Friday, November 09, 2012

Become A Follow-Up Expert

Over the last seven weeks, I've been moving around the U.S. speaking at six different events. It has been a marathon of meeting different authors and learning about their various projects.

Each week I've returned with possible books—nonfiction and fiction for Morgan James Publishing. If I could find the time, I've been sending emails and calling these individuals to get their manuscripts into the consideration process for our publication board. We receive over 5,000 submissions a year and only publish about 150 to 200 books a year. Here's the operative phrase in that last sentence: if I could find the time. To be honest, I couldn't always find the time to follow-up with these new authors.

The critical element in the process is follow-up. Over the last few weeks, I've heard about some great new book projects. Writers have showed me brief samples or told me about their work. I've looked them straight in the eye and said with sincerity, “That sounds like a great idea, send it to me.” 

Others I've seen their printed materials and I've asked them to send the electronic version of their proposal or manuscript to my Morgan James email address. Our publication board is scattered around the country and we work with the electronic version of your submission. For example, some of my colleagues live on the East Coast while I live in California. This electronic version of your material is critical. If I don't have it, then nothing happens—zip.

Numerous writers circled my work email address on my card and promised to send me their materials. Here's the reality: only a few of them have actually followed up and sent their materials.

Several of these writers sent in their materials right away. Because I had the electronic version of their work, I was able to get their books into our internal system for consideration from our publication board. When they get into this system, the author (or literary agent) receives an acknowledgement letter in the mail. It let's them know things are moving forward inside the publishing house. Each week our publication board meets and considers new books.

One of these authors I met a couple of weeks ago, submitted his proposal and sample chapters right after the conference. I put this project into our system and yesterday this author received a note of congratulations, a publication agreement (contract) and a short document outlining next steps for publication. Because I want to be a follow-up expert, I called this author and alerted him to the presence of this email with the documents attached. He was excited to receive this news.

In fact, I received this news for three authors yesterday. I called one of these authors and they returned my call. While on the phone, I realized they didn't have the three attachments so I followed up and immediately sent it to them. See the importance of tracking the details? With one little slip, an author doesn't receive the good news of a publishing contract.

With several of the others, I've written them and even called to follow-up and get their materials. I may love their printed information but without the electronic version, I'm stuck and can't help them move forward in the consideration process.

This week I noticed several emails in my work SPAM folder. I opened it and discovered a follow-up note from an author I met at the last minute during a recent conference. I exchanged business cards and had not had a chance to follow-up with her. I removed that email from my SPAM folder and sent an apologetic follow-up note. She immediately responded and is sending her materials early next week. This brief exchange again proves my point that you must become a follow-up expert.

While on the road, an author called me about a friend who has an interesting manuscript. I called this author early last week, gave him my email address and he promised to send it to me. Several days later (yesterday), I had not received the promised material and decided to call him again. He had gone to the publisher website and submitted his material online—instead of sending it directly to my email address. That means his material went into the unsolicited submission area instead of something coming directly to me for handling. Eventually I tracked down the submission but here's the lesson: send your material in the way the editor suggests you to send it.

Another author contacted me through twitter this week and wanted me to read his blog posts. Yes, I looked at it for a second but it gave me no context about the vision for his book, his overall marketing plans and his timetable for it. He was pitching a nonfiction book idea without doing the work of creating a book proposal. 

There is an old saying that is attributed to Will Rogers: You only get one chance to make a good first impression. The author who contacted me to read his blog material did not make a good first impression. Instead, he raised all sorts of questions that will return to me if and when he sends another email to me. 

To help your submission process, I'm including a short audio (less than three minutes). The audio is part of Southern Writers Radio Show and you can catch the entire show at this link: http://www.southernwritersonline.com

You can either use the button on the screen below. Or if you can't see it then click on this link: http://terrylinks.com/wtwswrf2012 and either save it to your computer or listen to it online. The audio includes a link to my book proposal checklist.

My great hope is this resource will help you in your journey to become a follow-up expert.

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