Tuesday, December 2, 2014

7 Quick Email Etiquette Tips

by Stephanie Morrill

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.

Don't:

  • 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.

Do:

  • 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.


20 comments:

  1. Wow! This'll really help when I start querying agents and stuff (though there's many years to that LOL), but I can imagine it helping lots of other times too. Thanks for the post, Mrs. Morrill!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the tips!! I tend not to always read my messages before sending them out..and then when I do read them there are quite often typos :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never noticed your emails being particularly full of typos, Keturah :)

      Delete
    2. Well, my emails are better than my texts...but then who texts without typos nowadays ;)

      Delete
  3. The same as Jonathan said above: This will definitely help when I begin to query. (Who knows how long that will be...I'm hoping sometime next year...LOL. Maybe by this time next year. :P) I try to make sure my emails and things don't have typos. I succeed most of the time :p

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think this is a good reminder for a lot of us, since I can remember being taught how to write a formal letter in elementary school but never learned about how to write an email. I mean, I figured it out, of course, but I imagine there's probably a lot of us, especially nearing graduation, who also had to figure out Internet etiquette alone. And I LOVE the new Looking for Something tab. I mean, search bar's great, keep that too, but hopefully this might speed up the research process. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heather, I hope school curriculum will start to include more about email and even presenting yourself well on social media, if it hasn't already.

      Delete
  5. This is important for everyone, really, not just emailing "professional" people you want something from. It's just plain polite and nice on the eyes and brain. If you take care when you write emails, it shows people that they're worth your time, even if it's only a quick note. If you slap-dash something off without checking over it first for problems, it tends to say, "I don't really care what you think of this, because I don't even want to be emailing you right now anyway." Even if that's not what you meant.

    And of course, we've all heard this before, but I'd say again to take extreme care when replying to something that made you upset. Written communication can be a benefit here, if we let it--we can wait a bit and calm down before forming a reply, while we don't usually have that luxury in a face-to-face conversation/argument. But it's also extra important to be careful when replying by some form of written communication to these kinds of things because it's often easier to say things way too quickly that we will later regret, without the other person in front of us to remind us of their feelings. I know I have been guilty of leaning on emails as a "cheating" way of saying something hard, and I've also been guilty of firing back an annoyed response instead of letting myself build a distance from the problem. So, just be really, really careful about that. I know it's so easy to forget how much power words have, but we're writers. We of all people don't have much in the way of excuses there.

    Okay, I'll get off the soapbox now. But, there's my two cents added. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Really great thoughts, Amanda. Thank you for sharing that!

      Delete
    2. Good advice, Amanda. It *is* really important to not snap off a reply when you're upset.

      Delete
  6. Thanks very much! These tips are extremely helpful!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great post! I totally agree with all of these. There's nothing worse than an receiving an email with all your don'ts, when the sender doesn't even realize it's not very professional. Hopefully this post will clear up some of those emails:)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great post! After all the blog posts I've read, I know you shouldn't rush agents, or do any of the "don'ts" for that matter.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm mostly preaching to the choir here. Those who know me from Go Teen Writers and contact me for that reason are usually the kindest, most respectful, and best written emails I receive.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is so funny...when my pastor, who directs the choir, says something that's gently reproving, he jokes and says he's "preaching to the choir" and literally is. LOL :) But then I read this phrase in a book the other day, looked it up to see what it actually meant, and now you're using it! Aaack, this expression is chasing me! ;)

      Delete
  10. Thank you for the post! I just reread The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet and one of Ellie's friend encouraged her to say 'thank you' to people. :-) Anyway, I just thought it was cool you included that tip here also.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have been in contact with other writers before and some of the used Emoticons. It was not on a specifically teen site so I was surprised. I always tried to keep my emails professional as possible. Is using Emoticons unprofessional?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think they are too, so I would stick with what you've been doing and not use them.

      Delete
  12. Excellent advice. The only thing I'd want to add is the salutation- people get VERY touchy if you address them the wrong way in an email.
    Start formal (e.g. Dear Mr... Yours sincerely, Dear Sir/Madam... Yours faithfully).
    When (if!) they reply, they'll usually end their email with the way they want to be addressed.

    For example, if I email a new professor I'll begin with

    Dear Dr Bloggs,

    [Content of email]

    Yours sincerely,
    Olivia [Surname].


    When he replies, it'll usually look something like:

    Dear Olivia,

    [Content]

    Best wishes,
    Joe.

    At this point I will know that I can call him 'Joe' in all further correspondence. If he signed off 'Dr Bloggs', I'd continue to call him that.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Fab advice. Professionalism will take you far.

    ReplyDelete

Home