One of my New Year's Resolutions is to be more regular updating my website (even if I don't have kittens to offer) and also this blog... I spend a lot of time online in my roles with Savannah Rescue and as Savannah Breed Chair, and generally educating on forums and yahoogroups. Thought maybe putting some thoughts on a blog might also be valuable.
One of the things that I notice is that people don't always know how to contact a breeder. And the reality of that is that different approaches will meet with success depending on the breeder. Some breeders simply want to know you want a kitten and they will sell it to you. Some are more selective, and a terse email such as "Do you have kittens and how much are they?" will get you an automatic no. You might think to yourself that the easier type of breeder is the first scenario, trouble-free purchase. But think further on this, if they don't bother with any interviewing or discussion before taking your money, what makes you think that after they have your money they will at all help you with any problems you have with that kitten. Frustratingly, I often get contacted afterwards by those buyers who tell me how much they regret rushing into the easy purchase...and yes they expect me to offer advice to them about someone else's kitten. Which I do, because I want the kitten to be happy.
You should want a breeder that can answer the hundreds of questions you might have. That way you know exactly what you are getting, you can get information about the kitten's personality rather than try to guess from the picture(s) you are sent. That way you aren't making assumptions about how the kitten is raised, only to be disappointed by what you find out later. Not all breeders are super-chatty, and I don't mean you have to be BFFs with them, but a good amount of communication before you make your decision is a very sensible thing to insist on. I often hear how people rush to put a deposit on the kitten to make sure they get it, and then ask the questions or see the actual contract.
So how to write your first email to a breeder? Err on the side of verbosity if you need to. Tell them about your household and why you want a Savannah. Tell them what you are looking for in that Savannah, and if there is a range of generations etc that you would consider include that. It may take a bit to write, and there is no harm in cutting and pasting it in multiple emails to many breeders once you've gotten it all down. Make your timetable clear too, do you want a kitten NOW or are you willing to wait for the right kitten?
Be aware that if you send out an email that is openly addressed to a lot of breeders, most don't feel obliged to reply. They figure someone will, especially if they don't have any kittens available. I always try to respond (even to the ones that seem obvious scams), even if just to say I don't anticipate having the kitten for them anytime soon.
If you've obviously spent some time trying to communicate with that initial email, I in turn are more likely to put myself to the effort of working out who do I know that might have a kitten that is right for you, and directing you there. When you've included enough information to know what you want, then I can help you more easily. And many of us breeders like to help and are happy to recommend each other, this is not simply a "business" for us, it is a hobby and we are a friendly community rather than direct competitors.
What about phone calls? It's great if the breeder picks up the phone, they may even have time to chat...but for me, I often screen my calls simply because I don't have an hour right then to sit and talk to someone. Emails can sit until later in the evening or when I have a moment to type some of a reply and go back to it later. Emails are often more convenient for both sides of the equation, because you don't have to choose a polite time in the breeder's timezone either! Nor worry if you will wake them up, disturb their dinner etc. And if someone leaves me a voice mail saying they are calling to see if I have any kittens, I often don't pick up the phone to call them back just to say "no, I don't". So if you leave a number of voice mails for breeders and don't hear back, the likelihood is that they don't have any available.