Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website including the free novella, Throwing Stones.
Since I started Go Teen Writers, the amount of writing questions that land in my email inbox have steadily increased. I'm not complaining; that's part of why I started the blog, because I was once a teen writer full of questions.
After reading hundreds of emails that are asking me for something (an answer to a question, a favor, etc.) I've noticed some things that endear me and some that rub me the wrong way. Since so much of the writing business (and really, all business these days) relies on email communication, hopefully these will help you as you email agents, editors, and other professionals.
- Ask stuff you could quickly Google. Not only is it a waste of my time, but it's a waste of yours since it tends to take me a week or two to respond to emails. Or, if you have already done some research, make it clear why you're asking . Did you already look it up but you're still confused?
- End your email with, "Email me back ASAP." I see this surprisingly often, and that's a good way to get your email bumped DOWN on my list. In that same vein, when dealing with agents and editors, be cautious about how often you follow up with them. I heard one agent share that a writer emailed her every week, so she finally just told the writer no without looking at their manuscript.
- Hit send without proofreading. When I get emails that have a typo in them, that's no big deal to me. That happens to everyone. Or if I can tell this is someone for whom English isn't their first language, I understand a misspelling or misuse or two. But sometimes I get emails that read more like text messages, have no capital letters, or have multiple typos and misuses. If you don't care enough to proofread the email you sent me, I lack motivation to invest time in helping you.
- Share why you're emailing this person in particular. Most of the emails I receive specify that they know me through Go Teen Writers, and I really like knowing that. If you're emailing someone you don't know personally, it's nice to include why they stand out to you and why you feel they're the right person to answer your question. Or if it's an agent, you can share why they are of particular interest to you.
- Get to the point. I'm a novelist too, so I get it. We're wordy people. But even when I email my agent, I write my email and then go back through and make serious cuts. I learned that I have a better chance of getting quick answers to my questions when I keep it simple and don't list every insecurity I have about the manuscript I'm sending her.
- Let your personality shine through. If you're writing to an agent or editor, you'll want to err on the side of professionalism and be a bit more formal, but I still think you should speak in your unique way.
- Respond to responses that you get. If you query an agent and they respond with a, "No thanks," I suggest you email them back a quick thank you. "Thanks for your time" is all that needs to be said. Or if you email a question to an author and they answer you, tell them you appreciate the time they took to write you back.
Something I've done recently to help you guys find answers more easily is I created the "Looking for Something Specific?" tab just under the header. We'll continue to add to this list as we write new articles as well.