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Be Prepared To Sell Your Work
by Amy S. Hansen
No one expects the editors to call. Editors don’t call. They
write. They e-mail. Mostly they say no. This was my expectation.
So when they did started calling me, I blew it.
The phone rang and I was dead asleep. It was only two in the afternoon,
but the three-week old and the two-year old were both napping and
I had zonked out on the coach.
I picked up and said a very sleepy “yes?”
The person on the other end identified himself as an editor from
the magazine I had submitted a piece to three months before. “Who?”
I replied, not really wanting to be awake.
He explained a second time and said he was ready to buy the piece
that I had sent. Since he had turned me down three times before
that, he wanted to call to tell me himself.
Finally I woke up. I explained about the baby and why I was so
sleepy (and really not very nice). He said he understood and we
went on to talk about the piece and why he liked this one. I have
since sold many more pieces to that same editor but I’ve noticed
he doesn’t call. He e-mails or writes.
The Moral: We all have bad phone days. No need
to share these. Let the machine pick up. Listen to the message and
So I went back to writing and researching. Stuff I knew well. I
was a reporter before a book writer. So one would think I would
know how to deal with an editor. I mean, the editor was just the
person two desks away in the newspaper. But for some reason a book
editor takes on mythical proportions.
Which brings me to my first book sold over the transom.
I had worked on my non-fiction picture book for a year before sending
it out. And I was back to thinking that editors never call. Still
I was part of a critique group, and I had learned the professional
format for the picture book. What I hadn’t thought about was
what happened next. Until it did...
“Amy Hansen please,”
I was sure I was being called by a telemarketer and I got ready
to tell him that I had five boys under the age of five in my house
and I wasn’t really interested in anything besides some sunshine
so I could send them outside (only two of them were mine,
but they were the noisiest.)
“Amy this is XX from XYZ House. I’m holding your manuscript
and we want to buy it.”
I went a little nuts. Instead of being quiet, or businesslike,
I started babbling. “That manuscript,” I said, as if
I had hundreds out. “Oh, I’m glad you’re interested.
But it’s still out at other houses. What do I do? Do I call
them? Editors say never to call. Do I write them? But that takes
And then realizing I had a real-live editor on the other end of
the line I asked. “Can you tell me what I should...?”
He cut me off. “Let me tell you what we’re offering
and you take it from there.”
I wrote the numbers he told me and he hung up with alacrity.
Finally, I let out a squeal. I had a book offer!
But had I blown it already? Editors like calling to say yes. They
want to offer good news. I had hardly let him talk.
So I collected my brains and did some research. I learned the offer
was acceptable and the company well respected. And I found out what
I should do about multiple submissions. Finally, I arranged a babysitter
so I could call back in peace.
When we talked again, I was ready. I was excited but not squealing
or babbling. I was as articulate as my manuscript would have led
them to believe, and I did not promise anything without seeing the
The Moral: Don’t be surprised when something
sells. Why send it out if you don’t expect it to work? Of
course you should be excited, but if you can’t speak coherently,
make an appointment to talk later. You need to celebrate, but you
also need to be a businessperson.
I know these things are all well and good to say in retrospect,
but the real problem is that we can’t visualize the whole
process until it happens.
So having made these mistakes I’ve learned to practice. I
visualize selling. I even practice negotiating into the mirror.
Now when other editors call, I’m able to be excited and businesslike
at the same time.
Which brings up the final moral: Learning the business of writing
isn’t the same as learning to write. Prepare yourself so that
when your phone rings, you can be professional on your first sale.
© Copyright 2008, Amy S. Hansen
Amy S. Hansen has sold half-a-dozen books and hundreds of articles, and one play, mostly writing for the childrens market. Her books How Things Work, and Wild Animals, can be found on Barnes and Noble, Amazon and in local bookstores around the country.