An important aspect of editorial approach is the mode of communication. Some editors prefer phone, some email and others a personal meeting. The main way to find out is to get in touch with them. But sometimes, that can be difficult. The data is sometimes available in books such as the Writer’s Digest or other annual compilations of publishers and editors. Another source is online databases of editorial contacts. The better ones note the preferred mode of communication.
This is no small matter. I have some PR contacts that only want to get on the phone with me. There are others who send a perfectly good email and then are compelled to call me, find out if I received it and want to discuss it at length. I rarely ever take phone calls. I find them time consuming, inefficient and I generally have to follow up with an email to confirm the details of what was said. Of course, the phone has its place and I do use it – but sparingly.
For me, email is best. I can control when I answer and when I don’t. I let most phone calls go to message and often follow up with an email if I can. That way, I have a searchable record of communication (often necessary as the details can get sketchy after a week or two).
I take this as far as doing most of my interviews, these days, via email. Instead of spending a week trying to arrange a convenient time, then an hour on a call, I can boil it down to half a dozen questions that can be sent out to multiple sources. This saves me dozens of hours a month.
Most phone interviews are over long and many suffer from corporate interference. Sometimes I have to suffer through six people being in on a call and someone else doing the questioning. What would take me 15 minutes chews up a whole hour. Ugh.
What about the good old personal touch? You get indoctrinated that only the in-person interview gives insight into the soul of the person. Hang on. We are not all Barbara Walters here. The last thing I want is an interviewee to burst into tears. I want technical facts and maybe a little color. If my email interviews don’t give me that color, I can usually add it myself.
But others prefer the phone and are happy to yap – if you are an accepted caller. The younger set appears to prefer texting. I have to text my son to get him to take a phone call or look at an email, for example.
I’ve found editors will respond to email if keep it short and to the point. A good subject line, a direct approach, little or no preamble: in a few sentences, they can decide to find out more or delete. Value their time. You are probably one of 50 people contacting them that day. Only a couple deserve attention. If you aren’t one of the privileged view, at least have the courtesy to make it easy for them to find out fast.