Approaching authors (or at least this one)

Recently, a friend asked me about the best way to approach authors to request things like interviews and guest posts. Obviously I can’t speak for all authors and tell you what everyone prefers, but I know what works for me.

I give to you…a list:

  1. If we have a connection but we don’t talk often (therefore you’re not sure I’ll remember you), I’d like to know about it! Did we meet at a signing? Are you a friend of a friend? Let me know and give me some kind of context. If we don’t know each other, that’s fine too. Just introduce yourself.
  2. It’s okay if you haven’t read my book; I won’t dislike you. Keep in mind, though, if you haven’t read it and you’re asking for a favor, I might wonder why you want me.
  3. But if you have read my book, it’s important to make sure that your “I like your book” line comes off as genuine. I’ve received a few emails in the past that include lines like “I’m a fan of your work” and nothing else. Because I’m nosy, I often hunt down a Goodreads profile or blog to check. Of course not everyone updates their GR page with every book they read, but when I don’t see my book listed as read (or even to read) and they claim they’re a huge fan of my book/work/a generic word that isn’t my title, I start wondering if they might be fibbing.
  4. Like a lot of authors, I get many requests for things, especially around release time (already a super busy time). Which means I need requests to be quick and easy to understand. Help me out by putting all the information I need somewhere I won’t have to hunt for it. (So, not buried in a giant paragraph of other stuff.) I really like lists. (You might have noticed.)Like this:
    • What it’s for.
    • What I need to do.
    • When I need to have it done by.
  5. Infinite options aren’t as fun as some people might think. “Write a guest post for me about whatever you want!” is actually super stressful, because then I have to come up with a topic. I prefer when I’m given a few options to choose from, or something broad but still topical. A post about sequels. A post about voice. A post about how to ask for guest posts.
  6. If you’re using a template and modifying it slightly for several authors, that’s fine! A lot of people use these for big events and blog tours, and it makes sense to avoid writing basically the same thing fifty billion times. I mean, I do appreciate being sent to individually (rather than a huge B/CCed email) and my name used in the salutation. But it’s just fine if I can tell you sent the same basic thing to other authors.

As far as I’m concerned, the best thing you can do when approaching an author for something is this: be polite and professional. Proofread. Remember that answering interviews and writing blog posts takes time away from actual book writing. Ideally, we’ll both get something useful out of the arrangement (blog content, exposure, whatever).

Again, this is all just me, and what makes me happy or sad might not be the same for other authors. But I honestly don’t think you can go wrong with sending a clear, polite, and respectful email—no matter who you’re sending it to, in any industry.


8 Responses to Approaching authors (or at least this one)

  1. Brooke Sep 10 2013 at 8:25 am #

    Great post! I have learned over the last year how to really be concise in my requests. And also, not be afraid to even ask. What’s the worst someone can say? No, I’m too busy now? But, I do have to say (and I know authors are busy) that I get upset if I don’t even get a response. I do try to ask for things well in advance (I have all my author interviews lined up through January of 2014!), so I am always asking way in advance and trying to give people lots of time.

    • jodimeadows Sep 10 2013 at 8:40 am #

      Oooh, offering plenty of time! That’s a good one — definitely one I should have thought about for the post. Because yes, if something is due next week, I will probably not be able to get to it! But a couple months? Yeah, that’s doable!

      You’re right: the worst someone can do is say no, and that’s not very bad.

      I agree on the no-response thing, though. I hated “no response means no” when I was querying (I think it’s unprofessional) and it’s not any better with authors doing it to others. Now, I know sometimes inboxes get put on the back burner for deadlines and tours and stuff, so sometimes it’s actually just a very delayed response — but a response should come, eventually. (I like to offer a warning on my contact page. “Here’s how long it usually takes me to reply, and if you don’t hear back in that time, try again. But keep in mind I might be busy or away or whatever.”)

  2. Jen Sep 10 2013 at 10:43 am #

    This is a great post! I don’t usually ask for interviews or guest post unless it’s for a blog tour because I don’t want to bug an author. I would feel awfully silly doing it, if I didn’t read someones books though.

    • jodimeadows Sep 10 2013 at 1:19 pm #

      I really doubt most authors feel bugged! (I never do, at least.) I love hearing from readers, even if I have to say no to their request because of time.

  3. Karen Myers Sep 10 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    Just a side note… I read hundreds of books/year. I certainly don’t spend my time putting them up on Goodreads. You might not want to rely heavily on that.

    • jodimeadows Sep 10 2013 at 1:24 pm #

      Oh certainly! I definitely acknowledge that not everyone logs their books, and it doesn’t bother me if they don’t! But coupled with a lack of specifics (not even the title!), I think anyone would raise an eyebrow and wonder if they were being fibbed to.

      That doesn’t mean an automatic no — at least from me — but I certainly feel less enthusiastic about taking time out of my workday than I would if I felt the letter read as genuine. 🙂

  4. Danielle D Sep 10 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    Thanks for posting, Jodi! This is helpful for anyone – I work with college students and theses are good tips for them too as they are working on writing professional emails and querying about guest posts, jobs, etc.

    • jodimeadows Sep 10 2013 at 1:25 pm #

      Yes! Sending clear, professional emails is a good skill to have no matter the industry.

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