Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Timing Is Key

It’s important in the writing business to simply write. Make a concerted effort to get your words—your magazine article, your children’s book, your novel, your nonfiction book proposal—get it out of your head and on the page. 

It’s also important to have relationships—lots of relationships. You need them with fellow writers. You need them with literary agents. You need them with editors—book editors and magazine editors—all sorts of editors. You can develop these relationships through attending conferences, participating in email forums, and simply actively writing query letters and book proposals and participating in the lifeblood of the business day after day.

It’s also important to follow-up—in a kind but persistent manner.  This morning I had two fresh experiences in this area and it formed what I wanted to write today about the Writing Life. Recently I taught over eight hours at a writer’s conference and sold some copies of Book Proposals That Sell.  Unfortunately I didn’t sell all of my books. Over the weekend, I sent a little follow-up email to inquire about these books which have not been returned. I had not received a response. (Email doesn’t have to be answered and can be ignored). I made a phone call (planning before the call to keep it short and to the point). The person who answered the phone was someone from the bookstore I met during the conference (another key point—I made a relationship). She apologized (they have been swamped) and will try and get the books out as well as my check from the book sales. I made a brief note about the date and who I talked with—just in case it doesn’t show up here in a couple more weeks. You have to keep track of these details—either on a spreadsheet or in your head or some other format. No one else will make this effort and otherwise things slip through the cracks.

After my call to the bookstore, I immediately made a follow-up call to the editor of a book club where I had sent an Advance Review Copy of my book several months ago.  About a month ago, I called once and left a voice mail message (which was ignored). Today this editor answered her phone when I called. Jackpot. I quickly reminded her of my submission and touted an endorsement on the cover from the president of the ninth largest publisher in the world.  I asked if she wanted a finished book (now the book is available).  As we talked, I could hear her digging through some piles for my submission. She found it and pulled it to the top of her stack saying that she needed to be looking for something for their August issue. We had a short cordial call where she promised to be in touch.

Will my book become something this book club will offer to their large audience? It’s unknown at this point. I will tell you that it would have been fairly certain not to happen if I had not made this phone call.  Often one of the keys is timing—and follow-up.

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