It may be news to you but for the last year and a half or so, I’ve been doing some freelance social media work for a publishing house, helping promote other authors’ books online. As my goal is essentially to connect readers with books I believe they’ll like, a lot of my time is spent trawling through the magical interweb looking for book blogs. They’re easy enough to find. But it’s not always easy to find what I need when I get there: a way to contact the blogger in private.
It’s a particularly bad day when the coffee machine is still brewing and the contact page of a book blogger who (a) professes to love the exact kind of book I have to offer her and (b) says on her ‘Review Policy’ or ‘About Me’ page that what she loves more than anything else in the world is getting free books says something like if you want to get in touch, I’m on Twitter @thisconversationwillbepublic…
Oh, how the RED RAGE DESCENDS.
I can’t get in contact with her on Twitter, and I won’t. I don’t want everyone to see me offering her a review copy, and sometimes upcoming releases have things tied to them, like promotional activity, for example, that I can tell the blogger but not the world (yet). You might be saying now well, why don’t I just tweet her asking for her e-mail address? Well first of all my Twitter account is for Catherine Ryan Howard, the self-publisher and blogger. Not the occasional publicity assistant. And Twitter is not interchangeable with e-mail or a contact form. It’s a public forum.
But if I can’t get in contact with a book blogger, the worst thing that happens is that they miss out on a free book and I have to go looking for someone else to take their place.
But what if you’re a self-publisher and the person trying to get in contact with you is another blogger who wants to help you promote your book, or a journalist who wants to feature you in a newspaper or magazine, or a radio show producer who wants to interview you on air, or an agent who’s interesting in representing you or a publisher who’s interested in buying your print rights or an editor in Poland who wants to talk translation rights (delete as appropriate depending on your life’s goals)? Telling them that they can contact you on Twitter is just not acceptable. Telling them they can send you a message through Facebook is laughable. And who knows what kind of opportunities you might miss out on – small, medium and big – because you put too many hoops between your online home and a way to get in touch with you directly that doesn’t come with an audience.
I think you should do one of the following:
- Insert a contact form. WordPress.com has a fabulous feature that lets you easily insert a contact form anywhere on your site (but here’s a tip: put it on your Contact Me page). This way people can send you a message in private without you having to give them your e-mail address. They need to provide a name and their own e-mail address in order to do it.
- Publish your e-mail address. Write the @ and any periods so if there’s a bot crawling the web for e-mailing addresses to pass to recently bereaved Nigerian princes, they won’t come across yours, e.g. myemailaddress[at]email[dot]com. Simples!
Through this very website I’ve been contacted by producers of radio shows I ended up being interviewed live on, journalists who ended up quoting me or writing about me and the organizers of events that I ended up speaking at — and getting paid to. Are those the kind of opportunities you want to miss out on?
But What About Spam, M’am?
I don’t know why people are sooooooo obsessed with avoiding spam. If you use an e-mail program that’s been updated any time in the last decade, you’ll have a Junk Mail folder to which 99% of it will go without you doing anything. If you’re afraid of being sent doomsday computer viruses that will clear your hard drive, steal your identity and burn your house to the ground, then don’t do anything stupid like click on a link that ends in ‘.exe’ that was preceded by the words ‘Is this you in this picture?!’ And so what if Mr. Nigerian Prince manages to get through to you with the terrible news that his father, the king, has died and now he needs you to go to the nearest Western Union office to help him get his inheritance for a $2 million cut? So WHAT? It takes a fraction of second to delete an e-mail, and no time at all to ignore it.
And sometimes spam-avoidance can cause serious problems. For instance this past week a lovely blog reader, also called Catherine, sent me a message of praise. But when I went to respond to her, I got this:
If you can’t read it it says I apologize for this automatic reply to your e-mail. To control spam, I now allow incoming messages only from senders I have approved beforehand. If you like to be added to my list of approved senders, please fill out the short request form (link below). Once I approve you, I will receive your original message in my inbox. You do not need to resend your message. I apologize for this one-time inconvenience. Click on the link below to fill out the request…
because of course, she hadn’t e-mailed me directly and so my e-mail address was not ‘approved’. Sorry Catherine and everyone who uses this type of filter, but this is entirely unnecessary. If you think you need this in order to avoid spam, you don’t. What you actually need is a better e-mail program or service.
(Catherine, if you’re reading this, I didn’t fill it out so you didn’t get my message. But it said thanks very much and great name, BTW!)
Remember when an e-mail arrives in your inbox that you don’t want, all that’s happened is an e-mail has arrived in your inbox that you don’t want. The sender is not on your front lawn tapping on your window, or standing behind you when you sit at your desk. It’s just an e-mail. They haven’t achieved any special ‘access’. The sender won’t even know if you’ve read it or not (and if they’ve asked for a read receipt, you’ll be asked first whether or not you want to send one. Just click ‘no’.) Conclusion: don’t worry about it!
Maybe you don’t have a Contact page or your e-mail addressed published anywhere because you don’t want anyone to be able to get in contact with you. That’s fine if your blog is about, say, your extensive collection of Hollywood Star key chains, but if you have a product to sell – and you do, what with you being a self-publisher – I just don’t think it’s acceptable.
E-mails from annoying people are annoying, yes. I know that as well as anyone, considering I get at least one e-mail every day asking me some variation of can you tell me what I’d already know if I even had the most cursory of glances at the Self-Printing page of your blog? I love your site, BTW! Sometimes they’d even know the answer if they just looked up one of my books online, e.g. Who should I use for POD paperbacks? This kind of thing sets my teeth on edge, just ’cause it’s rude. I can tell when a person has a genuine question that I haven’t answered, or one I have answered but the fact is now buried somewhere in one sentence out of 300,000 words. I answer those. The rest I ignore. I try to stop them coming in in the first place with my friend the angry T-rex.
But missing out on an e-mail I want to get just to avoid these is not worth it.
So please, self-publishing bloggers, make it easy for people to contact you and to contact you in a private way that doesn’t take place in front of an audience. You’ll never know who’ll be looking to get in touch with you.
What’s on your contact page? If it’s not a form or an e-mail address, why not huh? Let us know in the comments below…