Sister site Featureworld gets tens of enquiries a day from people wanting to sell a story to a newspaper, magazine or TV. Or to get their book out there? So what’s the best way to catch the editor’s eye at Featureworld and which approach will give a literary editor the best impression of you? Here we give our top ten dos … and don’ts…
Although we have a contact number on our website, the best way to contact us – and any other editor – is by email. Why? Because when you ring you can’t guarantee that person will be in the best frame of mind to speak with you. They might be busy, they might be rushing to meet a deadline. At the same time ringing someone out of the blue and asking them for an on the spot decision about your book or story is never a good idea! So, unless you are ringing to check who to send something to, avoid ringing an editor unless he or she has requested you do so.
DON’T MAKE WILD CLAIMS
Never tell any editor your story will make them famous, be on the front page of every newspaper or magazine or that your book will be a bestseller. It doesn’t matter either that your mum or best friend thought your novel was the best thing they’ve ever read. All making claims like this does is tell someone you are an amateur. If you have a good story, an editor will know and contact you.
DON’T PUT YOU ARE A MEMBER OF SOME ORGANISATION OR UNION
Talking about looking like an amateur, putting you are a member of some journalist’s union or some book club or author organisation just makes you sound naive and doesn’t give a good impression to the true professional you are approaching. It also makes you sound a know-all. So leave it off.
DON’T ASK THE PERSON YOU ARE APPROACHING IF THEY ARE GENUINE OR ASK THEM TO PROVE THEMSELVES
You are approaching them! Do your research about a literary agent before you send off your manuscript or google the journalist to see what recent stories they’ve written. Nothing is more offensive than emailing a professional and then asking them to prove they are just that. If you are not sure about a website, company or individual then don’t contact them in the first place.
DON’T MAKE YOURSELF DIFFICULT TO CONTACT
Saying you can only be contacted by email, leaving off your phone number, giving only specific times when you can speak – it all all off-putting. So give those contact details from the offset and be ready to answer your phone promptly when it rings or at least ring back straightaway.
DO GIVE ENOUGH DETAILS ABOUT YOURSELF
Your age, if you have children or are married – in the media world these details along with what you do for a living and if you’ve had anything published before – it is all relevant. And while you don’t want to big yourself up as above, don’t forget to flag up anything special you do. For example, if you run a popular blog then say so, if you wrote your novel while expecting twins then that’s of importance and if your divorce inspired your novel, don’t leave that sort of info out.
DON’T INCLUDE ATTACHMENTS AND SMILEYS IN YOUR EMAIL
Long wordy emails, emails with attachments or nodding dogs, on coloured backgrounds or with flashy signatures – they just distract from what you have to say and at worse, can make you look childish. Stick to plain type and then not too much writing. Editors are busy people and if they decide to set aside your email to read later (or have to wait until Word loads your attachment) they might never get round to reading what you’ve sent.
DON’T BE OVER FRIENDLY
Asking an editor to meet to discuss your book or story proposal, suggesting you go for a drink together or that you will pop in and see them (unless you’ve been invited) is a big no. Editors are running a business and however friendly they are towards you (nothing wrong with that) don’t get confused and think it means they want you to turn up at their office for lunch. In the same vein, do no ask what birth sign they are, suggest you can read their palm or indulge in anything else that makes that editor want to avoid talking with you. Similarly, when they do ring, don’t take their valuable time by chatting endlessly.
DO LISTEN TO WHAT THEY SAY
If an editor wants you to email over certain photos, contact them when you’ve written more of your book or write a business plan, then do that. Media agents want to sell your story, a literary agent wants to discover the next big author. Making yourself approachable and easy to work with will make them keener to work with you.
DO ASK QUESTIONS
Editors are not mind readers. If something isn’t clear, ask them to explain or put it in writing.
Best of luck…!