Sunday, September 08, 2013

The Gentle Follow-Up

The path for a book to get published is filled with many twists and turns.Each leg of the communication process can break down at some point. One of the most critical steps is the beginning where you get connected to an editor or an agent who can champion your book and guide you through the process.

A couple of months ago, one of my writer friends recommended an author send their material to me through Morgan James. This author followed our submission guidelines and yet never heard from Morgan James.

After over a month of hearing nothing, he sent me a short gentle follow-up email. It was the first I had heard about his submission. I explained to the author that I’m not the only person doing acquisitions at our company and his material could be with another editor.

Yet when I checked internally I learned the material had been forwarded to me from my colleagues cell phone—and I never received it. Because I never received it, the submission didn’t get entered into our system. No follow-up acknowledgement letter was sent. Nothing happened. Because the communication channel (sending by phone) didn’t work, the communication process was broken.

This author was wise to check with me. Now he has received the follow-up acknowledgement letter in the mail and his submission is engaged in the process.

Over my 20+ years in publishing, I’ve seen the communication process break down and things get missed and lost. I’ve seen writers who do not follow up miss their opportunity or delay their work getting published because they fail to follow-up.

There is a right and wrong way to follow-up. The right way is to gently check with the editor or agent and ask, “Did you get it?” Notice the question isn't asking for a decision on the submission. You are simply trying to find out of the communication process worked and your email or submission reached them. If not or if they have lost it, they can ask you to resend it and things can get on track.

If you push and ask for decision, nine times out of ten you will get an immediate “no thank you.” Publishing is often a team effort and a team effort takes time. Yes takes a while to achieve where no can be said quickly—except writers don’t want to hear no.

Do follow-up. It’s a critical part of the process to make sure nothing slips through the cracks. You want to have your opportunity for your submission to be considered and receive a response. You might get a Yes response.

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