December 9, 2010

Guest Post: Kit Sloane

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 2:33 pm

Another guest I get to welcome back to Suspense Your Disbelief today! I am so pleased to have Kit Sloane reappear (the reference is an allusion to Kit’s MAGICIANS, the eighth in her delightful Margot & Max series) on Suspense Your Disbelief. You can read Kit’s Moment here. And now, please travel with her backward a little in time.

Kit Sloane -- The Fat Lady Sings

Our Electronic Age: A Writer’s View

With the release of the 8th book in my Margot & Max Mystery series, (and it’s just as thrilling as the first time!) I’ve been looking back—not just since 2000 when my first book came out, but back to the 25-yrs that I’ve been “seriously” writing and working within the “business” of writing and publishing.

Fifteen-years ago, believe it or not, we all used SNAIL MAIL! That’s all there was. And even after the Internet was up and running many, many editors and agents refused to accept “electronic submissions.” (For all I know there still may be some out there refusing to accept anything over the Internet.) Phone calls were frowned on and used as a last resort. These people were BUSY!

Imagine how long everything took to get done. Instead of hours or a day or two, we’re talking weeks and MONTHS. And worse, maybe the letter or, gasp, manuscript, got lost in the mail or was prematurely discarded and we NEVER hear back! You can understand how eagerly we all embraced the ease and efficiency of our computers and all the magic that they can do for us.

Getting a manuscript into print is hard work. It requires different people doing different tasks, working on different computers, usually in different time zones, too. Phone calls are still generally frowned on. My publisher has over a hundred books out there with nearly as many authors who have questions, needs, and wants. I’m just one of them. Her email is filled daily with hundreds of messages from us and the rest of the business—printer, distributor, layout designer, agents, cover artists AND the usual SPAM and personal messages.

Still, email is our single most important key to managing and communicating in this writing business. We must know how to use it most effectively. (Please know that the following suggestions fall under the “do as I say, not as I do” category. These are methods of doing things that I WISH I’d always done.)

What business email CAN do:

It can get things totally accomplished if we’re clear and alert!

My daughter, Annie Sperling, who does my covers, is also a production designer in Hollywood and worked with the Oak Tree designer in NYC who’s in charge of polishing our book backs and spines. When crunch time came (e.g. “let’s get it FINISHED”), she was on location in Bulgaria! And, yes, she and Mick did it all by emails, all the intricate sizing and plugging in of reviews, blurbs, etc. The 9-hour time difference didn’t help, but they got the covers together.

What email CAN’T do:

Remember that infamous saying, the “garbage IN, garbage OUT” comment used when nonsensical things show up on the Internet from us or, hopefully, someone else? Well, believe me, the garbage lives on and it often is US!

First of all, email allows us just ONE chance to tell the recipient what we’re doing/asking/threatening. It’s called “SUBJECT” and this entry has to be succinct and clear or it wanders off the page and no one can read it , anyway.

Think of “SUBJECT” as your red alert to the recipient. Do not do what I often do and simply hit “reply” to practically every message. The “subject” gets way off course and is often totally wrong for whatever message you are sending. Take the time to create a new message with its own “subject.”

Also, if you’re sending on an attachment, don’t rely on your message to automatically say so. Add ATTACH. or INFO IN EMAIL, or whatever sounds clearest to you in the subject line. Recipients look for these clues. They’re easy enough to provide.

So what have I learned at this late date? Assume nothing! When you’re dealing with important matters (and, let’s face it, our books are darned important to us), take the time to state CLEARLY in the SUBJECT area, exactly what you are sending, be it birthday greetings OR the final draft. Number your drafts. Make sure the book in print IS your final draft! (Oh, I could tell you stories about that little mistake!)

Our publishers, et al, get dozens and dozens of emails daily. Make sure that YOUR emails stand out clearly and distinctly. And make certain to check that whatever you send actually gets there and then gets read. If you don’t hear back in timely fashion, RESEND the original email with the exact same heading in the subject portion.

With all these people working diligently to bring out a book, will the finished product be flawless? Probably not. After all we’re human beings who are doing these tasks and we all make mistakes, period. (There’s the friend who learned that the 3rd chapter of her book simply WASN’T there! NO ONE NOTICED except for one lone reader!)

I don’t think I’ve ever seen (or written!) an absolutely PERFECT book. But PERFECT is worth striving for, and, after writing a darned good story, if we utilize it in the best possible ways, our email is the source that will “get it done,” ready for the printer.

A graduate in Art History from Mills College, Oakland, California, Kit Sloane has published short stories and many articles on the art of writing and the writing business. She served as first fiction editor for Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine. She especially enjoys lecturing about the writing world and mentoring new writers. She is a long time member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Mystery Women of the UK and was named one of Mills College’s Literary Women for 2007.

Kit and her professor husband live on a small hilltop horse ranch in Northern California’s sublime wine country.


  1. What fun to go down memory lane and remember how we did business before the Internet. I even remember a time before answering machines. I was telling a young actress I’m working with about that and she said, “Wow, you really are old.”

    Comment by Maryann Miller — December 9, 2010 @ 11:28 pm

  2. Hi Maryann, As I recall it, we just didn’t believe, nor did any others, what the Internet could actually do. To me, it’s still miraculous!


    Comment by Kit Sloane — December 10, 2010 @ 12:30 am

  3. Kit, being a relatively new writer, my first book came out with Oak Tree in 2009, using e-mail and the internet for everything seems the normal way to do things to me. In addition to the speed in which we can accomplish things, I agree that technology makes it easier for us to present a better product, although as you rightly mentioned, there really is no such thing as perfect. I could pick up a book by the most famous writer in the world and likely find a typo, punctuation error, or some other imperfection, but I think that’s part of what makes us human.

    Holli Castillo
    Gumbo Justice

    Comment by Holli Castillo — December 10, 2010 @ 2:34 pm

  4. I agree, Holli, about the “we’re all human” part, but it irritates some readers sooo much to find these errors. I don’t know what the answer is, seeking perfection-wise. Our local paper has a huge picture of a brand new street sign that’s spelled wrong! And that must have wasted a LOT of taxpayers’ monies!

    Comment by Kit Sloane — December 10, 2010 @ 3:55 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress