The Snap Back Email
With email, we’ve almost made it too easy for people to follow-up. In the past through these entries, I’ve mentioned the caution which has to be used—but I’ve got a couple of fresh examples to relate in this area.
Yesterday I received a follow-up email from an author who attended a writer’s conference. I wasn’t at this particular conference but one of my colleagues attended and recommend the author send her fiction proposal my direction. I admire the follow-up from this author and her first email was excellent and contained a lot of information. She neglected to include the length of her manuscript in the proposal and I sent a quick email asking that single question. She responded with the word length and another question. I answered this question and she responded with another question. Ultimately we went five or six rounds of exchanges (I’d have to check my files but it was at least that many times back and forth). I have yet to see this proposal since it will be coming in a hard copy through the mail but my series of exchanges with this author gives me some pause. If it took five or six emails to answer her questions about submitting a proposal, what will it take if I request revisions to her manuscript before I can take it ahead into the publishing process? What impression will this author make with others in the publishing house? How difficult or easy will she be to work with in future projects? My questions might be completely unfounded in this case yet this author is completely unaware of the type of impression she has made or that the questions have been raised on my part.
Publishers are looking for active authors who care about their work and want to work hard to get it into the marketplace. We’re looking for cooperative, caring authors and those positive impressions are certainly there about this author. Yet there are also concerns with this series of exchanges. How can you prevent it from happening? First, make sure you submit a complete thoughtful query. It should not be lengthy but as Noah Lukeman contends in his excerpt, it should be great. Next, make sure you ask all of your questions in a single email. Almost anyone in publishing gets a great deal of email so it has to be used with caution and forethought. Before you send it back, hold it in the draft section of your email. Wait an hour or two before you send it to make sure you’ve put together the necessary ingredients. Every editor and every agent is different about how they handle their email. You never know the impression you are making with these exchanges.
Here’s another snap back email in completely different situation but for me, it’s another fresh experience. As I’ve mentioned in these entries, I review books for different places and regularly write about books in printed articles and other venues. Publicist will pitch books to me in an email or send a press release or they will send these materials in a press kit with a book. Over the years, I’ve received countless numbers of these pitches. As I’ve mentioned in other entries, it’s rare for the publicist to follow-up these pitches. It’s wise to follow-up and something the best publicists know how to do with care and attention. Just make sure you are not overly aggressive with this follow-up or you make another impression.
About six weeks ago, I received one of these email pitches from a publicist. The pitch looked enticing so I requested a copy of the book. A few weeks later, I received a follow-up email from the publicist asking what I thought about the book. It turned out I had not received the book. I responded expressing my continued interest and ask again to receive the book. This week I received another email from the publicist asking what I thought about the book. Again I responded that I had not received it and encouraged the publicist to wait until I had received it. His email was again premature. It turns out the book arrived (finally) in yesterday’s mail and I wrote the publicist saying it had arrived and looked good at first look but it would take me a few weeks to get it into the works—that is if I’m going to do anything at all. See how I’m managing expectations? I hope to do something with this book but I haven’t overpromised. Wisely this publicist has not responded to my email. I suspect I’m on some tickler file in his to-do list for a follow-up note in several weeks. This publicist understands the necessity of building a relationship and fostering it. He’s not trying to develop an instant message type of email exchange with me.
Here’s my point with this post: Each of us need to take a deep breath with some of this email, make sure we’re asking (and answering) all of the various questions plus that we are focused on the reader and their reaction. If we need to hold it for a bit before we send it, then that would be a step of wisdom instead of making the wrong impression.