I’ve spoiled A Few Writers

As an editor, I’m always surprised when a potential author will email me about something—and if I don’t respond in a few days—then this person will repeat their email. Other times they will forward their email or a number of other variations.

To me, it looks like a certain segment of the culture has become addicted to email and instant message. I understand when you hit the send button, the other person instantly gets your message. This fact does not mean the person (the editor) will instantly answer your email. In the first portion of Book Proposals That Sell, I attempt to help writers take a tiny step toward understanding the pressures and life of an editor. Throughout their work day, editors are involved in many more things than answering email or reading unsolicited material. Noah Lukeman has excellent advice for writers to improve this first impression in his book, The First Five Pages, A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile.

As an editor, I’ve always been committed to communication with my authors. When people listen to my teaching at writer’s conferences or we meet in person, they understand how I give any type of communication a high value (phone calls, emails and mailed submissions or communication). It’s because I try and treat writers as I would like to be treated. In the New Testament, it’s called the Golden Rule. You will noticed I said “try.” Each of us have a finite number of hours in the day and we can’t always meet our own expectations because of other priorities.

When I left my full-time acquisitions position at a publishing house, I turned over all of my email files and communication to my colleagues. In almost two years time, I had sent over 4,000 emails to authors and would-be authors. This number didn’t account for the many phone calls and then the mailed submissions that I handled.  Because of my committed communication, there was a loud outcry from my authors when I left that position. I recall one author writing me saying how I had spoiled her. When her manuscript came into the office, within a few days I told her that I had received it. Within another short span of time, I read the manuscript and gave her some feedback about it. This author had contracted for several books and some of them were delivered after I left the publisher. With her new editor, she turned in her manuscript then waited weeks—hearing nothing about a contracted book manuscript. Finally her editor communicated and eventually the book was processed and published. Just remember some editors are less responsive via email than others.

If you are looking for some insight into how to process email, I recommend following the wisdom built into the two posts from Michael Hyatt (CEO and President at Thomas Nelson Publishers). He’s put together two valuable tips about taming the email box.

It’s common for writers to wonder about standard rejection letters and why they can’t get more details from the editor. There are many reasons from a magazine editor and a book editor. I know since I’ve filled both of these roles. The key one is simply time. It isn’t there. Also as an editor, it’s not my role to give detailed information about why a particular article or manuscript or proposal did not work for my publication or my publishing house.  There are other places for writers to get this feedback. One of the best places for writers to get feedback is an organized critique group. I’ve provided detailed information about how to find a critique group then ideas what to do in this article.

I’m committed to answering my email in a timely fashion but my current writing and editing life also has pressures. If you don’t hear from me instantly, there isn’t a problem. I’d ask you to have some patience. If you wonder about spam filters and whether your email has been blocked, don’t send it a second (or third) time (yes, it happens). You can always mail it to me for a response. As my wife likes to remind me, I only get one chance to make a first impression. Make sure it’s a good one.


One Response to “I’ve spoiled A Few Writers”

  1. relevantgirl Says:

    I sure appreciate editors who respond in a timely manner, but I’ve learned to be patient, not pesky. As an author, the Golden Rule applies too. Treat editors as people and in the same tone and manner you would like to be treated.

    Also, consider the needy relative factor. I have a particular relative who seems to only give gifts so she can receive a detailed thank you note. Giving a gift should be for the sheer joy of giving it. I fear writers are like my relative–giving manuscripts in order to receive something back. It may or may not happen. Just send it out and pray the Lord would use it somehow.

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