Wednesday, June 14, 2006

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.

11 Comment:

At 8:47 AM, Blogger Unknown Left a note...

Excellent advice.

At 10:11 AM, Blogger Daniel Darling Left a note...


That's great advice. I'd also like to add a note about conferences. I'm an editor and I was at a conference last week. On the table of freebies, we had our magazines and writer's guidelines.

Well, at noon on Monday--the weekend after the conference--I get a call, on my cell phone, from a writer who asked some info.

First of all, she broke two cardinal rules, which were covered extensively on editor panels and in workshops: 1) never call an editor with a query and 2) give editors some time after you've talked to them at a conference.

Needless to say, this breach of ettiquette will give us pause when we consider publishing this writer's piece.

At 2:38 PM, Blogger Richard L. Mabry, MD Left a note...

Enlightening and frightening, causing me to hurriedly re-evaluate every email I've sent to editors over the past three years.
Thanks for this excellent post-graduate course in the writing life.

At 3:01 PM, Blogger Cindy Thomson Left a note...

Ah, Terry, you've hit a hot button. This is a topic that could (should?) be talked about a lot more. I think some people get used to using e-mail as chats with their friends and forget that it's different when you're conducting business. (I hope I haven't done that!)

And Dan, I met you briefly at the conference, but it wasn't me who called you! What is Rule #2? How much time do you give an editor after a conference? I know they are swamped, but if they've asked for something......

At 8:09 PM, Blogger Daniel Darling Left a note...


I'm not a big-time editor by any means, but I would say that a week is good. In fact, I was pitching something of my own and an editor just told me to "give it a week" without me saying anything. I may be totally wrong about this, but it seems they need some time to unpack and breathe after the conference.

I do remember my first few conferences, I wanted to go home and email the editors the night after I made the contact. I generally like to take care of things quickly. And nothing is easier than firing off an email. But, I've learned that a little patience is alwasy good.

One trick I have learned is that I set reminders in my Calendar for each contact I'm to email. Then it will pop up in a week and I won't have forgotten who I was supposed to contact.

We have to remember that the wheels of publishing grind slowly.

At 5:20 AM, Blogger Cindy Thomson Left a note...

Dan said: We have to remember that the wheels of publishing grind slowly.

Absolutely that's true. I went to a workshop that Allen Fisher of Crossway taught where he explained just why the wheels grind slowly and why it's often in the writer's best interest for it to be that way. It was an excellent workshop and I'd encourage anyone interested in that topic to order the tape from Write to Publish.

My agent sent my stuff off, so I was out of that decision. I was curious, though, and you make an excellent point.

At 6:03 AM, Blogger Karon Left a note...

Thanks, Terry, for the etiquette reminder. I especially believe in holding any delicate or important email a while before sending. I like to think God will bring forth flashing lights to highlight any portion I've been too hasty with if I give Him a moment before I hit send, lol. Thanks for all your great advice.

Many blessings,

Blog through “Every Woman’s Journey”

At 6:42 AM, Blogger David A. Todd Left a note...

Thanks for the caution, Terry. I do a lot of e-mail in my engineering business, and it's great for instantaneous communication--it's now my preferred way. But too much of a good thing can be detrimental from the one who is wanting something.

At 7:22 AM, Blogger C.J. Darlington Left a note...

I think the same care should be taken with e-mail that we would take when writing a paper letter. Would you joke around with the editor in a printed letter? No? Then you shouldn't in your e-mail.

Sometimes I think we can get too cutesy in our e-mail correspondence. It's so easy and like talking in person, that we forget this is a business.

At 6:03 AM, Blogger Diane Left a note...

In this world of emails, cell phones, faxes, cordless phones, etc. I think it is just nice to get a handwritten letter. I do it so often. For my friends, doctors, instructors, family, and such I do journals that have a letter about how much they mean to me along with quotes that I come across through the year. This is what is lacking in our society today. A personal touch.

I hope one day to publish a novel. I've published some articles, poems, but nothing big. When I do I will certainly take your advice to heart. I also think when I send a query I'll try to be unique about it and hand write it for the editor. There's still something to say for those of us who love the written word in your own handwriting!

Diane Howard

At 6:27 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


I appreciate the value of handwritten notes in today's world. That's a great idea--especially if you have beautiful handwriting. After years of interviews and other things, my handwriting is terrible and hard to read. You don't want a handwritten note from me--my mother can barely read mine.

Now as far as a handwritten query--that would stand out but in a negative way as unprofessional and not something I recommend you try. Whether you send your query electronically or in the mail, it must be typed.

My appreciation to each of you for your comments.


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