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Steven Forbes
01-28-2015, 11:27 AM
I admit, I'm in a somewhat unique position: as a freelance editor with two long-running columns under my belt, as well as being with a publishing company, I'm going to get a decent amount of emails from people I don't know. And generally, that's fine.

However, don't do this:

Begin forwarded message:

You could try going on to Comixtribe and emailing Steve Forbes or Tyler James. They're writers/editors who probably know a lot of artists. Describe the style you want and maybe they can steer you in the right direction. Good luck.
- [Name Redacted]

Steve:

[Name Redacted] recommended I try asking you for help finding a work-for-hire artist to illustrate a book proposal. Might you have a few moments to run through your mental rolodex with me?

That was the entire email I received, from someone I don't know.

I don't know about anyone else, but I find that to be completely rude.

There's no introduction of who they are. There's no mention of anything they're doing, what they've accomplished, what they're looking for, if they're in a position to pay... There's nothing there.

It pissed me off.

But at least I knew what the person wanted. (No, I didn't go through my rolodex with them. If I'm going to do an introduction, it's going to be solid, and that person will be getting work if the two parties can come to terms. Something amorphous like this? Not worth my time.)

I've gotten a few emails over the past week from people I don't know who want to just "reach out for pointers...", whatever that means.

This is not a complaint. This is a heads up for those of you who may want to reach out to someone you don't know.

First, before you even begin writing a note, research the person. They're going to want to know how you found them. Saying something about how you found them and what you thought about their work will go a long way to greasing the skids.

Know what it is you want from the person you're contacting. Make sure it is concrete, so the person you're contacting isn't scratching their head.

When you have those very simple things in place, start writing.

Introduce yourself. Who you are and what you've done will go a long way.

Talk about how you found the person, and what you know of their work. Be polite, but you don't have to kiss their ass.

Talk about what it is you would like from them. A critique? Mentorship? Something more? Spell it out. Use as many words as necessary, so there's no mystery as to what it is you're looking for. Again, be polite.

Give them an out: understand that they could be busy and don't have time to do what you want of them. Say something along those lines.

Ask if you can send samples of your work. Don't just attach it, and don't just send a link. Ask permission first. (And if you get at least a "sure, send me a sample"--get on it! Send it as soon as possible.) The reason for this should be self-evident, but I'll say it anyway: malware.

Thank them for their time, but make sure you let them know you're looking forward to a response.

I'm going to say it again, because it bears repeating.

Be polite.

You're contacting someone whom you don't know, asking for something of them. You know the saying, "you'll catch more bees with honey." Be polite, and be clear.

And that's how you should contact someone you don't know.

scrappy
01-28-2015, 11:30 PM
To be honest, an email like that wouldn't really piss me off and I understand why someone would send something as short as that.

Before writing a whole long email explaining a project to someone I would want to send a preliminary contact email to just say "hey. are you willing to help?" because if the answer is no, then you don't want to waste someone's time (or your own) by sending them a long email that in the end was pointless. The email above has the necessary of the necessary information: 1) that someone actually referred you to them and didn't find you in the phone book 2) the basic thing they want from you. It's short, takes two seconds to read and a fine intro before getting down to business. It also takes another two seconds to reply with: "sure. send over all the details."

It's like, wouldn't you want someone to buy you a drink before jumping into bed with them?

But I guess I see where you're coming from too.

johnjohn
01-28-2015, 11:55 PM
Cold calling people is a balancing act, (IMO) you want to give them enough info to tell them why you're contacting them and how you found them but not overload them with a novel to try and wade through.
Too short and you may miss a key point that causes confusion, too long and they loose any interest in dealing with you.
If you come across like a dick or a shmuck, odds are they won't get back to you.

And start with a fresh (?) email, beginning contact with a forward (unless it's why you are contacting them) just makes the contact look sloppy and not very genuine.
If you're trying to get ahold of a busy person there's a good chance that looking like you contacted them as an after thought while waiting in line at a coffee shop isn't the best introduction.

Eliseu Gouveia
01-29-2015, 12:24 AM
Be polite.

B-but... what if I have a deep contempt for humans?
.
.
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:sure:

Stewart Vernon
01-29-2015, 12:45 AM
I tend to write longer emails. I have had people complain to me that my emails were too long. Then they turn around and complain that my email wasn't informative enough if I leave something out.

So I decided I can't win either way... and reverted back to doing it my way. If I leave something out, that's on me... if they don't want to read a long email, that's on them.

I am courteous when asking for assistance, though. But I err on the side of telling them as much of the whole story as I can as it tells them I'm serious and gives them at least a clue of what I mean to ask of them.

Scribbly
01-29-2015, 02:19 AM
To be honest, an email like that wouldn't really piss me off and I understand why someone would send something as short as that.

Before writing a whole long email explaining a project to someone I would want to send a preliminary contact email to just say "hey. are you willing to help?" because if the answer is no, then you don't want to waste someone's time (or your own) by sending them a long email that in the end was pointless. The email above has the necessary of the necessary information: 1) that someone actually referred you to them and didn't find you in the phone book 2) the basic thing they want from you. It's short, takes two seconds to read and a fine intro before getting down to business. It also takes another two seconds to reply with: "sure. send over all the details."

It's like, wouldn't you want someone to buy you a drink before jumping into bed with them?

But I guess I see where you're coming from too.

I see, you are one of these guys sending this kind of emails.