Thursday, February 9, 2012
The form letter by Terry Burns
"That was a very nice letter you sent, very encouraging, even if it was a form letter."
Well, yeah, but he said it like a form letter was an evil thing that showed how little I cared. Quite the opposite. Instead of ripping off a fast "Sorry, not a fit for me," a form letter is something I have worked on for months if not years. I've taken the time to get words right, to say exactly what I want to say.
I have dozens of them, but that doesn't mean they aren't personal. I select the one that says the closest to what I want to convey, then I make whatever adjustments that I need to make to it to be exactly what I want. You see, the trick is to convey something a writer really needs to hear in order to continue to grow in their craft, or to have a better chance at success, but to do it without being discouraged. I'm not in the business of stepping on people's dreams any more than I have to.
It saves a lot of time, sure, but that isn't really the purpose. Just jotting off some note probably means some things are left unsaid, or maybe something is said that I wouldn't say if I thought on it enough. A really good letter takes time, more time than I have to spend if I am working hundreds of submissions a month.
There's a downside to it. When you take time to try and give someone some input like that a substantial number of them want to argue about it or explain to me the error of my way. Putting aside the fact that arguing with an editor or agent is not exactly the best way to interest them in working with you, if a person thinks I don't know my business and they have to explain it to me, why would they want me for an agent? If you have the answer to that on let me know, because I'm still working on how such arguing is a good strategy.
Taking the time to be helpful practically guarantees further communication. I've accepted that even if it does further fill my inbox. You see, I don't look on this as a job, I do this out of a genuine desire to help Christian writers get their words out there where they will serve the Lord. I gave up most of my own attempts at writing because I thought I could do more good that way.
So don't be insulted if you think some editor or agent sends you something you think is a form letter. Think of all the time and effort they have put into getting that message just exactly right.