In some ways, my experience is a microcosm of so many who work in the creative fields of publishing and entertainment. I receive emails daily – dozens and dozens – asking me questions, giving me feedback, asking me to read a script, manuscript or treatment. Asking my advice, asking me for freebies, connections or promotions, asking me to do a guest blog. I am very flattered to receive such a plethora of requests. That you think I know what I am doing floors me, in a good way
I enjoy speaking with writers and creatives all over the world.
Writers and creatives are in frequent communications with those who can help them. They send queries, promotional items, trailers, Kickstarter campaign information, headshots – all manner of accoutrement. It’s great how easy it is to reach out to others who may have more experience than ourselves and seek the help we need. I definitely recommend contacting those you admire and seeing if they would be willing to share some wisdom with you.
But like you (and everybody else on God’s green earth) I am busy. Time management is a constant challenge for me. Why should I stop what I’m doing, read your email and respond to you? If the shoe were on the other foot and you had to have some kind of filter for how often you get interrupted with requests, what would your impulse be?
I use the customized Nice (or at least Sane) Person Filter. ™ Which is to say that if you are nice to me, by say, asking how I am, or pointing out a recent blog post or FB update that you liked, and THEN ask me your question, in a friendly, polite way, also mentioning that if I don’t have time, that is also cool, and also attaching a picture of a kitty (no, I’m serious, I am easily bribed by cute or funny things), then giiirrlll - I’m yours. I cannot resist polite, friendly, warm, witty emails. People say to me all the time – I can’t believe you took the time to email me back and be so chatty! I don’t actually have time to be so chatty, is the bottom line. If I am chatty and friendly, it is because you charmed me.
But you would be shocked – SHOCKED – by how often I get emails that are minimally brusque, and sometimes demanding and outright rude. Ask Dianna Zimmerman, the JFEME Competition Coordinator, about some of the emails we get vis a vis the competition. Can we resubmit this? Can we find and identify that? Can we … fill in the blank. We should have a hall of shame of emails that are just – wow.
I have to assume that the Rude, Cursory, Impersonal Email Requesters contact many, many other people outside of myself, asking the same advice or favors. And I imagine their success rate is very low. Why should I guest blog on your blog? In what world do I have time for that, given my own schedule – ohhh a kitty? Well, that’s different. Most everybody is a sucker for a nice person. Oh and sane – act sane, even if you aren’t (writers.. you know it, I know it…)
So as we get going in 2013, a year full of writing goals and aspirations, I know that you will be doing a lot of communicating. And I want you to do it well. This particular blog post applies to the minority of you, by the way, but those of you who don’t take the time to correspond by putting your best foot forward – take note and slow down enough to do it right. You may be surprised and delighted at the number of people who respond positively, providing you with exactly what you wanted or needed.
While I’m on a roll, I have another beef as well – email addresses that are long, incomprehensible, hard to remember or spell and silly on top of all of that. I emailed a writer earlier this week whose email address was an approximation of this: firstname.lastname@example.org. Fundaddy? This is a writer who wishes to have a career in Hollywood? And that’s his email address? There’s a thin line between clever and… just plain silly. Take a look at your email address today. Is it simple, clear, easy to say and to spell? Or does it contain some kind of inside joke or allusion to your marital or parenting status or a hobby of yours? Err on the side of professional and you won’t regret it.
Make it easy and pleasant for people to email you back and your response rate will skyrocket.
When you query or otherwise email any professional and you need advice, direction or their services, be more than polite, be warm and friendly. Personalize your email. Use some genuine flattery - I am emailing you because I really love your film/blog/book. Get to the point but be self-effacing and humble. Recognize that you are indeed asking a favor. And go out of your way to persuade whomever you are emailing that they really do want to help you.
Here’s a quick check list:
- Personalize your email: tell the recipient that you admire their work and why. This shows that you did your homework and are making an honest and authentic effort in your query.
- Use an email address that is simple and professional.
- Include relevant contact information.
- Be clear in stating what you want and if you have a deadline of some sort, make it a generous one.
- Be clear about why you approached that particular person and why the favor might benefit them as well. If is a pure favor, say that too.
- Sign off in a friendly yet casual way. Understand that they are busy and say that.
Avoid the spam folder. Email unto others are you would have them email unto you.