(photo from The Library of Congress. We use very similar phones here in the First Second offices.)
Phones. Those are a thing that we have in our office, as well as the postal service and also computers. They’re like a primitive technology! Sometimes we use them to keep in touch with people.
Should you be endeavoring to get in touch with us telephonically?
Our days at First Second are pretty scheduled — on a typical day, we might have one or two meetings, but more than that, we come in with an idea of, ‘today, I’m going to work in X in the morning and Z in the afternoon and then between that I’ll get G, Q, and M done and if I have time I’ll deal with L.’ So we’ll come into the office, sit down, and get right to checking copy-edits . . . or writing catalog copy . . . or doing mailings . . . or writing pitch letters . . . or designing covers . . . or converting files . . . or updating our website . . . or checking in with authors or freelancers . . . etc.
If you’re an author trying to pitch us a book (or someone trying to sell us advertising space or promote your business), it tends to be that the phone isn’t the best way to get in touch. We don’t have a huge amount of spare time to spend fifteen minutes on the phone with you listening to you talk about how exciting and wonderful your book is, even if it is exciting and wonderful. Instead we’re like, ‘I have to get these corrections to our designer so that we can make these changes and get this to our production manager and out to the printer by 5pm today; who is this mysterious person who is trying to converse with me on the phone while my mind is entirely on other things?’
The one time that it is a good idea for an author pitching us a book to get in touch on the phone is if something has come up that makes your pitch time-sensitive. For example, if another publisher has made you an offer with a deadline, and if we haven’t gotten back in touch with you on your initial pitch and need to know if we’re interested by Friday. This doesn’t happen very frequently — I think I’ve gotten a total of one of these calls in the entire time I’ve worked here at First Second.
If you’re someone we work with on a regular basis and you’re wondering whether to pick up the phone or just send an e-mail, a good question to frame for yourself is, ‘Is this something that’s either quick or time-sensitive?’ If there’s a promotional image due tomorrow and you can’t remember whether it was supposed to be full-color or grayscale; if you’ve lost the e-mail with our FTP password and you have files to upload; if your book is due at the end of the week and your hard drive has just crashed and you want to call us to tell us you’re going to be late; if you’re going out the door to meet us but we neglected to tell you where we’re meeting — those are all good times to give us a call.
Anything more extensive than that and you should think about sending us an e-mail, either with the question itself or just asking if we can schedule some time on the phone with you later in the day/week/etc.
And we welcome calls from teachers, librarians, media, bookstores, and comics stores anytime.