This week, Brian Whiddon, the Managing Editor of WritersWeekly.com, is taking the helm with a unique “World’s Worst” story.
For all the funny, quirky little episodes that Angela and I experience here at WritersWeekly.com, and share with you, our readers, through our popular “World’s Worst Query Letters and Book Proposals” column, those are but the tip of the iceberg. It is astounding how much craziness and absurdity we slog through on a daily basis while running this business. Some experiences, though, truly leave you picking your jaw up off the ground, wondering if there is any hope for intelligent life on this planet. This week, we’ve decided to share one of these “bang your head against a wall” episodes with our WritersWeekly audience.
Our reasons for this are both for your entertainment and to educate you on some basic rules for pitching and marketing your work.
I received an email from a writer (let’s call her “Trudy the Troll”) last month, asking if we still accept freelance success stories. I had accepted an article from her previously so my response was yes, we’d be happy to receive a query from her.
Publications and editors use specific language to let prospective writers know exactly how their business works, and what they are looking for. Before you ever contact a publication, it’s important to show the editor that you can read and follow instructions. For example, if you were responding to an ad for a job that says “Apply in person with your current resume,” you wouldn’t email the place, and ask for a phone interview.
In the span of just 10 minutes, from 4:21 a.m. to 4:31 a.m. (our time), Trudy sent 6 emails with different query letters. She then sent another 7 as well. That’s right. Thirteen emails! That evening, after Angela sent Trudy a message saying 13 separate emails was unnecessarily filling up my in-box (and hers), she sent one email with 12 queries (she’d simply compiled 12 of her previous 13 emails into 1). One idea didn’t even appear to be a about writing. Another was on a topic our guidelines specifically state we don’t cover. And, one minute later, we received that email of 12 queries all over again. She also sent it to Angela’s email address. So, she had sent the 12-query email to 3 different email addresses at WritersWeekly. When I saw the flood of emails in my box, I checked our subscriber list. Her email address wasn’t on it. So, she wasn’t a subscriber (at least under that email address) and it didn’t appear she’d familiarized herself with our guidelines.
Naturally, by this time, I was exasperated. I will happily respond to queries from 12 separate writers who have made it clear they did read our guidelines but I will not immediately respond to someone who loads up my in-box in such a manner.
Trudy the Troll should have first clicked on the “Write For Us” link at the top of the WritersWeekly.com website … any page. They all have that link, which leads to our Writers’ Guidelines. Those spell out exactly what we want, and what we don’t. Most online publications that accept outside contributions will have some link that says “Submissions,” “Write For Us,” “Submit Your Story,” or even “Writer’s Guidelines.” If you aren’t looking for those links, you will be amazed at how much time you’ll save yourself if you start seeking out a publication’s guidelines, and reading them before making contact.
An important rule of thumb to remember when pitching to an editor is this: Yours is not the only conversation that editor is having. Yes, being a good writer is important. But, not wasting an editor’s time is equally valuable. Here’s the harsh reality: Publishing is a business. Publishers and their editors deal with hundreds of people and issues each day. They don’t have a lot of time to spare. If your writing brings in a bunch of new subscribers, or a big boost in ad revenue, then that publisher will have extra time for you and your ideas. It’s the same way the star quarterback gets more time with the coach to discuss strategies and plays.
I simply didn’t have the time to sort through 12 pitches from someone who hadn’t read our guidelines. To be brutally honest, my first thought was “she’s throwing a bunch of crap at the wall to see what sticks!” When you’re pitching, you are selling. Be considerate of the person’s time who has to read your pitch. Usually, three pitches are a good limit to send for consideration. If none get selected, then pitch three more. But, don’t dump 12 pitches in someone’s lap all at once…and don’t send 15 emails! It’s a quick and easy way to stop being taken seriously. I moved on to the other 100 emails I had to sort through that morning.
After about a week, I received another email, with Angela copied, asking if I’d received the previous emails. I continued about my work, still not having time to plow through 12 pitches from the same person. That was until Angela let me know that she had received an email asking her to check on why I wasn’t responding.
When I was in sales, there was a golden rule concerning selling to a company or corporation. There is almost always a Gate Keeper. It is human nature to think that the owner of a company, or the president, or the CEO is the one who is making the purchasing decisions. But, corporate executives assign someone they trust to screen those who wish to take up their time.
The golden rule is that the smart salesman finds out who that trusted gate keeper is, and makes them a friend. But, if you want to land on the “do not buy from” list, then try to make end-runs around the gate keeper. Even if you get an audience with the big boss – if they decide they like what you are selling, guess who they re-route you back to for hammering out the details? That’s right – the Gate Keeper.
Demanding to speak to someone’s supervisor works for customers at restaurants. It does NOT work when you are trying to sell something.
Out of courtesy, I responded to Trudy, and explained that I already had all of the articles I needed for this year. Indeed, I still receive pitches every day, and I still accept some. But, I don’t need any more content right at the moment as I have plenty in the queue.
Learn to accept rejection professionally. Again remember, when pitching, you are selling. And, in many sales jobs, the average pitch to sale ratio can be as high as 100 : 1. That means 100 pitches to get one “yes.” People say “no” for any number of reasons. Don’t take it personally. Move on. Circle back in a month or two, and pitch something new (but not 12 somethings!).
Trudy didn’t learn this lesson. Instead, she emailed Angela several more times, complaining that, because of the time it took her to compile the 12 pitches she sent in, we owed it to her to purchase one as an act of “good faith.” Angela had reviewed her 12 queries, and explained that none of her article ideas would work for us at this time.
And, then, Trudy got mad. VERY mad. She sent several more emails to Angela, one of which insisted all of her ideas were good. Another one stated she would be watching WritersWeekly to ensure we wouldn’t steal any of her ideas. Yet another one accused Angela of trying to hurt her, which was not only bizarre, but extremely unprofessional. Angela, of course, simply stopped responding to her.
Here is a gritty little piece of reality I should NOT have to spell out to adults: Until you have a contract with an editor, nobody owes you anything. You have to earn it. After 13 separate emails, and then 12 queries in one email, all sent on the same day, and an email saying we somehow owed it to her to assign an article to show honor, commitment, and a “balance of energy” (really?!), Trudy wasn’t earning anything but our frustration and impatience.
After receiving back-to-back emails, Angela made a comment to me that Trudy now appeared to be stalking her. And, it appears Angela was right. Over the next couple of days, it appeared that Trudy was attempting to troll WritersWeekly in the comments section under false names. Unfortunately for Trudy, all WritersWeekly comments must be reviewed and approved by – you guessed it – the Gate Keeper. And because of this, we won’t be publishing the articles that we did purchase from Trudy, nor any future articles from her. It’s the principle of the whole thing more so than the money we spent on the work.
For all writers, publishers, and editors, it’s important that we keep in mind that this is a profession. Even in this day and age of email, PayPal, social media, and anonymous comment posts, publications are still businesses run by human beings. Selling your writing is not just about what and how you write. Often, it is how you sell that will make or break you. Stay professional, stay mature, respect other people’s time and money, don’t demand to be paid for something that wasn’t assigned, and avoid talking about a “balance of energy” and hurt feelings when emailing editors! If you do all of these things, you’ll be far ahead of the curve.
And, for Pete’s sake, do NOT stalk a publisher or troll their website!!
Brian Whiddon is the Managing Editor of WritersWeekly.com and the Operations Manager at BookLocker.com. Brian is an Army vet and former police officer, and spent several years chained to a desk, commuting Tampa’s congested roadways, working in corporate management and training, while writing in his spare time. He is now an author, and avid sailor, and NRA-certified firearms instructor. Brian lives and works aboard his 36-foot sailboat, the “Floggin’ Molly” in St. Petersburg, Florida. He calls her his “rescue boat” that he found abandoned in a boat yard and rebuilt himself – fulfilling a dream he had to one day live aboard. Brian no longer commutes, and has donated all his business slacks, collared shirts, and ties to Goodwill.
7.625 STRATEGIES IN EVERY BEST-SELLER - Revised and Expanded Edition
At this moment, thousands of would-be authors are slaving away on their keyboards, dreaming of literary success. But their efforts won’t count for much. Of all those manuscripts, trade book editors will sign up only a slim fraction.
And of those titles--ones that that editors paid thousands of dollars to contract, print and publicize--an unhealthy percentage never sell enough copies to earn back their advances. Two years later, most will be out of print!
Acquisition Editor Tam Mossman shares seven essentials every book needs to stay in print, and sell!
Read more here:
HOW TO REMEMBER, WRITE AND PUBLISH YOUR LIFE STORY
Angela Hoy's popular online class is now available in book format!
Remember Your Past
Write It and Publish It
in as little as 12 weeks!
Angela Hoy's book will get you started!
- Using Angela's MEMORY TRIGGERS, recall memories that have been dormant for years
- Record those memories in chronological order in your memory notebook
- Using the memory notebook as your outline, write your autobiography!
- Also works for biographies and memoirs!
Read more here: