Sunday, January 14, 2018

Good Follow-up Is Important In Publishing

Good communication is important in the publishing world. As an acquisitions editor, I spend a lot of time every day answering emails, returning phone calls, texts and other forms of communication. Yet some emails go unanswered and phone calls are not returned. There are many possible reasons. Maybe it is the sheer volume of email. Maybe you are using the wrong email address or possibly you are trying to text someone whose phone line doesn't receive a text message. I've written about this topic before on The Writing Life. You can use this link to see some of these articles and read them.

When you approach a literary agent or editor, I encourage you to understand these publishing professionals are facing a torrent of such communication.  If your questions and emails do not, get answered in several days, I encourage you to send another email and follow-up.

Recently I could not reach an author for some additional information about his submission. If an author does not send their mailing address, I can't get their submission into our system at Morgan James.  We acknowledge every submission with a letter in the mail—and we receive over 5,000 submissions a year and only publish about 150 books. These numbers show the massive volume and potential for missing some details. With this particular author, I tried several times on email and could not get a response. It turned out my emails were landing in his SPAM folder.

A different author filled out a submission form on the Morgan James website located in the lower right corner when you go to the site. I contacted this author as soon as I received the information. She wanted a phone call back. I returned her call but did not get her on the phone and left a voice mail message. We did not speak but this exchange had some red flags in the communication process.  With each exchange she never gave her last name nor any specifics about what type of book she was writing (despite my specific requests for this information). 

Next this author didn't feel like she was getting in touch with me, so she filled out another submission form complaining to my colleague (another red flag). This colleague checked with me (see the internal communication which goes on?) and learned the details of our exchanges from my perspective. 

Finally this author called me again and we actually spoke to each other a few minutes on the phone instead of exchanging voice mail messages. She wanted to inform me how we had missed out on a great publishing opportunity (admittedly never explained) through my lack of follow-up. I listen and attempted to clarify but each time, she refused to give additional information (another red flag).

Our publishing house has worked with thousands of authors over the last fifteen years. Besides my work at this publisher, I've worked at two other houses and reviewed thousands of submissions. Whenever we publish a book, our company invests thousands of dollars in the creation and promotion of this book. Good and clear communication from the author is important—and something we learn and evaluate with every exchange. Here's some basic principles for you:

1. Follow-up when you don't hear back or get the information you need—in a reasonable amount of time. Maybe the person you are trying to reach is on a deadline, ill, traveling or any number of other reasons.

2. Be clear and forthcoming in your communication with the editor or agent. There are no “secret” books or problems with giving the editor your complete information including your last name and details about your book. Without the author, the idea has no value—zero.

3. As publishing professionals, we are looking for great ideas and clear communication. Because Morgan James is not a self-publisher but works as a team, I can not look at your submission and offer you a contract. Yes I have influence on the decision and champion the author and the book to my colleagues. If we are able to offer a contract, that offer comes from the group. The best publishing in my view is a consensus-building process. Individuals have blind spots and miss critical elements in this process where the group can help each other and produce excellent work. Authors have to take their own responsibility to market and promote their own book—yet working with their publisher in this process.

I wrote this article to help every writer understand the importance of good follow-up in the publishing community.  

Is follow-up one of your skills? If not, how can you improve in this area? Tell me your experiences in the comments below.


Follow-up is an important skill for everyone in publishing. Learn some details here.  (ClickToTweet)
Do you listen to audiobooks on Audible? Are you willing to listen to the audiobook for Billy Graham, A Biography of America's Greatest Evangelist, and then write an honest review on Amazon? If so, please email me and I can get you a review copy of this new audiobook.

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Sunday, January 07, 2018

Time for a Reboot

I love January and the fresh beginnings of a new year.  Whether you are reading this article in January when I wrote it or in the middle of the year, any time is a great time for a reboot or a new start. 

As I consider last year, I know some great accomplishments happened with new authors and my own writing life. 

Yet some of my goals were not met and some projects were not completed. Do you have some of these projects? Here's my good news: you can reboot those projects and push them into the marketplace. Maybe your book didn't sell as many copies as you wanted. Then take a reboot and begin reaching new readers. As the author, you are the person with the passion for your book. Maybe your publisher has pressed on to other books and other authors—but you still love your book and want to reach more readers. My encouragement is you can do it so make your plans and push forward. When your old book generates some new sales and new momentum, then your publisher will notice and join you in the push. As the author, you are in the drivers seat of this passion and momentum. 

Book publishing is not a sprint but more like a marathon. Some books shoot out into the marketplace and succeed while others are more of a slow burn and take time. If the author continues with their passion, these slow burn books can pick up momentum and begin to sell thousands of copies every month—but the author has to keep going on the marketing. My friend Sandra Beckwith has an inexpensive tool (yes 99 cents) called 365 Daily Book Marketing Tips. These insights come every day via email. Sandy sends you the full listing of the tips in a single PDF but I like the regular reminders through these daily emails. I do not take action on all of them but I read them and follow a number of the suggestions. Why?

As I've written about in the past, there is no single path to becoming a bestseller or achieving success with your book. If there were such a path, then every book would sell many copies and become a bestseller. Instead every author and every book has to find their own path. The author has to continually experiment and use tested methods to reach their readers.
Another resource is 5–Minute Book Marketing for Authors by Penny Sansevieri. Last year I wrote more details about this book (use this link). While I read this book last year, I marked my own book with numerous tags for action. As I look through them, I see more actions that I can take. I suspect each of us are in the same category. It's never too late to take action and get started. Make your plans and do it today.

For example, my biography of Billy Graham released over two years ago. In November, the audiobook version of the book released. At 99 years old, Mr. Graham is in his 100th year on the planet and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Decision magazine are celebrating this milestone. One of my marketing ideas for my book was to create a study guide. Small groups and book clubs are always looking for these study guides to enhance their group. I began to write the guide for my book in 2015 or two and a half years ago. Last week, I dusted off that file and decided now was the time to write this study guide. I've written study guides for other books plus I've used numerous study guides for books. I have the background and skills to pull together this study guide.  When completed and launched, it will give me a new tool to promote related to my book.

Does your book have a study guide with it? It doesn't matter whether your book is nonfiction like my Billy Graham biography or fiction? You can still write and launch a study guide. Maybe you need this tool for your own book. It is never too late to write it and get it out into the marketplace.

Do you have a project that you can reboot? Tell me about your action steps in the comments below.


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