Monday, December 26, 2016

Rules for Writers: Be Reachable

Some years back, the Alaska Writing Guild was brave enough to invite me to their writing conference, and given I like polar bears and hoped one or two might register for the conference, I said yes.

As part of my work for the conference  the conference coordinator emailed me queries and manuscript pages from attendees. Of course, with any such information exchange there are snags.

One person sent me the email address for an author who needed some specific questions answered. I clicked on the address, sent an email.

Boing! Boing! Bounced back faster than you can say "googleschmoogle"

What to do?
It's 2 in the morning in New York. Even with a five hour time difference it's pretty late to start calling up strangers on a Sunday night.

So, I did what I always do first: I googled. Sure enough, up pops the author's blog, and there's his email address in his bio.

Bingo, bango, bongo, much better than boing boing, yes indeed.

Even if the blog was empty, if it had the email address it would have given me what I needed. A contact page on a website would have too.

I can't tell you the number of times this year alone, I've clicked on a blogger name to get contact info, only to come up short.
And you need an email address or a contact form. NOT just Facebook, not just Twitter. I won't reach out to you in a public forum, particularly if I want to tell you why one of your comments was deleted, or if I just want to send you a personal note.

Even if you're not published, even if you're just starting out, post your contact info.

Here's the rule: Be reachable.

This blog post first appeared with a different title and somewhat different content on August 3, 2009


french sojourn said...

Hopefully Santa left a satellite dish on Carkoon.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I'm right here. I am reachable. Mostly. Assuming I am not locked away on Carkoon due to that Be Imperfect business.

Colin Smith said...

And this doesn't just go for hot-shot agents like Her Glorious Sharkliness. There have been a few times when we've had someone new comment, and I've clicked on their Blogger profile to find out who this person is, what stage of the writing journey they're on, if they are really an undercover agent for the CIA (Carkoon Interrogation Army), but there's nothing there. Not even any bio info. So, yes, put a link or two in your profile, please. And if you're a regular commenter, consider having your name added to The List. :)

Julie Weathers said...

Whoo hoo, I made the list! I hate the contact form on my site, but that's what the web guru suggested.

I do agree people need to be reachable. Remember the great international Gary Corby hunt when pixies had to be called in to help find him.

Oddly enough, I've seen a few posts by agents recently that addressed this. They suggested having complete contact information, including physical address, which surprised me.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

I put up a website almost a year ago. So I'm with the program here. But... Hm...

(hamster wheel starts whirring)

At least, I'm reachable via email. Not by snail mail or phone unless someone emails me first to ask for it. That's ok? Right? Isn't it?

It has to be ok to just have email. Why would anyone wish to put their mailing address and their phone number for anyone in public space to see. Common sense.

(stops the hamster wheel)

Time for some chocolate suisse coffee, (my new holiday treat).

Claire Bobrow said...

Uh oh - I plead guilty.

"This writing thing is still so new," I tell myself.
Well, nope, not so much, not anymore.
But I have been paying attention and I did get the domain names. Now it's time for that landing page...
Which is at the tippy-top of my New Year's To Do list.
And maybe a blog?


Colin Smith said...

By the way, blogs and other social media sites are great, but for the purposes of being reachable, I believe an email address is sufficient. Don't feel like you have to go set up a blog to be sure Janet will find you.

As for putting physical addresses and phone numbers on your social media presence--no way. I don't care if every agent wants to see my snail mail location on my blog, I'm not going there. I only give out my address to those that need it (e.g., agents/publications I'm querying/submitting to, and people wanting to send me books).

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I'm so reachable, you tickle,I laugh.

Julie Weathers said...

Time to clarify myself. The agents discussing this were talking about in query letters, certainly not on public platforms.

I think the last example was on a Writer's Digest post. It had a query letter sample with a standard business letter heading with all the contact information.

Lennon Faris said...

Ooh, the thought of putting up a physical address gives me the creeps (I see the clarification, Julie, that makes a lot more sense). Still, I can see some people doing that on their blog.

Hey, 2Ns!- *tickle, tickle!*


Dena Pawling said...

I recently received an email from an author whose email signature block included home and cell numbers. I called the author brave for doing so, and the author promptly removed those items from the signature block.

Who knows how many Annie Wilkes are out there?

Back when I first passed the CA Bar Exam, I had to give the State Bar an address-of-record. Because I wasn't employed by a firm, I gave my home address.


The address we gave to the Bar was used as our public address. I soon began receiving hand-written letters from prison inmates, asking me to take their case.

At my home.

I went out and rented an address. It's a private mail box [not a PO Box], but it fit the need.

There is such a thing as being TOO reachable.

Thereafter, I became employed and used my employer's address.

I still have my mailbox, and I use it for several things including my author address and making purchases via internet sites. It's not on my blog but might be in the future. I definitely have my email address prominently at the top of my blog, along with my Twitter handle. Interestingly, I've had DM conversations on Twitter from several folks who prefer using that, rather than sending email.

Definitely be reachable. But definitely have limits.

BJ Muntain said...

I put complete contact information in my query letters, including phone number, physical address, website, and Twitter handle. This all goes under my signature. I had a bit of an email glitch a month or so ago, but anyone who needed to get hold of me would have my phone number, too. Or even my Twitter handle, if they wanted to message me.

BJ Muntain said...

But yes, my website and my Blogger profile only have my e-mail address.

Claire Bobrow said...

These reminders about the whats and wheres of providing appropriate contact info are very helpful. Invaluable advice from the Reef - thank you!

But - OT - where, oh where, were all of you yesterday when my daughter and I tried to re-create a dessert from the Great British Baking Show? We could have used advice. Lots of it. Long story short, when the cake failed twice, we felt like real contestants. And like real contestants, we sawed off the bad bits and tipped them in the bin.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I've been in the public eye so long (as founder of the sanctuary, which we run from our home) it doesn't even dawn on me to be cautious about all my contact info, including physical address and home phone, being on my website and social media. As a nonprofit, we rely on donations and it's imperative we're easy to reach. But I'm also an inherently trusting soul.

Regarding querying purposes, it would seem email and phone number is sufficient, if you're querying via email. Although, as Julie said, I've seen a few agent guidelines, not many, asking for a physical address even though the communication is via email. I guess that's in case they're so blown away by your query they want the option of showing up on your doorstep to watch the look on your face when they offer to represent.

Julie Weathers said...


I figured out a long time ago if someone really wants to find you they will. I was playing a MMORPG at the time and out of the blue got a phone call from someone I played with. "Hey, this is Heywood. I just wanted to call and visit."

"How did you get my phone number?"

"I have a friend in the IRS."

That was not only an unexpected call, it was a wake up call about how this stuff goes.

Having said that, I wrote for a national (international really) horse racing magazine with my name out there for 23 years. Anyone could call the office and get my phone number as I worked from my home and did all research and interviews over the phone. It wasn't unusual for someone to want to contact me about a story.

For instance, a Hollywood producer always called me when he won a race so we could visit. I was banned from talking to his trainer. A couple of times he was where he didn't have access to his phone and had to call the magazine for my number, which I didn't mind. It was easier for him to call me when he was free than me to take a chance.

In all that time, I only got nasty phone calls twice, so that isn't bad.

Joseph S. said...

My name, telephone number and address are all in the telephone directory (and every paid solicitor's call list in the lower 48).

But I don't have a blog or website.

I just Googled me. There's tons of mentions of ways to contact me at school.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

It is because of this sage sharkly advice that I have a "How to contact me/Where to read my writing" page on my blog. I also list my email address in the little "bio" sidebar which displays on every page.

Beth Carpenter said...

Glad you clarified, Julie. A physical address on a query to an agent who might want to mail you a contract to sign makes sense. On you website for the whole world to find sounds nuts.

I'm just starting to feel my way around Facebook. A couple of men with no connections to me have friended me and seem suspiciously pushy in direct messages. Is this a red flag of some sort? I don't want to run off possible readers by being rude, but it feels off.

BJ Muntain said...

I include my Twitter account and website on my queries so interested agents can check up on me if they want. Some say they do, if they're interested.

The physical address - really, the postal address - can be very important, especially if e-mail goes down.

Mr. Corby obviously didn't include his physical address when he queries Janet, but luckily, pixies are smart and resourceful as well as cute.

(Here's Gary Corby's story, mentioned here a couple times today

BJ Muntain said...

Beth: Regarding the men on Facebook - I've had men send me friend requests. Generally, if we had a mutual friend, I'd accept. One fellow I friended this way would send me direct messages saying little else but 'Hi'. I never responded, but he kept sending them. Then he sent a friend request to a friend of mine, who saw he was a friend of mine, and accepted the request. He started doing the same to her. We both immediately unfriended him, and now I'm more careful about who I accept friend requests from. I don't want another friend of mine to accept a request from a weirdo simply because I did (Unless it's a weirdo I already know.)

I've also received several friend requests from men who have no mutual friends with me. I always check their websites, and usually you'll find that all their friends are women, and their stories include things that are meant to attract women - they're rich, they're foreign, they're military, etc. I will not accept a friend request from people if I can't see some of their recent posts, and if those posts do not feel legitimate to me.

roadkills-r-us said...

I think a lot of people- especially younger people and people new to the net in general- don't think about email. "That's so ancient." Even some colleagues in the publishing space (one illustrator in particular leaps to mind) has to be prompted via Facebook or text to read her email. They just don't think about it. I, of course, have been on the net since you had to know someone to get on it, back when email and usenet were it. (Who remembers usenet? You kids.)

As far as snail and such, I've had those out on the net since the days when you could assume a fair amount of trust and privacy. It's far too late to worry about it now. And honestly, the only things I've received unsolicited were cassettes to review (I don't), solicitations for employment at Roadkills-R-Us (a totally farcical site), and the occasional credit card app.

That said, I keep even more info on FB, but only for my FB friends- which has helped me think harder about accepting requests from friends of friends.

For a while I was getting lots of requests from scantily clad women, occasionally engaged in adult activities. Now I mainly get head shots or mild cleavage shots with little else rather than a lament about how lonely or desperate for sex they are. Or occasionally wanting a husband. These new versions all claim to be local, all have little on their sites, and of course their only friends are men. All of teh above get denied PDQ.

Claire Bobrow said...

BJ: thanks for the link to the Gary Corby story, which was hilarious :-) My favorite part was the 300 word query for FINDING GARY CORBY by "Bill Gates."

BJ Muntain said...

Roadkill (may I call you Roadkill?) I remember usenet. I also remember gophers and Archie and the rest. At that time, I worked in a library, and libraries thought that *they* would be running the Information Highway. After all, libraries were where people went for information, and all that information needed to be catalogued and displayed. Poor naive people. Once business got involved, the internet-as-library pipe dream fell apart.

Craig F said...

It seems to me that if your query grabs an agent in the correct way said agent will just hit the reply button. No muss, no fuss.

I doubt an agent is going to go chasing down Facebook pages at the query stage. A publisher would have more interest in all of the other stuff and then only if they have executed a contract with you.

Colin Smith said...

Gary Corby's story is excellent. His books are even better. Here's a link to them on Amazon!

(No, I don't pass up an opportunity.) :D

BJ Muntain said...

Craig: Did you read Gary Corby's story? His email was down, and the 'just hit reply, no muss, no fuss' bounced back at Janet.

In a job application, you give all the contact information the employer will need to contact you, whether it's by e-mail, post, phone, or other. Why not do the same when querying agents?

And some agents do care about your social media background, although they'll usually say so on their website, so you'll know to add it. I only put the contact info on that I want them to see. I don't put my Facebook page on because I've been neglecting it. I just put my Twitter handle on. It's not going to make them say no, and if there is a remote chance it will help to get them to a 'yes', why not include it?

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hey Lennon, Hahahaha.....

MA Hudson said...

It's thanks to this blog that I eventually got off my butt and put together a website with a contact form and email address. It was while perusing the mobile version on my phone that I came across a map with a flashing circle around my house. Ugh! It may as well have been a bullseye. I completely freaked out. I really don't fancy having my physical address on the world wide web and the fact that it appeared without me choosing gives me the heebie jeebies. It's fixed now (I hope), and I'm going to take comfort in Melanie's complete nonchalance at having her address available to all.

Beth Carpenter said...

Good to know, BJ. Yeah, these profiles look like the same type.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

I have a mailing list, as does pretty much every author. (Go to my blog if you wish to sign up.) My mailing list provider insists a physical address be listed on every Quarterly Newsletter.

Um, no. I've already had my fair share of stalkers, thanks. So I had a look at what other authors listed. Ah, their agent's address. What about unagented authors? A PO box.

As I'm not ready for the cost of a PO box, I'll just have to get an agent.

BJ Muntain said...

Duchess: That's the one thing that's kept me from sending out a newsletter - the need for a postal address. I understand that it's required legally in many jurisdictions, but I balk at it. I'm looking at getting a PO box as soon as I can afford one.

Stephen Kozeniewski said...

You can always call me at 2 in the morning in NYC, Janet. Even if it's just because you're feeling lonely.

Kathryn said...

I'm a little guppy new to the rough seas of writing. Just updated my blog to include my email. Thank you for all these helpful tips!

roadkills-r-us said...

Of course you may call me Roadkill, BJ. Or Miles. I really need to remember to login to this as my newer account so my real name shows up.
I didn't mention archie (or veronica!) or any of the rest, though I thought about it, because I knew they would be a stretch. It thrills me that someone knows about those. I expected libraries to be far more involved, too. At least they have survived better than bookstores. I love libraries; as a first grader I had three library cards- school, public, and bookmobile- and they were usually all maxed out. My main problem was returning everything on time to the correct library. Later I was a library assistant at school and at church.
While on the one hand I am glad that far more people have internet access, I also miss the days when you could have a lot more trust in the people online to (a) not be scamming, and (b) know what they were doing. And the troll population has increased.

Back on topic (somewhat), I love being reachable. I have made a lot of new friends, and I have also reconnected with other friends I doubt that I could have without the net. Of course, I also get offers from people who want to help me publish for the low, low price of (hundreds to thousands of dollars). They're like the chain letters of publishing.