Today, I’d like to talk about a business principle called “leads”.
A hot lead is when you cross paths with someone who is ready to buy, able to buy, and looking for exactly what you’re selling.
A warm lead is when you find someone who may be looking for what you’re selling, but not quite ready or able to buy.
A cold lead is usually when someone has expressed interest over the product you’re offering in the past, but you don’t know if they are still in the market, able, or ready to buy.
Here’s a few scenes:
1) Malorie has a friend looking to buy a new home. She wants a condo in a certain part of town where you happen to own a condo and are looking to sell it. This is a HOT LEAD. You want to make this phone call right away and set up a showing.
2) Frank received his tax return in March and mentioned that he wanted to buy a certain electric guitar. You happen to own that guitar. You found out about this and called him in April. He said he was still interested, but had replaced his hot water heater unexpectedly so couldn’t buy the guitar right away. Maybe later. This lead is now WARM.
3) You purchased tickets six months ago for a concert, and now you found out you have to be out of town that weekend. You remember a friend mentioning they wanted to go back when you purchased your tickets, but they couldn’t afford to. This is a COLD LEAD. You call your friend, but she’s already bought tickets from somewhere else.
So why am I telling you all this? I know most of you are thinking one word: DUH!!
Here’s why. Writing is a SALES JOB!!! It’s no different than selling any other product. You have to jump on hot leads, simmer warm ones, and learn how to resuscitate cold ones. I’m going to focus on hot leads today and show you a few that you should jump on…Like this:
1) You pitch a story to an agent. They love it, but already have something similar. Do you:
a. Say thank you and move on.
b. Ask the agent if they know of another agency who they can refer you out to.
c. Ask the agent if they would be interested in negotiating your contract should you find a buyer.
ANSWER: Both b and c are excellent responses. Why would you ever let a conversation with a “buyer” die before you have closed the deal? You wouldn’t!! Think outside the literary box and treat this sort of rejection as a HOT LEAD.
2) A publisher (or agent) requests to see your manuscript. They personally reject it but don’t tell you why. You should:
a) Sit around wondering why and decide in the end that the publisher (or agent) doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
b) Thank them for their time and ask them if they would be willing to explain why they made this decision so you could perfect your manuscript.
c) I don’t really have another solution. Either A or B.
ANSWER: Okay, this one is obviously B. The hope here is that they actually respond with some positive criticism you can use to make your book better. This is a WARM LEAD. You know what you do next? You email them back thanking them for their generosity, and ask them if they’d be interested in seeing a revised version upon completion. This is how you turn this rejection from a WARM LEAD into a HOT LEAD.
3) You are going through your files and you come across an agent (or publisher) you met at a conference / attended a workshop with / listened in on a podcast, who you were interested in submitting to, but weren’t done polishing your revisions (were writing for a different age group, in a different genre, had a baby, etc.). For this COLD LEAD you should:
a) Email them blindly with a query and hope for the best.
b) Email them and mention the previous connection in the email.
c) Not email them at all because it has been so long or you write for a different age group / different genre, etc.
ANSWER: The answer here is B. In fact, any time you can personalize the email with something the agent (or publisher) can use to connect with you it is a good thing. This is basic stuff. We do it every time we run into someone we barely know, like “Our kids are in the same class” or “We met at such and such bar” or “I hit your car in the parking lot and left a note”. Stuff like that. This is definitely a COLD LEAD, but can quickly be warmed up with a jolt of memory juice (“Hi, we met at the June 2011 SCBWI Conference during your picture book course…) and can boldly turn HOT AND SPICY with simply an email or two.
I hope some of these basic sales techniques find their way into your writing toolbox. If you learned something, consider buying a copy of my book.