Importance of Follow-Up
It’s one of the simple steps of publishing. Yet some people avoid it and never follow-up. Other people follow-up too soon or in an inappropriate manner where the answer is pre-determined and not what they want to hear—no.
Here’s the situation in almost every aspect of publishing: It is busy and intense with volumes of material and information heading your direction. Into that mix, you need to understand that a great deal of this process happens in meetings where an individual will champion a particular book idea or proposal and rally others around the concept. This consensus building process is important to generate enthusiasm from the marketing and sales area and the publishing leadership. Communication is one of the keys but an editor’s time to communicate is limited. It’s sort of like trying to take a drink of water from a fire hose. Yet in that drink of water, you are supposed to make experienced and wise business decisions which will ultimately affect the bottom-line profits for your company.
Into this reality, the writer wants to receive an answer about their submission. I’ve said frequently to writers that if you press too much, you will receive an answer which is the easiest answer to give—no. A positive answer often requires consensus building and time. Yet it is important to follow-up.
In some writing books, I’ve read about writers who will include a postcard for the editor to reassure that they’ve received the submission. From my perspective, these postcards are a bad idea and a nuisance. Maybe they work at a large publishing house where an assistant opens the mail and fills out these postcards. If I’m traveling, I may not open manuscripts for a week or two. If I’m consumed with another project, then I simply write a date on the envelope and throw the submission into a pile. Imagine my feeling when I open this submission weeks later and find a postcard from the author to acknowledge that I received the submission. It’s a complete wasted effort.
Several weeks ago I received an email from a writer who was following up on her fiction submission. I checked my manuscript log and discovered I rejected this submission about five months earlier. Maybe that rejection came via email and she accidentally deleted it. It could be a number of things that went wrong but she didn’t know her manuscript had been considered and rejected. Her followup was completely appropriate and necessary.
Last year, I was doing some follow-up phone calls and emails related to Book Proposals That Sell. I had a simple purpose in my follow-up call. I wanted to make sure my package arrived and ask the status of the consideration process and if they needed any additional information. These types of questions are perfectly professional and expected. When I called one editor, as we talked, I could hear her rummaging through stacks of material on her desk and possibly on a table near her desk. During the call, she located my package and opened it. My timing was perfect because she was looking for a book to fill a particular need and Book Proposals That Sell fit that need.
With one brief follow-up call, I boosted the visibility of my product.
Be aware that sometime follow-up calls don’t work. For example, I’m working with one literary agent on a project that started from this agent’s idea. I followed-up and completed the proposal. After several months and hearing nothing, I started to follow-up with calls and emails. Four months later, I learned this project was ready to go out to the publishers about a month ago. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been calling to confirm the project was sent out and see if there is any feedback. My messages have simply been stacking on this agent’s desk or voice mail with nothing returned and no answers. At least six times, I’ve called with this simple message over a month-long period. It’s not encouraging to me yet I will remember this situation with my next pitch or project. As a writer, you have a choice and I will likely decide to follow another path with future projects. Don’t feel like you have no power over this process because that isn’t true.
Communication is key in this business so learn the importance of following up—yet in the right timing and the right manner. In my experience, the higher a person’s position in publishing, it’s more likely they’ve learned to handle the area of prompt communication. Maybe I will write someone and hear from their assistant or I will receive a brief response. At least I hear something from them and that’s always positive.
Finally, make sure you tout your publishing successes with the right person such as the company publicist. If you publish a book review or an article which promotes or mentions a book, follow-up and call that mention to the attention of the publicist. These people also receive volumes of magazines and information. It’s hard for them to keep track and they will appreciate your brief note calling this matter to their attention. It helps you build credibility with them for additional opportunities.
Make sure as you follow-up that you are building relationships and helping people succeed in their positions. You aren’t finger pointing or calling to their attention something which hasn’t been completed or accomplished. Your tone in the follow-up is important but don’t neglect to ask about something that has been sitting around for a long time. It’s another one of those signs of professionalism.