Sunday, June 10, 2012

Not that me, the other me

I'm just back from a writing conference that produced a lot of interesting lessons. Not all of them were for the writers!

Before the conference started I got the names and addresses of all the writers who would be meeting with me for one on one sessions.  I wrote to them, introduced myself, gave my blogs addresses and invited them to send their queries ahead of time so we could get a head start on revisions.

Within minutes of sending these emails, I received a harrumphing reply from one: "Please take me off your mailing list!"

Whoa! What??

Of course, I got in touch with the conference director at once; this was really an off-putting reply!

The conference director replied almost at once: turns out we'd missed a middle initial in the writer's email address which was also his name.  It wasn't Felix Buttonweazer at gmail. It was Felix M. Buttonweazer!


I emailed the correct Felix and all was well.  When I met him at the conference we had a good laugh about it.

But, I also emailed the wrong Felix to thank him for being miffed enough to write back. Without that "get me off this list" harrumph reply, we'd have never known.  And might have made some pretty wrong assumptions about the Felix who wasn't.

I was reminded of that when I got an odd email tonight: "Dear Janet, here's a book you might want for your holiday list."

Whoa! What??

Ohhh...hold on.  I bet this writer wants ANOTHER Janet. Like maybe Janet Rudolph who runs Mystery Readers Journal, or Janet Hutchings the editor of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

I wrote back "I think you want a different Janet" and sure enough she did.

Sometimes I've wondered if responding to emails obviously sent in error was a good idea.

After these two things within a week of each other, I think it is.

The sender doesn't know if email goes astray without that reply.  Of course, that leaves all those people who hit "send to all" when they announce the publication of their book (the one they queried me for and I passed on two years ago.)   I'll still hit delete on those.


Laura Hughes, MittensMorgul said...

This happens with phone calls to me all the time. For some reason, every once in a while I get a call for someone I've never heard of before. It's often the same older woman trying to get in touch with her granddaughter, or so I've gathered from the odd voice mail messages I get once in a while. About once every three to four months, I call her and let her know the correct person didn't get the message. It only takes a few seconds for me to let her know, but she always seems so grateful.

Sometimes a misdirected email (or phone call) means so much more to the person waiting to hear back, it's worth those few seconds to me.

AimeeLSalter said...


You've turned down books that still got PUBLISHED?


My image of you is totally blown.

Melissa said...

We had people leaving cakes and cookies at the apartment across from us for a lady who had moved out. Such a pickle: do we just eat the goodies or do we call the number they left?

Bonnee Crawford said...

Ahaha oh how interesting! Definitely a good idea to reply an incorrectly addressed message. I've done it with text message before and accidentally sent it to someone because I have friends with the same first names. A bit awkward!

NotaWarriorPrincess said...

I also discovered it is a good idea to double and triple check email lists, like say, class rolls, for not-uncommon names, like say, Janet. Because you just *could* (if you were really clueless) accidentally send out a cautionary note like, say "you're failing; here are some ways to get your scores up" to a person, say, your agent, who is NOT in your class (let alone failing it) instead of some other Janet, say, a freshman lit student, who actually *is* failing, and wouldn't THAT be HI-larious?! (Answer: No it was not hilarious. For me. It gave me a heart attack and much chagrin and paranoia. Hypothetically.) (Janet laughed her sharky heart out about it....)

Cealarenne said...

I was working for a multi-national corp a few years ago and got an email from the New York office inviting me along for drinks on
Friday night. I replied saying I couldn't make it, but if he'd like to book a flight to New Zealand, he could help me move house on the Saturday and I'd buy him a drink afterwards. I got a reply that just said, "Wrong email address." Pfft! No sense of humor.

Clare said...

That's an interesting lesson to learn, and in future, I'm not only going to be more careful when sending emails, but I'll reply to messages sent in error.

Ali Trotta said...

That is a good lesson. Thank you for sharing this.

The BOCO Review Blog said...

I still win in the arena of misplaced phone messages. Back in Chicago, I get home, light is blinking:

"Steve! The plans have changed! Instead of picking you up, meet us at the stadium. We will be at the south gate with your ticket. Hey, gotta go! See you there."

No phone number and nothing on Caller ID. The Chicago Bulls were playing that night.

Always leave your number. Even for your best friend!


Rebekkah Niles said...

For a long time, there was a guy in another city who had my same phone number minus the area code. I kept getting random text messages for him, to which I usually replied "sorry wrong person," but occasionally I couldn't resist a slightly more interesting comeback:

"Hey going dwntwn to get smashed. want 2 come?"

"Thnx for the invite, but I'm busy preparing for the zombie apocalypse. You'll find me at the local Lowes. Care to join?"

To which the person proved him/herself to be absolutely awesome, because we then proceeded to have a nice long conversation on how to survive the ZA from a home improvement store, including our decision to fill carts with potting soil and parking them on the roof for rollable vegetable gardens (to be rolled inside during bad weather and winter). Also, carts can be used as zombie-fencing, should regular fencing run out.

LD Masterson said...

I received a message on our answering machine a while back from a doctor's office. Not only did they leave the details of someone's test results, there was also an urgent request for the patient to call the office asap. Of course, there was no number. I worked my way through the phone book, calling every doctor's office that sounded like the mumbled name in the message until I found the right one and told them their patient had NOT recieved that message. And, yes, our outgoing message begins with our family name.

jjdebenedictis said...

Assume good intentions until proven otherwise.

It's hard to implement that one consistently, I admit.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I agree that it's a good lesson to learn, and I'm glad it all worked out in this instance!

I feel so bad in these situations when you can't reach the proper party. There have been multiple instances where important-looking mail will come for someone who lived in my apartment several years ago, too long for the post office to be auto-forwarding it anymore. There's nothing I can do other than write that the person doesn't live here anymore and hope it won't be too big a deal if the intended recipient never gets it.

Rivka said...

My husband is constantly getting emails that are supposed to be reaching a practicing physician. Most of these emails are by her patients, requesting refills and asking diagnostic questions. My husband's email address is one letter off from this doctor's.

Until now, my husband has been forwarding all these emails to her. But now he says he's tired of it, and resentful of her attitude (she's done nothing to solve the issue).

It just serves as a reminder that sometimes, people really are telling the truth when they say "I never got your email."

Anonymous said...

I've generally have kind responses in replying to misdirected email messages, but have not fared so well returning errant messages left on my answering machine.

Anonymous said...

Funny, I just had something similar happen when I attempted to email the mother of one of the scouts in my daughter's troop. I received a terse "Take me off your mailing list" response, so I replied explaining myself further. We went back and forth a few times, and the woman seemed very annoyed, but then she finally said, "I'm a television agent based in London and I don't know what you're talking about." Oops!

I double-checked the address I was trying to send to, and discovered that the mother and the agent had the same name, but the mother cut off the last few letters in the address.

So I wrote back to explain what I'd done and apologize, even though I had already bugged this person so many times. And suddenly she was very nice and friendly, and told me to send her best to her US namesake.

Catherine said...

Had a good chuckle over this and I love a good harrumph (almost as good as a "dry sniff"?).

I appreciated your humor at the Agent-Idol at the Kentucky Books-in-Progress Conference. I do not write for the genres that you represent, alas (but will most certainly be pitching to Sorche Fairbank one day, when ready).

Thank you for your candor and useful information. On the way home I stopped at my favorite book store and, I kid you not, started examining all first pages in the best-seller section. I'm a published writer and a freelancer but learned much at last week's conference.

All best,

Catherine Pond