Monday, October 1, 2007

Author's Quick Guide to E-mailing Your Editor

While I love the opportunities that venues such as last week's ACFW conference provide for meeting authors face to face, the majority of first impressions in this business come via e-mail these days . One would think people who devote so much time and attention to the written word would be models of e-mail communication skills. One would think. But such is not always the case. So here's my Author's Quick Guide to E-mailing Your Editor. Offered free of charge--today only.

1. Make sure you are e-mailing the appropriate editor.

I--the gal in charge of mysteries--received an e-mail from an author who had a question concerning Rebecca Germany's trade fiction line. Quoting this anonymous author's e-mail: "but I know Becky is busy and I don't want to bother her, so I thought you could find out for me..."

Uh, excuse me. I know I'm the new kid on the block and all, but I don't just wander the halls looking for tasks to occupy my time.

And then there is the agent who e-mailed a mystery proposal to Becky and asked her to forward it on to the appropriate editor. Not a good move if this agent is trying to sell me on their knowledge of the best target markets for their clients.

2. Proofread your e-mail before you hit SEND. Contrary to urban legend, correct spelling and proper grammar DO matter in e-mails, at least when you're presenting yourself to an editor as a professional writer.

3. Summarize the intent of your e-mail in the subject line. Be as succinct and specific as possible. Example: MURDER IN PLAIN VIEW by Jane Doe--Unsolicited mystery proposal.

4. State your most important business first then follow with supporting details.
Example: "Dear Susan, Attached please find my completed manuscript for MURDER IN PLAIN VIEW. I am submitting it a month ahead of the contract's stated deadline. . ."

5. Keep your e-mail message short and simple. If you find it necessary to address more than one subject per e-mail, number the items so they are easily identified. This also simplifies the response. When replying to an e-mail, include excerpts set in brackets from the original e-mail that pertain to your response.

6. Never forward personal or confidential information without permission of the original author. No further explanation should be required on this one.

7. Think twice before you flame. Feel free to vent all your anger and frustration in an e-mail to that nasty acquisitions editor after you've waited months for a response to your submission only to receive a rejection. Just don't fill in the TO address until the message sits in your DRAFT files for at least 48 hours.

I received an e-mail from an author not too long ago who wrote something along the lines of: "I guess I should take your lengthy silence regarding my proposal as a rejection."

Well, no, that's not what my (not so lengthy) silence meant at all. . .but now that you mention it...

8. Don't add your editor to your bulk-mail address lists for all those fun forwards you like to pass along to your pals, no matter how close you think we've grown. I get enough of these friendly spam messages from my dearly beloved family members, thank you very much.

Okay, so I'd hope to come up with at least ten dos and don'ts, but I'm coming up short and the hour is growing late. You'll have to settle for eight. Please spare me your e-mail complaints! skd


Mary Connealy said...

Susan, I sincerely promise to behave in the future.
Or at least I'll TRY.
Email is very dangerous. It's too quick, you don't have a chance to think....thinking can be exhausting you know.
A wise post. One everyone should take to heart.

Vickie said...

Thanks for sharing this, Susan. It's helps to know how you prefer things to be.

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