Wednesday, January 20, 2010

More on auto-responders cause you guys are missing the point

There are a lot of interesting comments on the first post about auto-responders.

Several make the point that they don't want to seem rude if they don't reply right away to a request for more pages.

This is akin to the people who think it's rude not to reply to a form rejection.

I beg of you, please pay attention to what I'm telling you from THIS side of the mailbox.

There's only one person hovering at the mailbox during our email exchanges. It's not me. If you take a week to send pages, it's ok. I won't even notice. I MIGHT notice if it's been a month. I will notice and send a follow up if it's close to the end of the year.

Auto responders are a good deal for people who need or expect you to reply within a day. Or your mom, who worries if she doesn't hear from you. Not me.

This is one of the MANY reasons you should have an email that you use SOLELY for querying.

Here's why this is more than just a gripe from a cranky agent: this kind of junk reply email is why I consider going to an automated query system that doesn't allow you to actually have my email address. You just fill out a form on the website and click enter, and off it goes.

I'm very very reluctant to do that. I like to hear from real people, and be able to reply. Auto responders and knee jerk replies (thank you to form letters) and all-address-book emails are NOT from real people.


Scott said...

Okay, so people actually send queries from their work email? Geesh!

I have a dedicated email from which I send queries - actual first/last name in the email address. Then, I have my normal one that doesn't contain my actual first/last name. Then, I have my work email from which I would never, ever send a query. Work is work. Writing is writing and all info about writing should come from and go to my personal email!

As for auto-responders, I don't believe in them, nor does my company, since one way spammers realize they have a live email is when they get a response. : )

Great post.


Anonymous said...

I can relate to what Janet is saying. I write a weekly newsletter. It's opt-in only, so only people who have ASKED to get it, get it.

Every weekend when I send it out, I get tons of auto-responds back. Why oh why do people use their work email addresses for personal business? Is your job so important that you must leave an auto-respond message to say you are out for the WEEKEND?

But here is my favorite auto-respond of all: Thank you for your email it will be read soon unless it contains an attachment. I never open attachments because I once lost a computer to an email virus. I get it every single week. This guy must have it set to go to EVERYONE who emails him. Why does he think this is a good idea?

So every week it takes me a few minutes to delete all the auto responds.

Most ISPs give you the option of having more than one email address. There are plenty of free services, too. There's really NO EXCUSE for putting your friends, your potential agent, or anyone else you have ASKED to hear from through the auto-respond misery.

Sarah J. MacManus said...

I hate - autoresponders and those things that you have to "verify" to respond to someone's emails. There is nothing more annoying than trying to send someone the happy news that you're going to accept and publish their short story only to be told that you now have to "prove yourself" by verifying your email address.

And please don't email from the same addy you use on the adult matchmaker sites. I find it hard to take your literary fiction seriously when it's submitted by 'studfinder112@", you know?

Deep River said...

Years ago when I was in advertising, Monday mornings meant I had to not only wade through a batch of autoresponders but also follow up my e-mails with phone calls to staff to remind them to turn the damn things off.

A query is a business communication. Initiating business just before one will be unable to respond for a while (as in sending a query before going on vacation) is rude. Wait to initiate the communication until one is ready to provide follow up.

Just my two cents.

Travener said...

Isn't there a way to tweak the spam filter to dump anything coming in that says "Out of Office Reply" or similar?

Note: no need to reply to this message.

Nathan Meidell said...

You know, people just send them off, from private email, work email, wherever. They are likely going to be very worried about a delayed response in getting back to any agent who requests pages, and auto response is a likely safeguard for people with that worry. I get that.

An informative post like this is great for detailing specific etiquette, because they likely wouldn't think twice about it otherwise.

I would be very worried about any delay on my part in responding to a request for pages. So unless I know the agent really doesn't care so much about that kind of delay, whatever the reason for it, it's an understandable recourse.

Maybe it's there, and perhaps it isn't, but this seems like something that belongs in a FAQ list for a specific agent's querying guidelines and preferences, especially if it is such a common, irritating peeve.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

@Scott: "Then, I have my work email from which I would never, ever send a query. Work is work"

Especially, if you get unexpectedly shit-canned, while waiting for agent emails.

Dave Cullen said...

Aren't auto-responders annoying to everyone?--not just literary agents.

Who wants that spam. Unless you are a stock broker or ER doc, do we really need to know you're out of the office? Can't you just explain it to the two people it mattered to later? "I was on vacation."

What surprised me, though, were some of the comments to the last post: people not wanting to hear the msg.

The great thing about blogs like this is learning the agent's POV: (eg, you get a zillion legit emails a day, and adding spam to that just gums up the works; so for God's sake, consider how some of your stuff can be spam.)

Dave Cullen said...

This a little off-topic, but wondering if it's affecting you and/or your peers:

I get a lot of author mail now, I try to respond to every one. Some are time-sensitive, like interview requests and offers to speak to conventions. I get most by email, which is great, but a certain number come via facebook, goodreads, opensalon, linkedin, and a good ten other sites I'm part of. (I recently discovered I have a youtube inbox with reader mail, even though I've never uploaded a video, just rate them occasionally.)

I rarely check these inboxes, and even when I do, it's hard to keep track of discussions/offers later if it's not in the one central place. (It's hard enough when it is.)

I suspect I'm not alone in this. Please: facebook etc for social chats; if it's business, use my email (which I post all over the place, in spite of the spam).

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Nathan that, while your reasons for disliking auto-replies are very persuasive once I'd heard them, I wouldn't have guessed that preference without reading your blog; it doesn't seem to me to be an obvious matter of etiquette. As someone else said in the other thread, she had assumed that sending an auto-reply was the polite thing to do so people would know why they hadn't heard back from you. Yes, it's a robot, but it's a robot on a customized personal errand. So I think Nathan's suggestion that this preference be included in agents' and editors' submission guidelines is a good one. (Again, I'm not defending auto-replies in your circumstances as much as I'm defending writers' not having predicted this preference.)

Not that I've ever written a query or written a book or figured out how to set an email program to auto-reply.

Betsy Ashton said...

I do not use auto-responders to let people know I am away from home/office. It's too perfect a way for someone to stake out my house and rob me.

I do use an automatic response feature that let's me see when an e-mail was opened. It comes back only to me. I keep a file of responses, the original e-mail and auto-response. It helps if an e-mail goes astray. At least I know I've sent something, it was opened and I may need to follow up to see what the next steps are.

Marsha Sigman said...

I'm sorry I would leave a comment but I am out of the office.

This is always annoying unless the auto-responder is something cool like a different Chuck Norris reference every time.

When Arnold says the line "I'll be back" in the first Terminator movie
it is implied that is he going to ask Chuck Norris for help.


Superman once watched an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger. He then cried himself to sleep.

I have a client who has this and I actually look forward to it.
Yes, it is sad.

BJ said...

Sometimes in business, you are expected to leave out-of-office messages. However, there are usually settings as to who gets what when.

BUT, as someone above noted, that's day job-related business. I fully agree that one must have a separate e-mail for separate parts of one's life, such as: day job, personal, and writing/querying/etc. And each should be set up with settings for that particular part of life. It's not only good business, but it's good organization.

The bonus? You can have a separate signature for each account, and you don't have to worry about sending the 'Love from' signature to someone you barely know.

Rhyanna said...

Thanks Janet for posting this. Before all the email programs had huge mail boxes. I created several different emails, using mainly, hotmail, yahoo and now aim (It use to be
OUt of hotmail, I have several of emails, and one I do have two email accounts that I try to query from. One became one, because of the way the computer insists you set up a main program to email from. But Yeah I try to use either one, it uses my screename, but i SIGN WITH my Real signature line has info on the quilts i make to honor fallen heroes, and I am trying to add pages, to have blog, post some short short stories that maybe people may want to take a look at...stories posted in online writing contests such as, and now the 1000 word contest and of course eharlequin's writing challenges that I enter.
I also send a thank for replying, sending me a rejection...just recently found out its not necessary as it bogs down the agent's I try to go to their blog website to post my thanks for its a heartfelt relief to hear from a real person rejecting my query whether than not hearing...ever....
thanks again Janet..
Blessings and have a great Weekend.

Caroline said...


Thank you for the clarification about auto-responders. I hadn't realized that most agents wouldn't be bothered by a week's delay in sending a requested manuscript. I guess I needed reminding of how it looks from your side of the desk.

I'm going to take your advice and set up a separate e-mail for agents.

Thanks for helping us see things from your point of view.