Picking up the phone and calling someone you have never met before, and likely has no idea who you are, can be daunting, especially if you’re interviewing an expert in a field of which you know very little. Like agriculture or mining. Who knew, for example, that triticale was a cross between Durham wheat and rye or that kimberlite pipes, those unique, carrot-shaped rock formations, could indicate a cache of diamonds thousands of feet below the surface!
I certainly didn’t, but, for a few years, this was my life. I was a freelancer, working for a small communications firm in Ottawa. They had a contract to produce a monthly publication on research and development in Canada. I wrote the copy.
It was fascinating, once I grew more comfortable making those calls, and I came away from that job with a greater assurance, and an idea for juvenile mystery involving an abandoned gold mine, an enterprising thirteen-year-old with a nose for crime, and one cranky old guy named Weirdo who refused to sell his shares.
Great concept, one small problem: I knew little about reopening dormant mines other than the fact that, thanks to new technology and better processing methods, getting the gold out of the ground was now easier and more cost effective.
So I phoned a company I knew was in the process of acquiring an old mining concern. I’d done my homework; I knew they needed to control at least fifty-one percent of the shares before they could proceed, and I knew exactly who I wanted to speak with; what I didn’t know was how complicated it would be to track down the original shareholders, many of whom would either be quite elderly or have already died.
Now here’s the thing about cold calls. No matter how well prepared you are, or how well you know your subject; whether you’re trying to interest someone in your work or simply looking for information, finding a personal connection really is worth its weight in gold.
Well didn’t the chairman of the company I was calling, have a daughter who just happened to have lived in the building next to me at university. I wouldn’t have known her if I fell over her, nor she, me, after all this time, but that didn’t matter. My cold call just got a little warmer.
I got the information I needed, pitched my story idea to my publisher and two years later, the book was in print.
I called it Paper Treasure.
The reviews were good. Paper Treasure was picked up by Polish publisher Tajemnica (as was The Mysterious Mr. Moon, an earlier title also published by General Paperbacks) and then a Toronto producer acquired the rights and hired me to write the script.
Although the film never did get made, I was able to write and develop other projects for television. All because of that first cold call twenty-odd years ago.