I’m fortunate to meet and hear from writers at conferences and in other places we meet and there is at least one thing that remains a mystery to me after I meet a writer. So much so that I thought I’d share it with you to see if you have ever been one of the writers that fall into this category. I believe it’s a great hindrance to writers in moving forward after paying to go to a conference, and I don’t want you to be one of these!
Just so you know, I know it is hard to go to conferences and put yourself in front of an editor or an agent. Remember, as agents, we put ourselves in front of editors all the time. We face a “not right now,” or a “not going to work for us” response or any number of comments. We feel your pain, really. And as someone who started out in publishing not knowing anyone, I decided that if I was going to be a part of writing and the media, I would have to introduce myself to people, ask them what it is they do, why they love what they do, and let them know how I would like to work with them. So getting over hesitations or fears is key.
But the big blunder I see writers making is in not following up with an editor or agent after he or she has expressed interest in their material. It sounds crazy, I know. You work hard to get interest but then somehow, writers lose that courage they found at the conference. Or they let other things take over their priorities and they never reach back out to the editor or agent who has said “send me your stuff.”
Now why would anyone paying good money to go to a conference do this? I know, as a mom of three young and active children, that sometimes a day takes a different course than planned and sometimes that happens for months on end. But you have to figure out a better way to follow up with an agent or editor who has said the words you’ve waited to hear: “I’m interested, send it to me.”
Here are four things that I’d like for every writer to know about why it’s important to follow up with an agent or editor:
1) If we say that we are really interested in seeing your proposal and chapters, then we mean it. Not to hear from a writer we have told this to shows us who knows how to follow through and who doesn’t. We can’t help you if you don’t respond to us. If you think, “I’ll work on it some more and then send it,” chances are you won’t. Send it to us and tell us how you plan to change it and we can tell you if we’re interested in seeing the revised version.”
2) Many writers aren’t sure if they’re supposed to email, call, send a personal note, or hand deliver flowers to an agent. What is standard protocol? I like for people I have talked with to email me about a week to two weeks after the conference and send any follow-up material they were going to send that we discussed. If you have a deadline you are trying to meet because another agent or publisher is looking at your materials, please state that in your email. I will respond to you as quickly as I can. I don’t mind getting an email from you reminding that we met. I actually prefer it. As agents, we get busy and often want to respond to the submissions we have on our list. Your email will remind me that we have spoken and that I’m interested in seeing what you have to share.
3) Much of publishing is relationships. We often evaluate how a working relationship will go based on how a writer relates to us as an agent and how they follow up and do what we ask them to do. We know that if this isn’t done well or done thoroughly in the beginning of discussions, then we can tell that the writer probably isn’t going to go very far in publishing if they don’t take some responsibility and provide what we’ve asked for and in the form that we’ve asked for it in.
4) Even if an agent or editor says “no thank you,” to your project, thank them anyway. You would be surprised at the number of proposals I respond to and I never hear anything from the person. Not “thank you for your time,” or “thank you for reviewing it.” Nada. Zilch. Even if the person you want to love your proposal does not indeed love it and they have to decline, you still need to thank them and set a good example of who you are and how you respond to people. This is one of the things that sets good writers apart from more self-serving writers who don’t know how to relate well. Even if your first submission wasn’t accepted, often a writer’s attitude and how they respond can set up a second or third submission with an agent or editor because of how you have responded to the first. If you cut yourself off and don’t respond, you won’t be well-received should you ever try to query an agent or editor again. Be thankful and respectful of the time we spend evaluating your project and listen to why we tell you it is not a good fit with what we are acquiring.
I’d recommend that you commit what your writing should look like in the new year. Begin by asking God, What do your plans look like for my writing and how do I walk in it? Don’t be surprised if you don’t get the response you are hoping for right away. It’s all in good time. Keep writing, revising, learning, growing, and having patience. It will be worth it.