Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Letters, letters, I do get letters!

Okay, I lied. I hardly ever get letters. But I do get emails and lots of them. Not as many as when the Wall Street Journal article came out in 2010 (thank goodness) but plenty, and most of them are really, really nice.

They fall into these categories:

People who want me to go somewhere: writing conferences, book club visits, library talks. I almost always say yes if it's nearby and I don't have a conflict. I no longer do workshops, the kind where I actually instruct, complete with handouts and Q&As. As much as I enjoy that, it takes a ton of preparation to do well, which takes away from my writing time. I found that one three-hour workshop on a Saturday took two days of prep: making copies, organizing my notes, outlining etc. Plus, the anticipation stresses me out. Ask me to show up and talk and I'm good to go. Otherwise, not so much.

Emails from people who want me to do something for them: blurb their books, mention their books on Twitter or Facebook, answer questions about publishing, buy their book. I always answer and some of this I do, but not much. I refer most of the self-publishing questions to the FAQ page on my website telling them to scroll down to the bottom to find helpful links. I've actually become wary of saying too much in emails to people I don't know, because recently it backfired on me when someone, without informing me, used my friendly email exchange as quotes in a negative article. He took my words out of context and actually made up whole sections, which he attributed to me.

Book bloggers sometimes email asking for a copy of one of my books for review. I always make sure they get a copy. Sometimes I have extra copies here at home and I'll send it out myself, other times I contact the publisher.

Sometimes people email asking if I will do a Q&A for their blog or site, or else if I'll write a blog post. If I'm knee-deep in writing a novel (which is always), I tend not to want to do a blog post, but Q&As are fun and easy, as long as there aren't too many questions, so most often I'm agreeable. I've met some really nice people this way--other authors, book bloggers, journalists. It's generally a plus for me to get the word out about my books, which I appreciate.

I also get emails from people who've read and enjoyed my books. These are my absolute favorite. Seriously, two sentences can make my day. If you ever feel compelled to email an author, musician, artist,etc. but don't because you think it won't make a difference, think again. Everyone loves positive feedback, and when you work in solitude, it doesn't happen that often. (As an addendum to this, I'm sure Stephen King and J.K. Rowling have probably heard it enough, but if you want to send them an email, feel free to do so.)

Other emails give me updates on my Facebook and Twitter account, both of which I've sadly neglected. Ditto for Goodreads. These emails just make me feel guilty, like hearing from a relative you've been meaning to call. I'm particularly hopeless at Facebook. It's a lifeline for the next generation, I know. They love the ease of it, the way you can share things (photos! news! comments! articles!) in a few moments' time. Me, not so much. I always hover over the button wondering, will anyone care about this? I hate to be a bother. I suspect I'm just not a social media person.

Spam comments for the blog come into my email for my approval. Spammers always post on older threads, as if I won't see them. They say things like: This is a very interesting post. You have managed to sum things up nicely. I will share it with all my family and friends. And then there's a link to some pharmaceutical thing. Lately I've been getting a lot of comments that look like they're written in Russian or Polish. And I mean A LOT of comments. Maybe one every other day? I'm never curious enough to Google translate. I just delete.

Work correspondence. Sometimes I still find it hard to believe that I can say things like, "My publicist says..." After so many years of being unpublished, it still feels pretty dreamlike. So I secretly feel very grown-up and accomplished when I send an email to my publisher asking questions about marketing plans or tax issues. The other day my son asked something when I was in my office and he was in the other room. I yelled out to him, "Just a minute. I need to finish this email to my German translator." When I said it I wasn't trying to be a show-off, but he was impressed and believe me, that almost never happens.

Personal emails from people I actually know. I love it when I can shoot back a response and not worry about grammatical mistakes etc. Email is great for sending links or photos, or a quick comment about something. My younger sister has two extremely cute little boys and sometimes I'm the lucky recipient of a photo or anecdote. I'm sure she also posts these on Facebook, but knowing I'm out of the loop she sends them to me via email. Seeing those little faces on my computer screen is a definite day-brightener.

And that pretty much covers what comes into my inbox. Feel free to share any email stories of your own.




PV Lundqvist said...

One can't help that there are DBs out to abuse our trust. I just hope this doesn't affect your outlook.

You are so giving with your time and advice.

Karen McQuestion said...

PV, I had to think about what "DBs" might mean, and I laughed out loud when I figured it out. The one incident did affect my outlook a little bit, but considering that it was just one in many, I guess I've been lucky.

Thanks for leaving a comment. Next time leave a link to your book. :)

Bill B said...

Hmm, for years my wife & I have referred to dumb bunnies, but maybe that's a different DB ... ツ

I'm so glad to hear that you're inundated with happy emails - and that they far outnumber the other type! Kudos for taking the time to answer and be generous with your advice.

No email stories to share, although there were times at work when I'd be answering questions via 3 simultaneous, but totally separate, IM conversations and respond to the wrong person. Actually, maybe there are a couple good stories there, for another time! And once a note I [hand] wrote as a fan started a series of letters back & forth between me and Joan Baez's mom (her name is also Joan). I pull them out every few years when I need a laugh -- the lady was a scream!

Christina said...

Christina - xristya@rock.com - Yes, emails are great - but they can also be a burden - when I find myself spending an hour answering emails it seems like too much! When is Road Trip coming out?

H.S. Stone said...

This is a very interesting post. You have managed to sum things up nicely. I will share it with all my family and friends.

J/K :-)

But seriously, thanks for the insight on the emails you get. How much time do you wind up spending on email vs. writing?

Karen McQuestion said...

Hey Bill, when I was growing up I remember hearing the expression "dumb bunnies." Maybe it's a Midwestern thing?

Someday I'd love to hear all your stories!

Christina, THE ROAD TRIP (now titled THE LONG WAY HOME) comes out May 1st. As soon as I get some copies, I'll send one your way. I really appreciate your continued interest. :)

H.S. Stone, your comment was funny! I'm not sure how much time I spend on emails--a few hours a week? More than I want to, anyway. I could probably do it in less time but I still hold to old conventions and use punctuation, correct capitalization etc.

Jon Olson said...

I get email from, uh, my mom, my sisters, my, uh, spammers. Love it all (not so much the spammers). People used to write letters, then the phone took over, which left no record. Someday, for those lucky enough to get famous, scholars will e-publish books titled "Selected E-mails of Karen McQuestion" (or insert your favorite author).

Jon O.
The Petoskey Stone
The Ride Home

Karen McQuestion said...

A book of my e-mails would be really boring--I'd be the first to admit that. I am really curious about the ones you get from your mom though...I'll bet there are some family secrets lurking there

Paul Larson, aka "Gusty" McCabe said...

Hello Karen,
My sis, Gail Toerpe, just heard your talk in Milwaukee and was very impressed. She called me and advised that I look into you web page as I am a story teller who would like to publish a story of mine. It is a childrens story, very short, about 1500 words, done in rhyme like the Seuss stories and I wonder if I could E-pub something of that nature? Have you ever used Lulu?

Karen McQuestion said...

Hi Paul, I sent you an email because my response would have been too long for a comment. Thanks for stopping by.

Paul Larson, aka "Gusty" McCabe. said...

Karen, Very much obliged for your response to my previous inquiry but I have not yet received the E-mail you mentioned. I realize how busy you must be but I had really looked forward to your reply. If you can, will you try again to send the E-mail. My E-dress is pflgusty@yahoo.com. Also, how can I get my avatar up on these comment posts like the rest of you do?

Karen McQuestion said...

Paul, another email has been sent! Fingers crossed that this one makes it.

Shayne Parkinson said...

I'm sure my email traffic is a tiny fraction of yours, but I do love hearing from readers! Some messages move me to tears (they tend to be personal, and I can only refer to them in the vaguest of terms), while others make me laugh out loud. I got one from a reader who said she had her friends had decided to move to New Zealand and camp outside my gate to make me get the next book out sooner - "And you should be frightened, because we're Texans," she told me. :) There's a hair stylist who's... um... suggesting to all her clients that they should try my books. There's an office full of readers who sent me a picture of them all holding book/ereaders aloft showing my covers.

They certainly keep me motivated if I should dare even consider giving up.

Karen McQuestion said...

Shayne, you really can't leave a comment like that without posting a link so people can find your books! For those who want to check out Shayne's books look here.

Thanks for leaving a comment!

Shayne Parkinson said...

Thank you, Karen, that's very kind of you!