Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mark Of A First-Time Author

I’m an early riser. I get to my office early, do some reading, skim through some email and handle some things in the quiet of my home. I revel in that calm atmosphere and tend to get a lot accomplished in those early hours.
Imagine the jarring noise to my day when my phone began to ring at 6:50 a.m. From my caller ID, I could see it was someone in Alabama with no idea that dialing my New York phone number that they were calling my home office in Southern California. After all, it was 9:50 a.m. in their part of the world.
I almost sent the call to voicemail but instead I answered it. It was a first-time, unpublished author calling to find out if I had received his submission. He tried to send it once and it came across embedded in his email. Now he was trying to send it again as an attachment.
I checked and yes I received it. And why was he calling? He was concerned about the length of his manuscript at so many pages. I asked for the word count—a common mistake is to give the page count and not the word count. It was 47,000 words or within the range of our fiction submissions. I affirmed it was OK.
Did this author make an impression? Yes and it was negative. I’ve not read his submission because when I wrote this article I was on the road on the way to conference. In fact, I’ve still not had a chance to read his submission. I did process it so he will receive an acknowledgement letter from me. I will try and read it with an open mind—but he’s already colored his submission in a negative fashion. His subject line: The Next Bestseller And I thought, “really?”
My counsel for you is to not use the phone with an editor. You will rarely get them and most of the time get their voice mail. Instead use email or the mail to reach them.
Now if they call you, then it is a different story and you should return their call. But to call them first? In most cases, that is not a good idea. You only make a negative impression with the editor. For many years, I’ve been writing and working with editors and it is rare that I will call an editor. I’m certain this author doesn’t recognize his negative impression that he made. He was acting on impulse and it was a false impulse.
The majority of our communication in the book business does not call for it to be on the phone. The work is slow and methodical. Magazine writing is quicker but even then you often can communicate via email or the mail instead of picking up the phone and calling the editor.
If you work for a newspaper, these deadlines are much more rapid and timely. You are forced to use the telephone more often. Not in the book business.
To be fair, the author forgot that I lived in the Pacific but for his simple questions he did nothing for his relationship through using his phone. I hope the lesson is valuable for you.

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2 Comment:

At 8:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous Left a note...

Great post, Terry. I'd like to point out that email and written submissions are also the first, best way to make an impression on an editor for two other reasons:

1. It shows you're willing to follow the rules of good business etiquette, marking you as a pro.

2. It gives you a chance to shine where an author wants to shine most: the writing!

At 12:01 PM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


Great comment. It was what I was trying to say with my overall post about phoning an editor. Next time you feel so inclined as a first-time author--don't do it. You are reducing your chances of success.



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