I got an interesting email the other day. It’s not uncommon for me to get emails asking for advice, help plugging a book, or offering me some service. Generally these emails range from midly annoying (“I can give your website more visibility!”) to downright insulting (“Can you tell me how you managed to get a publishing contract?”). I ignore at least 90% of these, and the few that I deem worth of a response I usually reply with a curt but polite “no thanks.”
This email was different, though, in a number of ways. With the sender’s permission, here it is in its entirety:
Hello, my name is Charaki. I own all of your Mercury books, as well as The Force is Middling in this One which I revisit whenever I need a laugh. I am e-mailing to ask you if you would be willing to let me edit one of your books for free. I am seventeen years old, I have been at the same job for the last three years, and I just quit to pursue online editing. I am working on getting my BA in English. I graduated high school at 15 and am Clep testing my way through college, paying for it as I go. I also run a tuition free Worship Dance School in my very poor, rural community. We currently have over fifty students, most of whom could not afford dance classes anywhere else. We use these classes as an opportunity to teach kids about God through bible studies and just spending time with them. I don’t make anything doing this, and we are run off of fundraisers and donations. Editing is something I enjoy and have a talent for, and I need a better income than what my previous job could provide. Please let me know if you are willing to take a chance on me!
Let me draw your attention to five things about this email:
- This is obviously not a spam email Charaki has sent to 500 authors. Not only that, but her email starts off with a big compliment to me. That’s a pretty damn good way to keep me reading.
- Charaki has done her research. She knows my books and has read at least some of them.
- Charaki tells me exactly who she is and doesn’t pretend to be someone she’s not (either that or she’s a very good pretender). She doesn’t sell herself as an experienced editor, choosing rather to focus on her intelligence, ambition and positive attitude.
- Charaki focuses on how she can help me, not the reverse. She is honest about her ultimate goal, but is clear that she understands she is not in a position to ask for anything. In a culture where high school dropouts demand $15 an hour for flipping burgers, I find this refreshing and encouraging.
- The email is well written. This is always a good thing in business writing, but when you’re offering your services as an editor it’s absolutely critical.
How could I not at least respond to this? I wrote back:
Hi Charaki!You sound like a very industrious young person! Just so I’m clear on what you’re asking, what are you expecting to get out of this? Referrals to get more work in the future?
Hello Robert,If and only if you are pleased with my work, I ask that you would recommend me if given the opportunity. I would also appreciate it if you would allow me to keep a copy of the work. I really just want some slightly more impressive work under my belt to help me get hired for other jobs.