Who are you?*

You are submitting a bid for a job, and if you don’t get it, your cat will be eating nothing but Whiskas, instead of the fancy vet food for old-lady kidneys. She’s excited by the prospect, damn animal, but your self-esteem and the health of your cat are at stake.

You have approximately forty-seven words of an email from your prospective client and maybe sixty words of the job description. How do you figure out who your client is and thus how to appear as the best editor in the world for her? Do you send her pictures of your cat?

Fuck no. You keep it professional. Rely on context clues. How does prospective client (hereafter, prey) write? What does she mention; what does she leave out? Does she talk about money right away? Does she sound uncertain or confident? How does she sign off? Pretty much anyone who has ever tried to figure out the romantic content of a text or email will do just fine with this stage.

Remember your strengths. Does she mention that she’s a new writer? Remind her that you’ve spent the past twenty years mentoring writing for children with agoraphobia. Does she talk about looming deadlines? Tell her about last year’s project that you finished in a week by the sweat of your teeth. (Sure, it’s a mixed metaphor, but I like it.)

Inject humor when appropriate. This should be tattooed on my forehead because although I sometimes have trouble with the “appropriate” part, this is a motto I live by. Do what you can to inject some personality into your email. Let your prey, er, client, know that you are not just some blowhard. You’re an actual editor working her ass off. Say something friendly about writing or about the project. It’s a way to stand out.

When it doubt, keep it strictly professional. Don’t give your prey a chance to get pissed off at you. At least not until you’ve gotten a paycheck.

How do you bring them in?

*Yeah, I’ve got the damn song stuck in my head too. Sorry.

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One response to “Who are you?*

  1. By offering a bit of writing advice they seem to need but don’t ask for. If they learn something, they want to learn more – because we have secrets, and everybody knows those secrets lead to getting published. Of course they do.

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