Write It Sideways

2 Words That Can Change Your Writing Career

Today’s post comes courtesy of writer Jennifer Farwell. Thanks, Jennifer!

It has been said that the most valuable thing any of us has, which we can never get back, is time.

As an author, one of the most valuable things that literary agents and your readers can give you is the time they spend reading your work. If you’re really lucky, you may also receive feedback, ratings, and reviews about this work.

Now stop for a moment and ask yourself the following question: How do I respond to someone who has taken the time to read my work?

Your response probably varies depending upon the feedback received. In the case of a positive response from a literary agent that gives you hope of finding yourself as the agent’s client, it’s likely that you’ll go out of your way to show your appreciation for their time and encouragement, and put forth your most appreciative and gracious author self.

If you’ve released a book, and someone who has read the book leaves a great rating or review, what’s your usual response? Chances are good that it’s smiling and taking a moment to bask in the afterglow that follows a warm reception of your work. You might tweet about receiving a good review, but ultimately, you’ll move on with your day.

Now what if you’ve received the dreaded rejection letter from an agent, and it includes an actionable sentence or two about what didn’t work for them? Or how about when someone who has read your book leaves a mediocre rating or a bad book review?

Believe it or not, every one of these scenarios deserves expressed appreciation for the person who read your work, whether it was a book, a query letter, or a partial manuscript. Each of these is also an opportunity to set yourself apart as an author with the use of just two words:

Thank you.

Saying ‘Thank You’ to Readers and Agents

When it’s possible to get in touch with the person who has read your work (on Goodreads, for example, you can send a message to the reader), I strongly advocate taking the time to send a thank you note. Here are just two reasons why:

It’s easy to see why you’d want to thank a reader who has left a great review. What may not be so apparent is why you’d want to thank a literary agent who has passed on your work, or a reader who wasn’t thrilled by what they read. In both of these cases, though, it’s important to remember that the reader has given you time from their life that they can never re-claim. This time could easily have been spent doing other things, including choosing to read other books.

When an agent goes out of their way to provide even a sentence of personalized feedback, that’s time out of their day. It’s also above and beyond what 99% of other agents who decide to pass on your work will take the time to do. Not to mention, this type of response from an agent allows you to take a closer look at what isn’t working, so you can make the changes that may help you succeed.

When a reader leaves a negative rating or review, there’s often a reason for it. If he or she chooses to state this reason, it will at times be something you can act upon, such as formatting or other errors. If it’s something like inauthentic dialogue, you can learn from their critique and keep the issue in mind to help improve your writing.

All too often, authors fail to see the value this type of feedback offers when it comes packaged in a form that isn’t a rave review. They also miss the opportunity to acknowledge and appreciate their readers for taking the time to provide them with valuable advice. And when the opportunity to appreciate a reader isn’t acted upon, other professional opportunities are also missed. For example:

So set yourself apart, and remember to say thank you. This act is probably one of the very first things you were taught in life, and there were good reasons for it.

All of that said, thank you for reading. Your time is valued and appreciated, and always will be.

Jennifer Farwell recently released her first novel, Rock Star’s Girl, under the pen name of J.F. Kristin. By day, she heads up the Yahoo! Store Blog, where she writes about ecommerce for online retailers. You can keep up with Jennifer by visiting her web site, and by following her on Twitter.