Writer/Blogger? You May Need a Contact Page Intervention

oldpost

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.

typing

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 12.45.24

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!

The Anti-Socialist

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…

49 thoughts on “Writer/Blogger? You May Need a Contact Page Intervention

  1. Harliqueen says:

    I only recently added some contact info to my own blog, realising I kinda needed it after I went looking to contact other bloggers myself 😀 I would like to have a contact page, but I don’t think I can have pages with my current theme, so the side bare will have to do.

    Great post, and very good point!

  2. Charlotte Gerber, Mystery Author says:

    Excellent information! I’ve gotten requests to reblog articles, notifications that government websites have picked up articles I’d written a few years back, as well as requests for interviews/promotions. ADD A CONTACT PAGE or EMAIL ADDRESS to your website people! It will pay off, and the relative few weird emails you may get will be worth it.

  3. Danielle Lenee Davis says:

    Why, why, why do people do that? That’s like placing a kick-butt ad for a wonderful product you have to sell, yet you don’t leave a way for people to make a purchase. It makes no sense.

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      Exactly! The same goes for book bloggers who have a 50 question obstacle course for you to fill out in order to see if they’d like to receive a particular book to review. Um, how about you just read the synopsis in the e-mail I send you and decide then?! They must think people have all the time in the world. Well, sorry, but I don’t even bother with them!

      • Danielle Lenee Davis says:

        Don’t they need books to blog about? Why make it so difficult? Only desperate people and show dogs would be willing to jump through those hoops.

        There are plenty of other book bloggers out there. Some may even have a contact page or email address posted. 🙂

      • Iola Goulton says:

        If only everyone who wanted a review from me would include a synopsis in the email …

        And, no, I don’t need books to blog about. I get more requests than I can possibly read in a lifetime, which is why I’m not interested in reading your book if you can’t read at least the first two paragraphs of my reviewing page, and follow a couple of simple instructions.

        Please don’t send requests for genres I don’t review (e.g. non-fiction).
        Please do send a brief synopsis (the back cover blurb is great)
        Please send a link to the Amazon page so I can read the sample

        • catherineryanhoward says:

          Simple instructions and a couple of paragraphs is great, but I’ve seen book bloggers where there is a list of about 25 items in a form to fill out about the book and no e-mail address. I do publicity as a freelancer for a major publishing house and there is just no way I can do my job if I have to go through an interrogation every time I stop at a blog, and the downside is I don’t get a blogger and the blogger never hears about the book I have to offer them. I always include plenty of info about the book, but as these are pre-release I can’t link or provide any sample. I think it’s about striking a balance, and not assuming that everyone who stops by will be a self-published author (because when I’m working for someone else and that someone else is traditionally published, I don’t have access to all the things a self-published author would, like extracts for example).

  4. Diane Tibert says:

    I put my email address [without using (at) and (dot)] in a widget near the top, so anyone who wants to contact me can easily find it. I’ve also put in on various pages throughout my blog, and I’ve never been bombarded with spam. I’ve been doing this for more than three years, so I think the fear of spam is exaggerated.

    Like you I’ve also searched for email addresses to contact one blogger or another. It is frustrating when you can’t find one. If I’m in the mood, I’ll leave a comment and my address on their about page (if they have one), telling them to contact me.

    I feel an About Me page is also important. Regardless of what your posts are about, visitors can get an immediate feeling for who you are and what your blog is about on the About page. It’s great to make the instant connection, and sometimes I will follow a blog simply because the About Me page impressed me.

  5. Jennifer Barricklow says:

    I read your post and did a face-palm – of course I need to provide a less public way for people to reach me from my blog! And WordPress does indeed make it so easy. Thank you for the intervention.

  6. thomreece says:

    It is absolutely true that to be effective at anything … you have to be easily available. This is a great post, Catherine. I wonder how many super opportunities pass by in the dark because we were not savvy enough to make it easy to contact us? One of the oldest themes in salesmanship is to “Make it easy for the customer to buy!” … They can’t buy if they can’t find you. Hiding behind an anonymous web page is the fastest way to oblivion I can think of. What kind of credibility can your platform have if you don’t have full contact info easily available in one click? Thanks for the post, Catherine.

  7. arabian roses says:

    I’m a self-published writer and I really need someone to help me promote my book .I will act upon your precious advice who knows I might hear good news .Thank you.

  8. Liana Mir says:

    While I wholly endorse this post and its message, I do feel I should point out you can certainly contact someone privately on Twitter via the Direct Message function (if I’m recalling the name correctly), which is essentially a private message. When I was twitter-obsessed, I used it all the time. Now that I’m almost never on there, I can’t remember if that’s the right name, but I do remember the function existed.

  9. Jami Gold says:

    LOL! I just checked out your contact page. I love it! I wish I could get away with something similar. I get oodles of all of those types of T-rex rage emails every week. *sigh*

  10. Cat Lumb says:

    Thanks Catherine. First thing I’m going to do tomorrow is add a contact me page to my blog. I need no more convincing. 🙂
    Cat (unless I’m in trouble, then I’m also a Catherine!)

  11. Debbie Young says:

    Spot on, Catherine! Having a comments page is also much more effective than asking someone to contact you via Twitter or email or FB (hah!) because it (a) decreases the number of keystrokes that you have to make to get to the point where you can connect with the author, which, given the modern preference for instant results, makes it more likely to happen and (b) it is positively inviting interaction. I think when you’re asked to contact via email or whatever, there’s an unspoken message of “Oh, if you really must contact me – sigh!” Some readers will feel in awe of you, the author, and nervous of imposing on your time, so it’s crazy to put barriers in their way that will deter them. So, a contact form with an accompanying message to indicate that you love hearing from readers and will do your best to reply personally to every one is a very winning combination.

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      Debbie your comment made me smile because I was thinking to myself: I *WISH* people were nervous of imposing on my time! ;-D

      You’re totally right, of course. Don’t we have blogs and write because we want to connect? I do have my list of things not to contact me about on my Contact page just because I was answering the same messages all the time (and saying no) but I put some humour in it because I don’t want to send people scurrying. I was on a blog this week with no contact details whatsoever (not even a link to Twitter or Facebook) and at the top of the home page it said “I don’t take guest posts. Don’t even ask.” Em… okay, then. I felt like asking the blogger why he was bothering, when clearly he didn’t want any online interaction at all…? Except of course I couldn’t, because there was no way to contact him. I mean, really!

  12. sylvawoodunderthestars says:

    Sent me straight to my blogs to remedy the lack of contact pages (only one didn’t have a contact form) then posted on my Facebook page WriteGear for my writer friends. Thanks for the no-nonsense posting … and all the others I read avidly.

  13. mmjustus says:

    Having just fought through (I’m not very techie) adding a contact form to my website, and being a self-published author who has spent way too much time trying to contact book bloggers (and Amazon reviewers, who are even worse about it even when they say in their profile that they’d love more books to review and my books are obviously right up their alley), all I can say is A-MEN.

  14. stulesley says:

    So basic yet why didn’t I think of it before? I’m going to add this to my blog this weekend. Thanks Catherine and I really enjoyed your thoughts on spam. Between my personal and work accounts I get over 300 emails a day which I “pan” for gold nuggets. I never know where that next great idea will come from. On the down side … if I miss a couple of days it builds up quick. That’s when I usually accept the possible loss of a nugget or two, scan for mail from friends or family and dump the rest.

    Stu Lesley

  15. blacklambphotography says:

    I agree with you about the whole contact page. Sadly, even though I have a contact page that is labeled “CONTACT”, I still get people making comments on my page asking to book a session or some other sort of e-mail related topic.

  16. Natalie says:

    Hi! I’ve been looking for the contact form feature you mention on WordPress, but can’t locate it. Could you give me a hint, please?

  17. hmclarke says:

    Love the T-Rex….Can I borrow him for people who try to talk to me before I’ve had my caffeine fix first thing in the morning?

  18. katsindiebookblog says:

    thanks for the great Insite – I had added my email address but hadnt realised its not showing SO I added a contact form 🙂

  19. @Gillianfx says:

    OMG I totally hate that! I thought I was the only person who felt that way, when you hit those bloggers who claim to love to read and are open to reviewing your novel with no way to contact them. Shhhhheeet, I just move on, it is surprising to see how many bloggers do that. I just cloak my email address to keep from spam bots. A simple email me and the link.

    I think as an author, especially self published it should be super easy for people to contact you. At the back of all my novels I have my email address. I want to hear from readers, whether they love my work or hate it.

    Great post! Thanks for sharing.

    Gillian

  20. alicechauginguene says:

    I don’t know why people are so afraid of being contacted! But then I am a self-employed person running a small business 5 years before I started blogging, so I am used to having stranger writing to me.
    Like you said, it’s JUST an email. If it is a spam, just click delete. It’s annoying but it’s sort of coming in a package with ‘putting yourself out in public’. We should know what we got ourselves into.

  21. Tom says:

    Thanks for this post! I’m just in the process of adding pages like disclosure and privacy policies to my wordpress blog and this helped a lot. Thanks.

Comments are closed.