Why Writers Must Follow-up

By Terry Whalin

These words could change the course of your writing career—if you take action and follow-up. I know this is a bold statement but I want to explain why I'm saying it.

During a writers' conference, I meet with many different writers. I listen to their ideas (pitches), read some of their work and then respond saying something like, “I love this idea and concept. Please send it to me.”

At this point in the process, we exchange business cards and I tell the writer to send the proposal or partial manuscript or all of the manuscript to my work email address as an attachment. The writer will frequently circle my email and make a note on their business card. If they have an extra hard copy, I will take this document home with me. Why? So I can follow-up our conversation with an email (and sometimes a phone call).

If you respond to this request, then you will be among the few from the conference who take such action. I understand the challenges of life. You return home from the event and plunge into your family and life. All sorts of things pull at your attention and prevent you from sending the requested manuscript.

Several of the people I met with gave me flash drives with their submission. Even during the conference, I used these flash drives and put their work into our internal system at Morgan James Publishing. Later this week those writers will receive a letter of acknowledgement in the mail (part of our unusual practice at Morgan James). To be honest, it does not mean they will receive a contract from the publisher or be published with the company since there are still a number of other steps to go before that happens. But they have taken a huge step in the right direction.

We work with people that we know, like and trust. This principle is a basic of sound business. It's true that we receive thousands of submissions and only publish about 180 books a year yet even with the mounds of material to examine, I am always looking for solid authors to publish.

Over the next few days, I will be creating and sending follow-up emails to the people who gave me promising proposals and submissions and exchanges. I follow-up to encourage the writer to take action and send me their submission. When they send the requested material (electronically) then they will keep moving forward in the process and possibly get their book published. It never happens if they do not follow-up and take action.

Years ago my first book was published after a conversation with an editor during a writers' conference. She encouraged my pitch and asked me to send my manuscript to her. I made a note about it, went home, wrote the manuscript and sent it. There were many more steps in the process before my book was published but the ball began rolling from my follow-up action.

Sometimes authors will follow-up with me many months after my request. That is OK with me because eventually they took action. I'm always eager to read their material and keep it moving in the process.

What follow-up work do you need to do with your writing? It might be a short email to an editor or literary agent? Maybe you've sent something and never got a response. Did they receive it? You must follow-up. Each of us as professionals have many things in motion. Your follow-up work is critical to the process and why you must follow-up.


Why writers must follow-up. Here's some insights from a much-published editor. (ClickToTweet)

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link).  He has written for over 50 magazines and more than 60 books with traditional publishers.  His latest book for writers is 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed. Get this book for only $10 + free shipping and over $200 in bonuses. He lives in Colorado and has over 190,000 twitter followers


lastpg said...

Hi Terry. Thank you for bringing this important step to our attention. Follow-up with all of our contacts is important. If you're like me, I have to keep a record of who I told what to to make sure I don't forget to keep in touch! I agree, this is a very important part of our publishing career: developing relationships/friendships as much as we can, even when they're only online and not in person.

Terry Whalin said...


Thanks for the feedback and keep working on those relationships which can be critical from my experience.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Once when I was presenting, I attended a fellow presenter's lecture. I make a habit of doing that and always learn something but am seldom surprised. But Michael Larson surprised me. He said (I am paraphrasing!), that he was tired of hearing how authors shouldn't "bother" agents with followups and said it is a bunch of hooey. He said, of course you should in the same way any good business person follows up. Example: You query. The agent (or publisher's) website says they repspond in two weeks. It's been three or four. OF COURSE, you check with them. Any number of things could have happened (other than 'no interest") to your query. He reminded us that we are in business. It's called a "writing career." And we should treat it as such. So @Terry Whalin, thank you for another little nudge! (-:
Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Terry Whalin said...


Great story from Michael Larsen. Thank you.


Karen Cioffi said...

Terry, thanks for the reminder to always follow up. If you don't take that step, who know what opportunity you will miss out on. And of course, as Carolyn says, you need to treat your writing like a business. Thanks for sharing!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

@TerryWhalin, interesting that I know two agents (you and Michael) now who believe in followup. It's a true #SharingwithWriters attitude. When I interviews more than 100 agents for my The Frugal Editor (bit.ly/FrugalEditor), I was amazed at how many were willing and eager to help me help authors! It was early in my return to writing and I had heard so many "rules" about agents. And scary stories. I shouldn't have been taken in by them, but I admit i was reluctant to start that interview process. I quoted a few of those agents in my books, but mostly I relearned one of the lessons I thought I had always lived by. That is. Don't label people. Don't put people in a box and tie it up. There is no such thing as "typical" among us humans. We are many sided. And often willing to help.

PS: The funny thing is, I didn't ask any of the agents I interviewed about followup! Ahem!

Terry Whalin said...

Thanks for the comment and yes we need to treat our writing like a business. It's a creative endeavor but a creative business endeavor.


I was an agent for a long time but closed it over ten years ago. Now I work with agents as an editor at a publishing house.


deborah lyn said...

Thank you Terry for your post and reminder to always follow up on our actions and inquiries. It is a matter of courtesy, follow through and building trust. Relationships matter. Thanks again.

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