Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I Didn’t' Say That, Did I?

A couple of things are bugging me this morning. The first is why programmers at Microsoft would think that anyone can read Calibri 11 and why MS Word always defaults back to Calibri 11 font no matter how many times the default setting is changed. Dumb.

There's a second item bugging me that brings to mind a question: when did authors begin to believe that it was no longer necessary to begin a formal business letter with a salutation? For those who don't know what a salutation is, it's that thingy at the top of business letter greets the receiver with Dear Sir or Madam, Dear Editor, Dear Mr. or Ms. Smith, Brown, Jones--or whoever.

I used to complain a few years ago about authors greeting me, in this salutation thingy, by my first name. Now the salutation line has completely disappeared. What's going on, Authors?

I'm not a stuffy person; however, there are limits beyond which informality should not go. First of all, please consider what message your correspondence sends. What image does the recipient form about an author, a master of communication for gosh sakes, who can't write a formal business letter?

For those who are still asleep, I'm addressing query letters this morning. Yes, I did call them formal business letters because that's what a query letter is—a formal correspondence between two businesses. Yes, I've heard arguments that go something like this: Writing fiction is, well, fiction writing and a query letter is non-fiction and yada, yada, yada. That's crap, people, plain and simple crap and you know it.

Businesses are people so communication between them needs to be formal or it sends the wrong message. After all, we've probably never met formally or informally. Hardwired into our brain is this mechanism that teaches us to look upon strangers with suspicion and even sometimes disdain. Are you friendly or dangerous? Primitive parts of our brains get us ready to defend ourselves against strangers. Certain chemicals are secreted during this act. Our defenses are up. Fight or flight. I've sure you’ve read this stuff in sociology or psychology classes.

In all levels of communication with strangers, this same process goes on. Opinions are formed about who you are. In verbal or written communication, level of education, for instance, is evident. Worldliness and personality comes through even in the simplest forms of communication.

When you send Ampichellis Ebooks, or anyone else, your query letter, there are things about you that come through before you say a word about your novel. When you leave out a simple greeting, what does this say about you—what comes through? Is it sloppiness? Is it arrogance? What is it? What is the recipient's first impression of you?

Please ask yourself this: what messages you are or are you not sending in your query letters to those you seek partnership with on this rough and rocky road toward commercial publication?