Writers are urged to do their ‘due diligence’ a lot. This is especially relevant when it comes to finding and evaluating agents, producers and publishers, but also any services or we might pay money for. This may include obvious stuff like screenwriting, novel and short story contests, but also other things like writing courses, software and other things we may buy or use.
However, as many Bang2writers may have noticed lately, there is a small but nevetherless stubborn contingent of writers around who think practicing ‘due diligence’ means slagging off and/or smearing people, products and services, especially on social media.
But even writers who would never DREAM of going off one half-cocked like this have reached out to me recently. They say they are not really sure where to start when it comes to ‘due diligence’. Luckily, Aunty B2W is here for you … Let’s go!
Due Diligence, A Definition
Both a noun and a legal word, to practice ‘due diligence’ gives the following two meanings, according to the dictionary:
- Reasonable steps taken by a person to avoid committing a tort or offence.
- A comprehensive appraisal of a business undertaken by a prospective buyer, especially to establish its assets and liabilities and evaluate its commercial potential.
Lastly, personal vendettas should not be confused with ‘right to reply’, either. Whilst anyone who follows me knows I love a good ruck online, you will never find me bitch-slapping someone off the bat for no reason. It will be because they have stuck the boot in to me or B2W first . If you can’t stand the heat, get outta my kitchen! 😉
So, what do we do?
It’s actually simpler than you may think. I will lay out the steps:
i) First Step: Gather Evidence
- Google. Googling can and should be your first port of call, as well as looking at associated websites, reading articles, reviews and so on.
- Offline. Asking your peers and contacts is always a good idea, but make sure you ask multiple people. (Note that when I say ‘offline’, I don’t necessarily mean you *can’t* ask people via PM, DM or email – I just mean ‘not publicly’).
- Go straight to the source. Confused about something or someone? Ask the person or service themselves. Alternatively, you could ask someone ‘bigger’ than you to do this for you. Bang2write has a long history of asking people and places about *stuff*, on the request of Bang2writers. I’m happy to help.
ii) Second Step: Reserve Judgement
Once you’ve done the above, you need to SIFT THROUGH the evidence you’ve gathered. You don’t want to jump in with both feet. Things that are worth considering as you do this:
- Online flame wars. Google is great, as long as flamers have not burned down all available pathways. So, if all you can find are people talking/freaking out on social media and forums about the stuff you’re concerned about, that’s a sign you need to dig more and find more sources.
- People may have had personal bad experiences. If you only ask one or two people, you will not get a full picture. That might be obvious, because it is. But seriously, no person is friends with everyone; neither has a product or service satisfied every single one of its customers (oooh matron). This doesn’t mean it will automatically screw you personally over.
- They may tell you what you want to hear. Obviously, going straight to the source has its issues too. The bad ones will just try and persuade you they’re okay. In comparison, the good ones will be happy to assuage fears by being honest and transparent. They will be happy to discuss problems and take questions; they will not make counter accusations or fly off the handle.
iii) Third Step: Compare and Contrast
So, you now have access to a good chunk of background and facts to do with that person, product or service? Now you need to weigh these things up. I suggest writers do this with these things in mind:
- Trustworthiness. If a person, product or service has been around for a good few years on the circuit this is of course much easier, as they will have more transparency. After all, it’s less likely an established person, product or site that had previously good reviews would *suddenly* go off-piste and start ripping everyone off!
- What you personally need. Are you willing to explore and take risks, or do you need some kind of guarantee? If you can’t afford to lose money on something that is not useful to you, then you’re probably best off leaving new products and services alone. But even if they are not established yet, that doesn’t mean you should necessarily discount them straight away. Everyone has to start somewhere – the question is, do you want to be the guinea pig? Only you can decide.
- Personal bias. Lastly, you need to consider your own potential bias. It will be difficult for you to conduct your own due diligence for things you are freaked out about, or dislike. Similarly, if you are massively enthusiastic, then again this may create semantic noise in your brain. In these cases, it might be a good idea to ask someone else to do a last, more objective check for you.
Once you have all this information?
NOW you can make your judgement! Otherwise you’re just fanning the flames of writer paranoia. This is never a good thing, especially when we’re supposed to have one another’s backs.
By the way – 90% of your due diligence should stay offline if you’re a professional. But this doesn’t have to mean keeping it to yourself. There are plenty of people, products and services Bang2write thinks are dodgy, poor value, or irrelevant in the creative industries, having done my due diligence on them.
Rather than slag them off or go on a personal vendetta then, I simply don’t recommend them, or even talk about them. Also, when people practicing their own due diligence on these things ask me (or I see them asking on social media), I send a private message saying I saw their question and that I don’t recommend whatever it was. Sorted.