On the Advisability of Optimization . . .

Frankfurt Book FestivalWhen I’m slaving away over a hot manuscript, I don’t like the constant interruptions of email, so I have come to an agreement with myself (that I keep to at least forty per cent of the time): when I am editing, I check email once an hour. Even that’s a bit of an imposition (and it’s one of the reasons I get most editing done in the evenings, when everyone else has settled down to watch twenty-seven episodes of the fifty-third series of Get That Foul-Mouthed Shouty Person in the Tacky Designer Gear Out of The Kitchen of the Littlest Sister’s Grandly Designed House Boat Bake-Off  II). Anyway, that’s my rule and I stick to it enough that sometimes I can even achieve the 50-page-a-day target I set myself*.

It’s always a little aggravating, then, when I discover I’ve broken my concentration for an email that has as its subject line:

May we drop by during the Frankfurt Book Fair 2014?

You have all shared the pain of my back-to-back Frankfurt schedule before now, and as Nicola stood in so brilliantly for me last year when I was felled by a lupus flare, you know it’s not just me; every editor and rights exec attending the book fair is completely booked up and entirely focused on selling the rights to their wonderful authors/ finding amazing new authors for their burgeoning lists in easy-to-digest half-hour slots.

This year the Frankfurt Book Fair opens on October 8 – which is 16 days away (ARGH! Breathe deeply. Okay, better now . . .) – and my first appointment is about an hour after I arrive in that fair city. At least that one is in a bar! And the first meeting scheduled this year was actually booked on the last day of the London Book Fair. Which was in April.

So 16 days before the biggest book fair in my calendar, someone thinks I’m going to have time for them to ‘drop by’.

Sweet.

I should just have stopped there, but unfortunately, I did actually open the email. Not only does someone want to ‘drop by’, they want to ‘identify opportunities in the e-book market space where we can jointly work together†’.

Now maybe I’m just aggravated because this is the thirty-seventh such email this month offering to ‘optimize my IT operational cost, and achieve my business goals’ and I’m getting bored of typing the words ‘all my production needs – including my digital needs – are handled by Quercus/Hodder and Hachette UK’.

On Friday I was offered:

the kind appointment at Frankfurt book Fair 2014 to take our business forward mutually.

(Do I give Brownie points for use of colour as well as bold and an entertaining font, I wonder? Perhaps not . . .)

On Thursday, after the initial query email got my aforementioned terse but polite and entirely factual response, I got this virtually by return:

As spoken to you, if you could meet us on any day convenient to you.
If you like our proposition (Indian Pricing & Quality), we can move forward.

And on Wednesday my favourite was:

we are working with  Top university presses & publishers for their publishing , e-learning requirements in a larger way.

And did I mention these latter three all offer proof-reading services too? Oh joy!

But I get even more aggravated when my politely worked ‘thanks but no thanks’ email immediately elicits a ‘Yes, but you don’t understand what we can offer you’ response. @LitAgentDrury has taught me an invaluable coping mechanism here (but as I am not sure this is a suitable use for such high-powered toys I have instead taken Option B and ticked ‘This is Spam’ and ‘DELETE!DELETE!DELETE!). It’s the adult way.

I know they have a job to do, and probably if I were offering those services I too would be emailing for appointments. But here is what I would do: I would (a) find out who in the company deals with what I’m offering, and (b) contact them six months before the book fair and (c) give them an example of why my service is much better than anyone else’s. Oh, and I would make sure my initial email was literate and properly spelled and punctuated (especially if offering proof-reading and copy-editing). I would not (a) email everyone in the company and hope someone responds, (b) pepper my email with exciting and emotive phrases like take our business forward mutually and work together for a mutually beneficial business future and We service the world’s largest Children’s Book publisher (although I suspect he didn’t mean it in that way) and (c) I would never ever ask someone if they are having a great day!

So having got that off my chest, and secure in the knowledge that Nicola has pretty well filled my Frankfurt diary anyway, I am returning to my scorching hot manuscript: you will be delighted to know that Sebastien de Castell’s Greatcoat’s Lament is everything I’d hoped it would be! And I have more treats in store: Naomi Foyle’s Rook’s Song, the next part in Astra’s story, and A Cold Silence, Ali Littlewood’s follow-up to her Richard & Judy hit A Cold Season, have been delivered, and I have the first chunk of the final part of Clancy’s story, Peter Liney’s In Constant Fear, ready to read too.

You’ll forgive me if I ignore you all for the next few days . . .

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