“We are in the business of communication!”

The title of this post is a phrase I find myself using all the time.  We “communicate” all day long by texting, by emailing, on Twitter, on Facebook, etc., but I wonder if we are really communicating. Even phone conversations seem to be a dying art.

The other day when I opened my e-mail in the morning, I found a very concerned message from an editor suggesting that one of my clients’ manuscript was deeply flawed and he suggested that he was going to have to reject it.  I reminded him, again by e-mail, of the clause in the client’s contract requiring the publisher to provide a list of the problems and to give the writer a chance to rectify the situation.  Over e-mail the issue certainly sounded dire and unfixable.  But then he and I talked and he suggested that we call the writer together.  He said he was going to tell her that one of her options was to put the current manuscript aside and begin a new one.  This was a person whom he had only e-mailed with and whom I had also mostly communicated with by e-mail, so we had no idea how she would react.

First, the editor e-mailed my client to make a date to talk.  This naturally freaked her out and she e-mailed me and asked what was going on.  I told her a bit about the problem (again by e-mail) and said we would cover the rest in our talk.  Frankly, I wasn’t sure she would participate in the conference call at all.  She did, though, and when she was told on the phone that one of her options was to put the current novel aside and begin again, she was hugely relieved.  She and I had a subsequent lovely and constructive conversation and we all “walked away” feeling good about what had seemed like an unfixable problem at the beginning of the day.  We all felt much more positive and moving forward.

This all goes to prove that picking up the phone and talking can be far more effective and satisfying than e-mailing as this article in Forbes suggests.

It’s true that phone conversations take longer than e-mailing but often they get more accomplished.  I don’t know about you, but I am going to try to talk more and e-mail less from now on and see what happens.  I would be curious to hear what you think about all of this.

5 Responses to “We are in the business of communication!”

  1. Lynn says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Jane. With all the new technology today, there seems to be less and less verbal communication. You see it everywhere, at home, at work, on public transportation, etc. Everyone is looking at a screen: television, computer, cellphone, tablet, you name it. They’re in their own little world, it’s crazy and a bit scary.

    Yes, it’s great to be able to send an email and within seconds it has gone halfway around the world to a loved one, instead of the days and weeks it use to take to send or receive a letter from home.

    The bad thing is the power people feel in that protection of anonymity behind a screen, where kids are bullied on social media because there is no face to face confrontation. I know I’m getting off topic here, but that’s my little rant for today!

    We definitely need to get back to basics and communicate more in person, but if that’s not possible, then on the phone and that does include Skyping. To be able to chat with my mother in my living room and see her across the ocean sitting in hers is a true blessing!

  2. Joelle says:

    I can’t presume to speak for all writers, but many of my writer friends relish the phone calls with their agents and editors. Even though Michael and I communicate well via email, I am always hugely relieved after talking to him because all the little worries and things that niggle get addressed (usually quickly and with humour). I know some of his other writers and they’re always really happy after a chat with him, too. I am actually moving away from email and trying to phone friends more often.

  3. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    OK, I agree about the phone thing, but I finally figured out what’s bugging me here. I assume all manuscripts from your clients are routed through your good self before going to this editor, and hence if it was “deeply flawed” you would have seen it and had it in working order before this editor ever got hold of it. If this is indeed the case and your taste is as good as I suspect it is, where do these guys get off demanding a complete rebuild? If they don’t trust your taste (and I assume they read this before they signed off on it) or their own for that matter, why are they pouring sand in the gears? If you and your client have your marbles lined up, their job is to spot typos and suggest slight rephrasings and hire a good cover artist. Am I missing anything here? Reminds me of a writer I know who sent a comical fairytale spoof to a major agency after a read request and was then was told “it wasn’t literary enough” and would need months and months of revisions. All this for a silly book for 11-year-olds. Naturally he told them to stuff it and pulled the manuscript…

  4. PaulaLA says:

    As a writer, I love the specificity (not to mention wit) that can be acheived in email. But there are times when the real-time give-and-take of live chat is just the thing. Nice to have both.

    (Thumbs-down on video chat — no scribe should be forced to gussy up for conversation unless it’s an in-person meeting.)

  5. Malia Kline says:

    I believe choosing to communicate via email instead of having a conversation is a mistake whenever the project (1)depends on teamwork and (2) has heightened emotional components. To me, an editor, an author and an agent are clearly a team, and writing always involves emotion. The emotion in this case was intensified by three particularly sticky types of communication: correction, rejection and new direction. In such an emotional environment, having to wade your way through an email trail with no nuance or warmth of voice to clear the path seldom takes you where you want to go.

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