Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Call - or rather, The Email(s)!

by Tamara Hogan

This month's blog topic is "The Call" - that fabled moment when, with a single phone call, an editor extends a purchase offer that transforms an aspiring author into a pro, regardless of how little experience he or she may have.

These days, most of that process is handled via email, and I must admit that I prefer it that way. I'm definitely an email girl. I have email addresses older than some college students, and between my day job, the business of writing, and personal email accounts, I triage over a thousand emails a day. Some I dutifully read and file for later use. About 10% require detailed analysis and response. Others can be skimmed and deleted, a few more discarded bits and bytes tossed, hissing, onto the digital discard pile.

But some emails stay with you. In 2009, a very special email hit my in-pan: Sourcebooks editor Deb Werksman, responding to my email query, informing me that she was about to read my manuscript.

I was both exhilarated and terrified. The opening chapters of the manuscript had won a 2009 paranormal Daphne and finaled in the Golden Heart, but this? This was the real test. Only a handful of people had read the manuscript front to back. I knew I was a decent writer, but the top editor on my list was about to tell me whether she thought I could tell a story. A marketable story.

Needless to say I didn't get a lot of work done the day that email arrived. In the days that followed, I was able to shove thoughts of Deb reading my manuscript to the back of my mind for several hours at a time (I'm very good at focusing on things I can personally control) but every now and then I'd look at the glowing red "Followup" flag I'd placed on the email, and I'd double-check the sorting rule I'd created, which would shuttle any Sourcebooks email to its own dedicated folder so the email wouldn't get lost in the deluge. 

And several weeks later, the email I'd been waiting for finally arrived. I took a deep breath. This was the moment of truth. I opened it. Read. And there, after a cheery "This is pretty great!" was Deb's request for an Underbelly Chronicles series outline, and alternate title ideas to take into the acquisition process. A flurry of emails followed, and to make a long story short, Deb extended an offer for the first three books in the series - only one of which was written, but that's a topic for another blog. ;-)

I've exchanged hundreds of emails with members of the Sourcebooks team since that day, but there are some I've archived for posterity: the offer, quickly followed up by a personal phone call, where Deb told me my manuscript rocked her world. The email reflecting my debut novel's publication date. Editorial revision notes. Several versions of my cover, the last with the tattoo tweaks I requested. 

But there's one specific email I value above all, one I printed and taped to my computer monitor, where it hangs to this day: an email from Deb, accepting my revisions for TASTE ME, stating, very simply, "Good job." Whether it's by email, phone or in person...somehow Deb always knows exactly what I need to hear.

All things being equal - and of course, they aren't! - what's your preferred mode of communication? Phone, email, text, letter? Why? 

14 comments:

  1. Great call story, Tamara!

    I prefer emails. Though there's nothing like the excitement in another person's voice on the line, an acquisition email can be poured over later, savored and saved.

    Plus sometimes things get lost in translation on the phone. I make it a habit to follow up phone calls with an email saying, "Here's what I understand you need from me..." Sometimes, my editor has written back that I'd misunderstood and I saved myself some unnecessary revisions.

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  2. That's so awesome and exciting. So you sold without an agent? Then it must have been a surprise!

    I'm fine with emails or phone calls, but if I get a call, I need time to put Elmo on so Baby Galen is happy.

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  3. Email, because I can save it and look back at it later. Also, I may miss a lot of calls, but I rarely miss an email!

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  4. Love the story, Tamara. I'm greedy. I want the phone call plus the email. That makes it double sure that I got it straight!

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  5. What struck me about your post is that the process you describe--interest, more interest, collaboration, a give and take that results in increasingly refined communication.... reminds me of the way any good relationship develops, especially that part about you hit the revisions on the head, and Deb knew exactly how to let you know it.

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  6. Great post, Tamara! I never get tired of hearing how others got the call!

    I prefer emails. I work, and so when I get home at night, I diligently go through my emails and reply to those that need it. It's easier for me to do it that way when I'm tired after working all day.

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  7. I'm an e-mail girl too, although it's fun to get calls on the really big things, like contest wins or selling a book. But for business and everyday communication, I like email because you can set your own communication schedule and no ringing phone interrupts your writing!

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  8. Great post, Tamara! I can feel your excitement. ;)

    My first sale was a phone call (before everyone had cell phones or email..I know it's hard to believe), so I'm kindof partial to phone calls. ;)

    But I'll take either. LOL!

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  9. @Mia - yes, one thing that I like about email is that both people are reading the same thing and there's less opportunity for a miscue. Miscommunications happen occasionally, but there's definitely less of a "telephone" effect if things are in writing!

    @Shana - I actually queried Deb and got my agent in parallel, shortly before Sourcebooks offered a contract - which was one of the primary reasons I wanted an agent in the first place!

    @Cheryl - I have to admit I rarely answer my phone - or perhaps I should say that I don't let a phone call interrupt me if I'm busy doing something else. ;-)

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  10. @Carolyn, I don't think think that's greedy - it's covering all the bases!

    @Grace, you nailed it. Emotionally I'm kinda wired like a guy (and more than one guy I've dated has told me so). Short and sweet is more meaningful to me than effusive, extravagant praise.

    @Terry, even at work, I find the phone to be an interruption. I have a capability through my work tooling where if my phone rings and someone leaves me a voice mail, I get an email letting me know that. I can then finish the task at hand, and return the message when it's convenient.

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  11. @Joanne, it sounds like our communication preferences align pretty neatly!

    @Colleen - yup, when it comes right down to it, any communication that means SALE = great!

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  12. Lovely story, Tamara!

    I tend to like emails best. I like having a written record, plus getting the email first gives me time to fully consider the issue. That way, I don't sound like a complete idiot. For some reason, not sounding like an idiot while talking to my editor is really important to me. LOL

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  13. @Tracey, I agree on all points. I do some technology standards auditing as part of my day job, and sometimes having things in writing is crucial.

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  14. Tammy -- I'm excited for you and your success. Email for me -- I'm a tad shy. I get nervous on the phone even when excited.

    And nice meeting you at the signing!

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