Sunday, February 05, 2006

NTYs

Polite "No, thank you" professional e-mails are usually easy to compose after you've been published for a few years. In your rookie year you generally say yes to everything, mainly because you don't know any better. One or two faltering speeches at the Daughters of Nancy Drew or Sons of Heinlein club luncheons cures you of that pretty quick.

Having had enough colleagues' doors slammed in my face, I also believe in being as courteous as you can when you say no as a pro. It's hard to ask people for quotes, favors and so forth. I still pay the return postage to send back every unsolicited book or manuscript that is sent to me for quotes or votes for organization awards (on the latter, I haven't been a member of anything for years and still get them.)

I also try to explain the why behind every no, too, because I understand how a NTY can turn into Oh God She Hates My Guts and I Never Realized It in the mind of a colleague. Unless they use my explanation as a reason to start e-mail-arguing with me, and then I just have to shut it down with a "You're absolutely right, oh my, look at the time, must get back to work, see you" note.

Example: I am not now nor will I ever be interested in writing SF chick-lit. That is not because I secretly spit on chick-lit, futuristic romance, other female SF writers, or those who believe the melding of SF and chick-lit will create the next beeg genre trend. With SF, I do my own thing. I never do collaborations. Also, I know as much about feminine empowerment via fashion and footwear as I do nuclear warhead disarmament. So: Just. Not. Interested.

Here are some guidelines to politely saying No Thank You when your inbox starts overflowing with Would yous:

1. Be personal. This person thought enough of you to ask, you can think enough of them to spare them the form letter NTY.

2. Use humor whenever possible. A little laugh, even at your own expense, can ease some pain on the other side.

3. Be honest, not judgmental. It's okay to tell someone you're not into posing nude for the SFWA Writers in the Raw legal fund raiser calendar because your mom will kill you. It's not okay to suggest the requester get a body double for his/her own photo shoot -- even if the requester bears a striking resemblance to a bald warthog.

4. Say yes or no, not maybe, or probably, or possibly, etc. I had one writer do this to me when I was working on a press release list. I actually could not tell from the content of the response whether it was okay or not to add this person, and had to e-mail a second time to ask again.

5. Do not in the process of saying no ridicule the requester's charity, writer organization, friends, co-writers, or any other entity involved in the request. Exception: unless it's the Sisters of the Immaculate Love Scene, in which case, e-mail me for suggestions.

It's a given that the more popular your books become, the more often you will have to say "No, thank you." Only remember to say yes sometimes, too, especially to rookie writers looking for quotes. You never know when the next Stephen King or John Grisham may e-mail you with a nervous, "I know you must be extremely busy, but . . ."

11 comments:

  1. I know you must be extremely busy, but . . . Nah, just kidding ;-)

    I've said yes to a bunch of school visits and kids' lit festivals over the past 3 - 4 months because I like to encourage them to read. Failing that, it might get them out of maths for an hour or two and save them from a highly paid career in the sciences.
    The world needs more starving artists, that's what I say.

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  3. Great post. Having been one of the recient recipients of your generous contest prize, and had the pleasure of seeing your lovely inscription on the bookmark sent along with, I can't imagine you being anything but gracious in any response.

    The time it took to write one simple line may not be much (but it was very heartwarming that it was personalized, and obviously meant a few extra minutes there), multiplied by the 60 or so others adds up pretty quick.

    You are a gem, Lynn.

    Oh, just finished If Angels Burn... LOVE IT, LOVE IT, LOVE IT. (was not expecting that!!!) And the line: She didn't climax-She detonated! OMG, I will think of that from now on every time with hubby (yes, she says without any modesty, it is that good.)

    If any of you bloggers here are sitting on the fence by any chance with regards to picking up one of the Darkyn books--get off the fence and get it now... great stuff.

    Going to read Private Demon now.

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  4. I'm so glad I didn't have anything in my mouth when i read this...

    It's okay to tell someone you're not into posing nude for the SFWA Writers in the Raw legal fund raiser calendar because your mom will kill you.

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  5. Ditto on what Shiloh said.

    I unfortunately agreed to an author thing by going to one of those conventions (for comic books).

    Once people knew I wrote a comic, and was actually published, every artist and writer within a 50 mile radius swarmed up and offered to 'co-self publish'. *Rolls eyes*

    And then there were those that wanted me to elbow the editor to read their manuscript.

    I don't know what will happen when I publish these novels but my... I don't remember doing that.

    The only question I have is, what if you are a soon-to-be-published new author and an editor is asking for quotes from other authors. What could a new writer do?

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  6. This brings to mind one good piece of advice that I read, in of all places, Jim Bouton's baseball memoir "Ball Four":

    "Say you're sorry, even if you don't mean it."

    Although I suspect, in case of requests like yours, you have to be very firm in saying "no" as well.

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  7. Pixel Faerie wrote: The only question I have is, what if you are a soon-to-be-published new author and an editor is asking for quotes from other authors. What could a new writer do?

    If you're a new writer and your editor is quote-requesting for you, there's nothing you have to do. Let the editor handle it. If you're a new writer and any editor is asking you to give quotes for other writers, do only what you feel comfortable doing. It is very hard to turn down an editor, but in these days most writers are having their editors do the requesting, so I have no problem saying no to an editor.

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  8. OMG, I just realized what the comment I made sounded like when I said I loved the book, and then said I wasn't expecting that. LOL

    I didn't mean it that way. I adored the book. I wasn't expecting something, and I didn't want to give away what it was I didn't expect. It was wonderful.

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  9. Miss Write wrote: OMG, I just realized what the comment I made sounded like when I said I loved the book, and then said I wasn't expecting that. LOL

    You undid me with your kind words the first time around, Miss W. :) I do the same thing -- I once had the chance to meet one of my favorite writers (who also happens to be a very big person) and the first thing I said was, "God, you are such a huge, tremendous writer" and then froze like a deer in headlights for two seconds before babbling frantically, "On the page! On the page!"

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  10. PBW, your graciousness is a wonderful example to everyone else.

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  11. I love the fact that you're so kind to rookies, and yet aren't afraid to let the old pros 'have it' sometimes.

    I am pretty shy online [which makes me dork, I know]so I don't comment much until I get really comfortable with the person blogging [which is why I comment over at Doug's all the time, poor guy!]

    This post helped me not be quite so intimidated [you know, with you being a pro, and me still being in the 'wannabe' stage].

    I will probably lurk more than I comment, but I do appreciate your blog, and I love your books [even the science fiction, which isn't my favorite genre].

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