Watch Your Subject Lines
Over a year ago, I attended the annual American Society of Journalists and Authors Conference. I moderated a panel on how to get on the New York Times bestseller list during the conference. Because I was at the event, I was able to attend a terrific workshop from Sree Sreenivasan (@sree). He is a remarkable instructor in the area of social media and someone that I recommend you follow his wise advice.
Sree called to our attention that a Senior Feature Writer for the New York Times has his email address in his twitter profile. Why does he publicize his email address? Sree answered, “It's because he wants to be accessible to the public and if you have a feature story idea, he wants you to be able to reach him through his email.”
I thought it was a great idea. I want to be accessible to others. During this workshop I added my email address to my twitter profile. It did make me more accessible and on a regular basis (almost daily and sometimes several times a day), I receive emails from writers who wonder what type of help I can give them. Some of them ask for a specific type of help such as in marketing or promotion. I answer each email and send them to material in my blog or free teleseminars that I've done or other resources. It does not take much of time because I have a ready answer for these questions.
I'm delighted to help these people and it's one of the reasons I wrote these resources on the first place—to help these writers.
Recently I got one of these requests and it got me thinking about the subject lines in email here the email I received:
Subject Line: Important
I hope you are well.
My name is ________, I am a student at ________________. I live in _____. I would like you to call me at ______. To discuss a book that I am writer.
Sent from my iPhone
Yes that is the actual email and subject line. I took out the specifics and left blanks. I wrote back to this writer and said “As important as you believe your email is, I will not be calling you to talk with you about your book.” Then I pointed out my various online resources for this writer to use. Calling on the phone might be something they want but most editors and literary agents are difficult to get on the phone and then they limit their time on the phone because they are focused on their work.
A random phone call may or may not (usually not) develop into a publishable project. This writer didn't look promising to me—especially with the ungrammatical sentence that she concluded her email.
Here's several tips for crafting the words in your subject lines:
1. Make Them Specific & Interesting. Give me a reason to open your email. I get a lot of email. Many people get a lot of email so you have to be mindful of this fact when you write your subject line.
2. Do not Be Generic because you are “asking” for deletion.
3. Think about the person Receiving the Email. As you craft the subject line, ask yourself if they get a lot of email or a little bit? How can you help them to be eager to open your email? It's with your few words for the subject.
4. Use Power Words That Demand to Be Opened. Begin to analyze your own email and notice which subject lines catch your attention and which ones do you automatically delete? It will help you with your own emails.
At the end of the day, I'm delighted to have would-be writers email me. My email address remains in my twitter profile. I have met some amazing people through my work on twitter.