Pussyfooting (Mistake #90)

Be a bit cool when you pitch. Be a bit chilled. Imagine (imagine only) you’ve had half a glass of wine and you have a smile on your face and that it matters – but doesn’t matter that much.

Some writers fret too much. I see their covering or proposal letters and they’re filled with signs of – I can think of no better word, but I’m sure there is one – pussyfooting. A strange mixture of humility and excessive politeness and apology in the most awkward cases – but just one or two of the three in many.

“So sorry to trouble you … I hope you don’t mind my bothering you … I was just wondering whether you’d be so kind to … I’m just a new writer but if you could consider …. I understand you must be very busy … Thank you so much for your time I really appreciate … ”

Part of the editor’s lot is to be troubled and interrupted and busy – they don’t really need to be reminded. It’s not their job to respond to every writer who approaches them, but it is their job to fill the pages they’ve been hired to fill – and if those writers can help, they will gladly give them a little of their time.

The longer your letter, the longer you seek to stretch that time allocated to you. Time doesn’t stretch, and an editor can lose patience. Keep it brief. Don’t be nervous. Don’t overthink.

One of the best tips is to say Hello or Hi. We mostly use emails these days, and it’s a fairly relaxed form of communication. You don’t always need Dear to kick off. Consider informality. A Hello can set the right tone – it depends on the market, your idea, who the editor might be. It’s a possibility; be open to it. If it doesn’t feel right, use Dear. Follow with a first name. Avoid ‘Editor’.

You could introduce yourself, but why not just launch straight into your idea? Cut to the chase. If your idea is as good as it needs to be to attract an editor, you can do it in two, maybe three, lines. Then a line or two about you if you like.

No need for ‘Please don’t hesitate …’ No need for ‘I look forward to hearing …’

Just sign off. Then maybe finish off the wine …

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