To follow-up or not to follow-up: that is the question. No Shakespeare didn't pen those words, but it's a question every writer or business person asks. Since I'm both, I have a double dilemma. Here are a few instances where contacting a client or contest coordinator paid off big time:
1. I recently entered the Genesis Contest. While the receipt arrived for my submission fee, I didn't hear from anyone. Was my formatting perfect? Ahem, not likely in this case. I emailed the coordinator and requested verification that they'd received my pages.
Bottom line, they had received it, but for some reason I wasn't getting their emails about some minor corrections to the formatting. I'm glad I didn't assume everything was okay. I made the changes, and they sent me confirmation that I was officially entered. Whew!
2. Not all companies send an order acknowledgment, so I like to verify receipt. Since all of my orders are drop shipped to the customer, I also check to see that everything is moving along as it should. The last time I did this, I was told the order had not been shipped. Thankfully, the client was understanding.
3. An agent requested a partial manuscript, but I didn't hear from him for three months. I sent a brief note, asking for the status. He immediately responded with a kind note.
So, how do we know when to follow-up and when to wait and see?
1. Be a Sleuth.
I'm on the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) loop. There's often news about the Genesis Contest, Conference, and other aspects of the organization. When I have something pending, I read all notices about that item. It's how I discovered their procedures and the little glitches they were encountering.
Agents and publishing houses put their policies on their websites. Do your homework before contacting them.
2. Watch for Anything Unusual.
Most of the time, quotes, orders, and deliveries are turnkey. So, when something is taking too long, a red flag goes up. Often, it's nothing, but I'd rather risk being wrong than have an unhappy client.
3. Listen for Those Prompts From the Lord.
You mean He cares about this stuff? Sure, He does! He's interested in anything that concerns His kids. I'll get a thought or something out of the ordinary will catch my eye. At times, everything looks fine, but when I investigate, I discover a small problem that could become a major bungle if not addressed.
How can I tell the difference between His promptings and my own thinking? If I'm in a panic or fearful, it's probably me stressing out. If the thought is gentle and stays there, it's usually the Lord trying to get my attention. You know what? If you goof, so what? Chalk it up to a learning experience on hearing His voice.
Writers: How do you decide when it's prudent to follow-up on a submission?
Readers: We have many situations in life where checking to make sure everything is on track can prevent serious consequences. Do you have some examples or tips on taking preventive steps?