Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Make An Effort To Reach Out

Writing tends to be a solitary activity. You have an idea for a magazine article so you write your query letter and mail (or email) it to the editor. Then you wait for a response and many writers almost wear a path back and forth to their mailbox (or electronic mailbox) trying to receive an answer.

If you receive a response, even if it is a rejection, you can know you reached out and communicated with that editor. If you don't receive a response, then after a healthy amount of time (which varies depending on the particular details such as your relationship with that editor and their guidelines), then you have a choice. You can either send a little follow-up note to see if they got your pitch in the first place. Communications can be erratic and for whatever reason, some times it simply doesn't get through to the other person. A gentle question can be OK and even gain focused attention from the other person and positive action--or instant rejection.

Yesterday I wrote one of these gentle prods to a magazine editor where I wrote them two weeks earlier and hear nothing. I blamed it that possibly my email didn't get there in the first place. My follow-up email initiated an exchange where I picked up a definite magazine assignment with this editor. It turns out she did get my first email, had processed it internally at a meeting with the other editors and was ready to give me the assignment. We exchanged four or five emails yesterday to refine and specify my assignment and now I'm off and running. The right type of follow-up (learn it) works.

Or you can decide the lack of response is the same as a rejection and move on to a new idea and a new pitch. It is often that persistence and perseverance that gains achievement for the writer. I've found too many people give up too easily in their search for the right person with the right idea for their writing.

Beyond persistence with your pitching ideas, I want to encourage you today to make the effort to reach out to someone who knows less than you about the publishing world. What can you do to help some individual within the community?

Your efforts can be a simple email of encouragement or passing along a book to someone that touched you in a special manner. Maybe you point out an unusual resource such as a free Ebook like my Straight Talk From The Editor or Right Writing News.

Often you will never know the difference that effort makes in the life of someone else. Occasionally you hear about the difference you made for someone else at a critical juncture in their life and you stepped in with that dab of encouragement. It's rare for me but occasionally someone will begin a conversation at a writer's conference or in an email about the significant way that my words helped them. When this experience comes, I'm humbled and appreciative for the opportunity to help. I'm constantly aware that throughout my writing life, I have many resources that have poured into my life--people and books and conferences and many other sources.

Two days ago in church I was reminded of the importance of reaching out to others. They called two recent high school graduates to the front and celebrated their achievement, then gathered the parents and siblings around them for prayer about their future plans. For a moment, I was transported to my own uncertain days at that juncture of my life with I graduated from high school. When I left home I was headed to the campus of one of the largest universities in my state of Indiana, Indiana University.

I went off to college with a New Testament among my books called Reach Out, which was a Living Bible. I tucked it on the shelf of my college dorm and didn't open that book. In those early weeks as a freshman, another new freshman named Lucy came into my room and noticed the book. Excited to see that New Testament, she called it to my attention. She was reaching out to see if I was also a Christian and we had something in common. Instead I downplayed the fact that I even had this book on my shelf. I was in a rebellious mode from my parents and upbringing. It was almost a year and a half later that I had a life-changing experience which I captured in an article called Two Words That Changed My Life. Looking back I appreciate the fact that Lucy who was from Tennessee made the effort and reached out to me.

What are you doing today to reach out to other writers and encourage them with their writing? You may protest that you are also new to the writing world and don't know much. If you know anything, you can use that information to encourage others. Point to a valued resource. I've listed many of them in these entries. Encourage them to sign up for the updates of these entries on The Writing Life or forward this entry or point them toward a resource like Book Proposals That Sell. I wrote this book with the intention to help writers submit better proposals--but also I wrote it so I could receive better proposals.

People love to complain about how they are working hard and not getting any place. Or how they are marketing without results or how they are sending out their writing and getting rejected. If you are one of those complainers (or have a friend who is complaining), encourage them to make an effort to reach out to others. They will feel better for the effort and they can be a part of the solution for someone else.

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5 Comment:

At 1:46 PM, Blogger Krista Phillips Left a note...

Wonderful post!!! You have impacted me, for one, and I am forever greatful for that!

Speaking of, I have a WONDERFUL announcement to make! I received my FIRST rejection letter!!! And yes, it really is wonderful. I have not been at this long (the actual submitting of my work anyway) so to receive ANY response is great! I figure everyone has to receive at least one (but probably many more) rejection notice before they receive that green light, so I am one step closer!! To make matters better, I even got a little comment about my work! WOOHOO!

So, my encouragement to everyone is to celebrate small steps, even ones that seem like they would be negative. God has a plan and a way and your time will come! Every rejection notice is a step closer to the acceptance! The GREAT thing about my letter was that the suggestions he made, I have already started or completed, so I feel a confidence that I am an the right track! So thanks to all you agents, editors and authors who take the time to advise and bare with us newbies as we move from our literary milk to solid food!! In the words of my adorable 7 year old, "You Rock!"

At 12:28 PM, Blogger Amy Wyatt Left a note...

OK... so funny that I just read this post after I emailed you this morning asking for advice :) I went to your site to search for more on packagers and devotionals like you suggested and found that you had written on reaching out to help those of us who are new to writing. I have to say that you have certainly reached out to help and encourage me in just the few interactions we've had. Thank you.

At 1:47 PM, Blogger Carol Left a note...

Hey Terry! This was a great post. I always appreciate the information you share.

At 3:42 PM, Blogger Chatty Kelly Left a note...

After sending in a letter and getting a response 3 months later to revise and resend, I waited another month before sending a "did you receive my revision" letter. Yes, we'll respond ASAP was the response. 4 months later they accepted my article. ASAP?

It's hard to know when to keep knocking and when to be patient. But I'm getting published for the first time in November '08! So hooray. And keep hanging in there to everyone else.

At 7:43 PM, Blogger David A. Todd Left a note...


I just returned from the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Just wanted to let you know I recommended Book Proposals That Sell to five people.


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