each other, work with each other, play games—good and not-so-good—with each other. It’s know insider tips on how to connect with others while you are there; how to follow up; what’s expected–and not expected (or accepted). Think about media and social media–oodles of items to do, and not to do. Most of us stumble through them it’s how we learn.

It’s the one hundred plus unwritten rules that can destroy your success as an author, as well as the success of the book.

Recently, I was giving a speech for a group within a hospital association at its annual meeting on one of my books. One of the unwritten rules that surfaced during the exercise I do to reveal them was that if you have to see Sister _______, don’t wear red! Truth be told, the good Sister has taken quite a disliking to the color red. If you want/need something from her, don’t go bearing red. If she sees it, you are discounted, almost become invisible. It’s that simple.

You may think that it’s no big deal, but for Sister it is. And, if you had any savvy, you would have done your homework and known that it was a button-pusher for her. It’s her unwritten rule. Don’t wear red. Wouldn’t it have been nice if someone had told you of her strong dislike?

~Unwritten Rules Are Everywhere~

What other button pushers do you know about? Have you even been in a situation that you thought or said, “Why didn’t someone tell me about that?”

Yes, Unwritten Rules are everywhere. Most of us stumble through them it’s how we learn.And here’s my tip: once you see them; understand them … start to share them with others.

Write what you know about


A common unwritten could be that the first person in makes the first pot and the person who takes the last cup of coffee make a new pot. Another could be if someone switches from regular to legal size paper in the copier, switch back to regular for the next person or if someone uses fuchsia paper for a flyer, switch back to white.

People who smoke get more breaks (and they don’t count the time toward a break until they get outside and light up).

Don’t sit in Bonnie’s chair or use Phil’s parking space. These are what I call pew rules. Think of a place of worship—have you ever notice that the same people sit in the same place week after week? Workplaces are loaded with pew-type rules. Parking places, pens, mugs, chairs at a meeting, space usage.

Coworkers with kids have rules—more personal phone calls are often allowed, time off for events, not working on holidays. And guess what, it bugs those without kids—they may have someone at home who is not a child and they are responsible for that need communicating with.

~Finding Your Unwritten Rules~

Set aside 15 to 30 minutes over the next few days, and just ponder scenarios in your workplace. Identify the different individuals you work with, those in management or supervisory positions and those in senior management, including your CEO. Next, list the women and men you work with directly.

Smart writers

As you identify coworkers, describe their tasks, their personalities, and the interactions you have with them. Does your manager have any idiosyncrasies, mandates, or dictum’s? Do you have rules regarding days off, break time, interactions, or housekeeping? Are there dos and don’ts that everyone seems to abide by? No matter how minor anything seems, note it.

Ask yourself, “What things do you know not to do, and to do, just because you know it?” How did you learn it? By observing? By someone cluing you in?

Many unwritten rules seem common nonsensical, but when the unwritten rules are not followed, they seed discontent. Some rules are sacred cows. Some rules have everyone scratching their heads on why they are in place. A single incident may not seem important, but over a period of time, many small infractions can make life a monstrous hassle. It’s not the written rules (show up, do your job), it’s the unwritten rules that can make or break you and your workplace.

Finally, as you learn the unwritten rules, share them. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if there was a list of what and what not to do to keep everyone out of the hot water?

2014_JBriles-1Judith Briles is known as The Book Shepherd a book publishing expert and coach. She is the Founder of Author U, a membership organization created for the serious author who wants to be seriously successful. She’s been writing about and conducting workshops on publishing since the 80s. Judith is the author of 31 books including Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book Platforms (ForeWord Indie/Fab Book of the Year), Snappy Sassy Salty: Wise Words for Authors and Writers and a speaker at publishing conferences.

Become part of her inner circle by joining the Author’s Ark and exclusive monthly webinar and coaching event. Each summer, she holds Judith Briles Unplugged, a two and 1/2 day intensive limited to a small group of authors who want to be seriously successful. In 2015, the dates are August 27-29th.  Her audio and workbook series, Creating Your Book and Author Platform is now available. Join Judith live on Thursdays at 6 p.m. EST for Author U – Your Guide to Book Publishing on the Toginet Network at . Follow @AuthorU and @MyBookShepherd on Twitter and do a “Like” at AuthorU and Judith Briles – TheBookShepherd on Facebook. If you want to create a book that has no regrets, contact Judith at