Give 'Em What They Want

Monday, April 27, 2015
Tomorrow, I’m hosting one of our WOW! blog-touring authors and I hope you’ll jump over and give a read to the post—it’s good stuff!

But…um…I almost didn’t sign on for this tour. You see, authors often have a handful of prepared posts for tours, and when I checked the author’s available posts, I didn’t see what I wanted. That is, I didn’t see a post having anything to do with writing, and that’s the topic (besides me) that I cover on my blog.

So I contacted the tour manager and asked if the author could provide something about his publisher, or something about his writing journey and helpful tips for my readers. Not a problem, said the tour manager. And by golly, the author wrote exactly what I wanted—and I was delighted. I’m sure my blog readers will be, too.

It seems easy enough, doesn’t it, to give an editor or a publisher or even a lowly little blog host like me what they want? But you would be surprised how often writers push back, and in doing so, hurt their chances for success.

Take, for instance, a magazine that accepts personal essays. Imagine you are the editor and three different, well-written essays come across your desk.

Essay #1 is 372 words over the word count limit. (That writer was sure she couldn’t possibly cut one single word without ruining her grand opus, and besides, that’s what editors are for, right?)

Essay #2 takes the month’s theme and veers so far off the tracks that it’s a train wreck. (That writer takes writing-outside-the-box to writing-outside-the-ozone-layer.)

But Essay #3 rests squarely in the word count limitations, and hits the topic in a fresh and amusing way. (That writer is getting a nice, juicy contract and doing quite the amusing Happy Dance in her pajamas.)

It doesn’t matter what you’re submitting. It can be a book manuscript to an agent, or a poem for an anthology call-out, or an essay or article to a magazine. It doesn’t matter if you’re new to writing or consider yourself an old pro. What matters, if you want to succeed in this business, is remembering a simple caveat: give the people who are buying what they want. So here’s my Top Three when submitting:

*Strictly follow the submission guidelines provided.

*Be professional, friendly, and courteous.

*Deliver on what’s promised.

There’s a world full of skilled writers out there, but you can jump the line pretty easily. Just give the industry professionals what they want and watch your successes stack up!

~Cathy C. Hall


Renee Roberson said...

Very well said, Cathy. FYI, I also asked this author to write up a post that wasn't on the initial list of topics. I thought his book cover was gorgeous and wanted to hear the story behind it for my blog. He was happy to oblige! I think because we read a lot of blogs and provide a variety of content that we can sometimes suggest topics that authors promoting their books might not think of initially.

As a freelance magazine editor, I also appreciate when writers contact me who have obviously done their homework. They know the tone of the magazine, the types of articles we provide, and the recent themes we have covered. I am much more likely to assign an article to a write who pitches an on-target topic with knowledge of our magazine than a writer who sends an e-mail that says "I'd love to write a parenting essay for you sometime . . ."

Scott Keen said...

I'm glad that the post was what you wanted, Cathy. I personally was glad when the bloggers who took part in the tour told me exactly what he or she wanted - it made it easier for me! And also, I agree with you regarding following the "rules" for submission. I think that it shows respect for the person or organization that you are submitting to, whether it be a query letter for an agent, a manuscript to a publisher, or a blog post to a website.

I have to say that for the most part, before I wrote the posts for this tour, I took some time to see what the focus of the blogs were and the style and nature of their posts. I agree with Renee that doing your homework can help you out a lot.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--Great advice. And for those of us who don't do lots of freelancing, your suggestions need to be heard on a regular basis.

I sometimes have a hard time with themes that cover lots of territory. I always fuss and fret over, "Does this story fall within their theme?" But sometimes that can work in my favor--sometimes the theme can be stretched a bit to fit a story idea I have.

As always, the post (and the comments) give me food (a feast) for thought...

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Good advice not only for writers, but for anyone who is self-employed. Following the "submission guidelines" is crucial for most job bids, even outside of writing. And the second: Be professional, friendly, and courteous---always a must, no matter the business. And third, deliver on what's promised---if you're in a service industry, most definitely! Until now, seeing the way you had worded these, it didn't occur to me that there was such a crossover between writing and other businesses.

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