When You Feel Overwhelmed
By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin
As a writer and an editor, I understand the importance of good communication. In fact, if you clearly communicate, it’s one of the simple ways to stand out in the publishing world. From my perspective, the bottom-line of the publishing business is communications. Yet as a writer, I’ve often submitted things with no response or silence. I’ve heard editors say if you don’t hear anything from us in a certain number of weeks, then you can assume we are not interested in your submission. When I hear this comment, it strikes me as poor communication from the professional. I understand that we get thousands of submissions which can be overwhelming. Yet it does not take long to cut and paste a simple response and send it to the author.
Recently I copied a colleague on a note to an author about an internal matter. This colleague is reading her email because she reached out to me and filled me in on some behind-the-scenes changes which I didn’t know about but were important for my day to day work. I appreciated the communication from my colleague.
Many of us are working electronically and in this article, I want to give some general guidance and cautions before you hit send.
Several months ago, Google changed their email and allows you to “unsend” your email (if you do it almost immediately after you have sent something). While I have not used this feature often, I like having this ability to unsend. Also Google gave users the ability to schedule emails. I like using this feature from time to time with my work emails.
As you write an email to someone, make sure you include enough information and not too much detail. Sometimes I will get an email from someone which is several pages in length. Then often I have to read and re-read it to make sure I absorb all of the information. If I have too much going, I will plan to read it later--and sometimes later never happens and I don’t read it. The balance can be tricky but it’s something I encourage you to consider and shoot for with each communication.
Also I use the draft feature with my email. If something comes in which needs to be answered and I can't do it at that time, I will put it into my draft folder to handle later. It’s critical that you check your draft folder from time to time so an important email doesn't get stuck in it. To my chagrin, I have found an email stuck in the draft folder and not sent.
As a writer, there are many different types of writing I send with email. I will send book proposals and manuscripts as attachments--only after I have sent a query and the editor agrees to receive it. Many news agencies don’t open attachments because at times they have a virus or bug. To reach them with your pitch, it is better for you to embed your release or pitch inside the email.
When you send an email to your newsletter list, before you send it, check and make sure all of the links work. On a recent bestselling author friend’s newsletter where I’m on her list, she included a list of forthcoming speaking engagement and a city with the state abbreviation CS (which was actually SC for South Carolina). The details matter. I have an inexpensive product to help you with your email list called List Building Tycoon (use the link to check it out).
As an editor, I sent sample contracts and other information as an attachment after I have spoken with an author. Then when our publication board meets and makes a decision about a book, I will also send the contract and other information as an attachment.
If you email someone and don’t get a response, I encourage you to resend it or follow-up about it. Many opportunities are missed because of not following up.
You can also use google to find other resources on this topic like Your Top-to-Bottom Email Checklist: What to Include Before You Hit Send. What else do you need to consider before you hit send? Let me know in the comments below.
Several years ago I was at a conference and in the hallway listening to the director of the conference talking with another leader about a faculty member. This director said, “I encourage you to be cautious about how you use ______. She’s a taker and not a giver.” It was the first time that I’d witnessed this categorization.
In this article, I want you to consider the importance of your reputation and how you want others to know you. My encouragement is for you to be known as a giver and not a taker.
In these articles, I’ve encouraged you to get connected to as many people as possible through LinkedIN and through exchanging business cards at conferences or events. It is important to know as many people as possible. As I’ve often said who you know is almost as important as what you know. On a deeper level, how are you serving or helping those people you meet?
For example, if you have a new book and are gathering endorsements for this book, how can you serve the person before asking for their help? A simple method is to get their latest book, read it then write a review and promote that review to your social media channels. When you promote the review, use their name, hook it to their Facebook page or their X (Twitter) account or any number of other ways to connect your review and get their attention.
Then when you reach out for their help, add a sentence in the request about what you've done and even include a link. Don’t overdo it but your message is that I’m a giver and helper to you before I’m asking for your assistance.
For example, several years ago I read and reviewed a new book from author and journalist Piers Morgan. After my review appeared, I wrote about my review to my social media channels and used his X (Twitter) name in my post. Piers publically thanked me for my review. It’s the only exchange we’ve ever had but it happened through social media. If I can do this sort of reach, you can too. Admittedly it takes some effort on your part but is possible.
In the most basic form to build relationships, you want to give the other person a reason to connect with you instead of making a random request.
Here’s another important element in the asking process: don’t overask. Narrow your focused ask down to one thing. Recently I received an email request from another writer friend--but it included four or five asks in this email. I read it and almost did not even respond. Yes, I could have ghosted this friend and not responded. That can happen if you ask for too much in a single email. Instead, I did respond but picked the easiest element to do for this friend--and said no to the rest of them. The overask made an impression--but not the one that my friend expected or wanted.
In what ways can you serve another person before asking for their help? Let me know in the comments below.
By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin
There is a common expression that something is not true and only smoke and mirrors. The origin of the phrase ’smoke and mirrors’ comes from when stage performers and magicians actually use smoke and mirrors to beguile the audience.
Within the publishing community, there is a lot of smoke or places you should not publish. I’ve thought long and hard about these words and don’t write them lightly. I’ve been in this community for many years and see eager authors who want to get their words into the world. When it comes to the publishing company, these authors fall prey to the wrong publisher or agent and then months or years down the road, they want to change their situation but don’t understand what happened to them and the choices that they made in this process.
In this article, I want to help you avoid the smoke and find the rose in your search for a book publisher. The process is not easy. First, ask good questions then listen for the answers. For example, how is the book distributed? Is that distribution only online? Is it in different formats? Will it appear physically inside brick and mortar bookstores? How are the books sold to libraries? Each publishing company will answer these questions differently.
Does the publisher encourage presales for the book? How does that happen? One of my Morgan James authors has over 200 presales for his business book which will release later this year. These presales are important because our sales team will notice this activity and use it to drive additional sales. If your publisher doesn’t encourage or even do presales, it might be a caution about using this particular company.
Take a look at a physical book from this publisher. One of my recent authors at Morgan James Publishing, was considering several different options. He ordered a book from these publishers then compared them. As you look at the book, think about the cover design and how it will draw or discourage readers. Does the book include endorsements and/or a foreword? How is the back cover written? Also look at the spine and see if the title is clear on the book. Finally look at the barcode and see if it is done properly. Sometimes books will not include the price in the barcode and use a string of numbers like 90000. When the barcode does not include the price, it tells me this particular company has no plans to sell the book inside a brick and mortar bookstore (which uses the barcode when the book is purchased).
What type of marketing help does the publisher provide? What do these services cost to the author? For example, with each Morgan James author, I make a point to tell them that 80% of the marketing will be up to them (the bulk) yet our team is still coaching authors who published in 2005 (without charging them or free). I’m managing the author expectations and also telling them about the publishing house resources to help them.
How long has the publisher been in business and take a look at their success? Have they had books on the New York Times bestseller list or the Wall Street Journal bestseller list? If so, it indicates they doing more than selling online but also selling in brick and mortar bookstores.
Do they have satisfied authors? Can you speak with some of them about their experience? If you can’t speak with their authors, then you have another reason to exercise some caution in selecting this publisher.
What is the reputation of the editor or person you are speaking with about the publisher? For example, I have a long-time reputation in publishing. I understand my own reputation is involved in the publishing decision. You can see this element in the interview from New York Times bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins when we spoke about Morgan James Publishing for his writing guild.
To compare publishing options is not easy. It’s almost like comparing apples and oranges because each one is different. As I’ve written in the past, there is no certain path of success but you can find your path to get published.
One of your best ways to avoid the smoke of publishing and making a poor choice is to get educated as an author. It’s one of the reasons that I wrote 10 Publishing Myths. You can get my book for only $10 which includes the postage and over $200 in bonuses. After you get this book, use a highlighter and take action on the different suggestions.
If you have made a mistake and have had a poor publishing experience, what do you do? Write another book or pull the rights back from the wrong place and take it somewhere new. Whatever steps you take, learn from it and keep going forward. The writing life is not straightforward for any of us but can be done with persistence, learning and consistency.
There is another old saying: you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink it. I can lead the author to the right place but can’t make them sign their contract and get published. What steps do you take to avoid the smoke of publishing? Let me know in the comments below.