Monday, January 22, 2018

Use The Gentle Follow-Up


By W. Terry Whalin

The path for a book to get published is filled with many twists and turns.Each leg of the communication process can break down at some point. One of the most critical steps is the beginning where you get connected to an editor or an agent who can champion your book and guide you through the process.

A couple of months ago, one of my writer friends recommended an author send their material to me through Morgan James Publishing. This author followed our submission guidelines and yet never heard from Morgan James. Following the guidelines is important and often the submission process will shift and change.

After over a month of hearing nothing, he sent me a short gentle follow-up email. It was the first I had heard about his submission. I explained to the author that I’m not the only person doing acquisitions at our company and his material could be with another editor.

Yet when I checked internally I learned the material had been forwarded to me from my colleague's cell phone—and I never received it. Because I never received it, the submission didn’t get entered into our system. No follow-up acknowledgement letter was sent. Nothing happened. Because the communication channel (sending by cell phone) didn’t work, the communication process was broken.

This author was wise to check with me. Now I have his material and it is in the system. Now this author has received the follow-up acknowledgement letter in the mail and his submission is engaged in the process.

Over my 20+ years in publishing, I’ve seen the communication process break down over and over. Sometimes things get missed or lost. I’ve watched writers who do not follow up miss their opportunity or delay their work getting published because they fail to do this important work.

There is a right and a wrong way to follow-up. The right way is to gently check with the editor or agent and ask, “Did you get my submission?” Notice the question isn't asking for a decision on the submission. You are simply trying to find out of the communication process worked and your email or submission reached them. If not or if they have lost it, they can ask you to resend it and things can get on track.

If you push and ask for decision, nine times out of ten you will get an immediate “no thank you.” Publishing is often a team effort and this consensus-building process takes time. To get a “yes” takes time to achieve but “no” can be said quickly—except writers don’t want to hear “no.”

Where are you with your submissions? I encourage you to follow-up. As you take action and ask about your submission, you are doing a critical part of the process to make sure nothing slips through the cracks. You want to have your opportunity for your submission to be considered and receive a response. Who knows, you might get a “Yes” response.


Do you follow-up? Tell me in the comments below about your good and poor follow-up experiences. I look forward to hearing from you. 

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W. Terry Whalin has been an acquisitions editor at three publishers and is a former literary agent. For the last five and half years, Terry has been acquiring books for Morgan James Publishing, a New York publisher doing about 150 books a year. His contact information is on the bottom of the second page. Terry has written for more than 50 print magazine and published more than 60 books including his classic Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets to Speed Your Success. He has over 220,000 followers on Twitter and lives in Colorado.
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4 comments:

  1. Wish I had known this year's ago. I had submitted my book and gotten a positive response but the agent asked me to make a few changes. I made them within 30 days and returned them as requested. I never heard anything. I anxiously twisted my hair trying to figure out how to send a follow up letter. I didn't know if it would be perceived as being impatient as I know it can take up to a year to get a response. I never did follow up. I think I missed a golden opportunity.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wanda, thank you for this feedback. Yes you miss opportunities if you don't follow-up--but my point is to do it in a gentle way--like making sure they got it instead of pushing for a decision. Pushing always ends up "no thank you" from my experience. Terry

      Delete
  2. Terry, thanks for the tips on how to handle the silent query or submission. Authors often don't know the protocol when they don't receive any word and it's been awhile.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Karen, thank you for this feedback. Authors need to follow-up. Maybe they never received it in the first place--or maybe it is in process and your query will bring it to the top of the consideration process. Terry

      Delete

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