by Laura M. Thomas, Senior Editor jaBlog!
I have a story for you about how an email can create a good (or very bad) first impression.
On a recent Sunday (when we were closed), I received an unsigned, unedited email from a young writer who was asking about the spring hiring round at LTC. Less than 24 hours after sending the first email, the same person wrote a very rude, five-word follow up email, insulting me for not replying right away. This is not what I call a good first impression, and even though I don’t know his or her name, I certainly know the email address.
This is not the first time I have received a snappy, one-sentence unedited, unsigned email from a young writer demanding an instant response (even on a day we are closed). Sadly, I seem to getting more of them as LTC grows.
To try to solve the problem, I have listed some tips for communicating with busy professionals in the publishing industry. Seriously, one snappy or sloppy email to an editor or bookstore manager, and they will not do business with you. Period. Why would they work with a rude writer who doesn’t know how to write an email, when there are so many polite writers, who write excellent emails, vying for the same attention?
HOW TO WRITE A PROFESSIONAL EMAIL
Do your homework. First of all, do you need to send an email asking a question? Is the information you need already on the website? Please check first. If after spending ten minutes looking, you cannot find the answer to your question, you may submit a polite question.
Be realistic. What are the company’s business hours? Check their contact page so that you have some idea when you might get a response. Don’t email Friday night and expect an answer on Saturday or Sunday. Also, is the company in your time zone? If not, find an online time zone converter so that you know what their office hours are in your time.
Be respectful of the recipient’s name. Start your email with “Dear (name)” or “Hello (name)”. Don’t expect someone to write back to you if you haven’t even bothered to address the email to them.
Be formal. With professionals, it is most polite to write to them using Mr. or Ms. I do believe that even in the current casual climate on the Web, that children, youth and young adults should address adults in a formal way. When I am writing to an adult who I don’t know (for example a book store manager or teacher) I don’t use “hi” because it is too casual and familiar. I use “dear” or “hello.” When in doubt use: “Dear Editor,” “Dear Publisher,” “Dear Manager,” etc.
Be appropriate. Don’t ask for personal information about the recipient or for information about how the business works. Business operations are not public information. Every publication or bookseller generally provides complete information about how their processes work on their website. Keep your queries professional and relevant to the services or opportunities being offered. Random questions are never appreciated.
Be respectful of the recipient’s time. Keep your email short and to the point, but write in full sentences and use paragraph breaks as needed. Don’t send a mishmash email or giant paragraph which is hard to understand and takes extra time to read and figure out. I suggest limiting your email to one question, two at most. Make it easy for the recipient to respond.
Proofread. Show respect and demonstrate your writing skills by using proper grammar and checking your spelling.
Respect yourself. Sign your email with your name and contact information. Don’t try to hide who you are. Use your mail program to create a personalized signature. I don’t recommend cramming the signature full of inspiration quotations, but when writing to us at LTC, it’s helpful to include a little bit of information about yourself so that we know who you are.
Be patient. Give busy professionals a minimum of three business days to respond to your email, one full week is more realistic, especially for busy publications. If they don’t, you may send a polite follow up, asking if they received your email. Don’t take short cuts with your second email assuming the recipient knows who you are. Follow all of the rules above every time you send an email.
A GOOD EXAMPLE
Last week’s Friday giveaway challenge for our LTC Insiders was to send in an email that would impress me with its politeness, respect, and attention to detail; and convince me that I should take time out of my busy schedule to reply. This is the winner. What I liked best is that it is short, gets right to the point, is easy to read, and is respectful in tone.
Hi Laura, - I might change the salutation to: “Dear Laura” or “Hi Ms. Thomas” just to keep it more formal.
My name is Kaia and I am 14 years old. I have been struggling with writer’s block, and I was wondering if you had any tips for me? I have been trying to write my novels/stories, but I’ve been coming up blank.
Thanks for your time,
WHAT IF I HAVE ALREADY SENT A RUDE EMAIL?
Don’t panic. You can always write back to the recipient and apologize. Then, as of today, you can make a committment to following the guidelines and tips provided here. If you are serious about breaking into print, writing a professional email will help you get there.