How easy are you to find?
This last week, I have been contacting the authors we’ve interviewed or reviewed on this website over the last 18 months. You’d think that would be a relatively straight forward task, but there are times I’ve felt like I’m channeling Sherlock Holmes as I’ve searched high and low for contact details that are non-existent.
Here’s the typical process. Go to author website/blog. Search for contact page. Nothing. Search for about page. No email address listed. Search sidebars and other links for contact details. Nothing. Google author name + email address. Nothing. Try Goodreads and Amazon. Nothing. Search for author on LinkedIn (only possible if their author name is not a pen name). No publicly visible email address. Okay, connect with author, wait up to 3 days for them to accept connection, then view their email address through LinkedIn. Finally send email.
I’m not just saying this is the case with authors that have featured on this website. As the Editor-in-Chief of The Writers’ Shack, I often need to contact authors for things, and all too often, it’s like jumping through hoops to find a contact.
I’d hazard a pretty good guess that less than 15 percent of authors I’ve searched have an easily found email address. Of those 15 percent, less than half have a clickable email address (ie, is hyperlinked so when you click on it, it opens up in your email client). Possibly another 5 percent who do not have email addresses listed will at least have a contact form, which while not ideal, is at least better than no contact at all.
Why are authors so afraid of people being able to contact them? Sure there is some need for caution in the cybersphere, but do authors really think they are going to get email stalked by crazy fans? Or have their identities stolen just because they made their email address visible? I’m not advocating you post your home address on your website, or even your telephone number. But an email address??? People use them every day for a million different reasons – to sign up for blogs, enter competitions, shop online, book flights, order porn… Okay, maybe not that last one but you get my drift. Email addresses aren’t exactly up there with National Security.
And, if you’re that uncomfortable listing your personal email address online, there are always ways around it. Create a gmail or hotmail account specifically for your books. Or even better, set up one that corresponds with your domain name (if you’ve bought a domain for your website/blog, chances are it won’t cost you a penny more to set up an email account on that domain).
If you’re still not convinced, here’s 4 reasons every author should make their email address public.
It’s good business:
In this day and age, people expect businesses (and let’s face it folks, if you’re an author, that’s exactly what you are – a business) to be easily contactable. A business that doesn’t list its contact details appears dodgy and untrustworthy, and does not inspire confidence in its customers. A business with no contact details tells the customer “We don’t care about you. Just leave your money and then bugger off.”
That’s pretty much the vibe authors give off when they can’t be contacted. They’re essentially saying “Buy my book and then bugger off. I don’t care what you think, say or feel. I don’t want to be bothered by you.”
“Hang on a second,” I hear you say. “Surely authors like Stephen King, JK Rowling, or EL James don’t have email addresses on their sites.”
Actually, they do. Stephen King has a couple of contact forms – one for the website itself, and another for the media to send in requests to Mr King’s management. JK Rowling also has the email address of her publicist clearly marked. And EL James, the author of 50 Shades of Grey, lists a personal email address where fans can send her feedback! Even if they didn’t have those contact addresses on their sites, all of them have agents, publicists, publishers etc that can pass on email correspondence and act as a conduit. And all of those agents, publicists, and publishers have easily accessible email addresses, even if it’s just a generic firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s pretty much a given that most of you reading this post don’t have the publishing/promotional arms these greats have – or the budgets. If you have a publicist or an agent or even a small trade publisher to act as a conduit between you and your fans, great – make sure you list their emails. But if you’re like most of us, and a one-man(woman)-writing/publishing/promotional band, it is vital to your success that you are contactable. Businesses that aren’t contactable don’t last long. And we all know it’s hard enough surviving as an Indie author without making it harder by alienating your customer base.
Who doesn’t love getting positive feedback? As authors, there is nothing nicer than getting an email from a fan who loved your book. Sure, it would be better if everyone who said something nice about your book said it online. However, the harsh reality is that less than 10 percent of people who read books will post a review. For some, it’s a time thing. For others, they lack the confidence to post their opinion online. While the numbers for posting reviews are low, the number of people who send fan mail or email feedback to authors is a lot higher.
The beauty of fan mail is, once you receive it, you can actually make it public yourself. You can post it on your blog, Tweet an excerpt, put it up on Facebook, pin it to a Pinterest board… You can even use excerpts when approaching agents and publishers – as in ‘this is what people have said about my book’.
I’d love to tell you that the only emails you’ll get from your fans will be positive, but the truth is you may also receive the odd critical email that points out a flaw. Perhaps you got something factually wrong in your research, or there is a technical glitch in the formatting on your book. Or maybe some people didn’t like the way you portrayed their culture, or gender, or profession…
“Wait a minute, why would I want to open myself up to critical emails? Isn’t that just crazy?”
Actually, it’s very smart.
People who want to vent will always find a way to do so. I would prefer a short email stating there was a factual error in my book or a story line they didn’t like than an annoyed review from a reader who couldn’t find anywhere else to vent but in a public forum. Maybe they are right, and there was something you overlooked. Thank that person for pointing it out and then go fix it. That’s the beauty of Indie publishing – we have the flexibility to make last-minute changes to our manuscripts. Their feedback could actually end up saving you from negative reviews down the track.
Then again, if it was a major plot point or story arc they didn’t like, it’s not like you’re going to go and change your book just to appeal to one or two people, particularly not if you are getting good reviews and comments from everyone else. In this scenario, you accept that not everyone is going to like your work, you thank that reader for taking the time to read your book and share their thoughts with you. Be polite. They’ll feel heard and you’ve avoided a very public smear campaign (believe me – I’ve seen it all too many times in the Indie publishing world).
Feedback is your friend. Don’t fear your audience. Embrace them. Make it easy for them to find and correspond with you.
In addition to being an author, I’m also a journalist and a book blogger, so I have personal experience on both sides of this scenario. As an author, I have been approached by a number of other book bloggers who read my book and wanted to interview me for their blogs. As a journalist and book blogger, I have approached dozens of authors for comments and additional information for articles, to request interviews, to get background information or images to use in book reviews. I’ve also contacted them with offers to feature their books on my site. Without fail, if that process is too difficult – if I have to jump through a dozen hoops to find the Holy Grail of email address, I’m going to skip over them and find an author who is easier to contact. Remember those authors I was talking about at the beginning of this post? Well, in that instance I was offering them significant publicity and exposure as a sponsor in return for 2 ecopies of their books to use as prizes in our Biggest Ebook Giveaway Ever. As authors, unless you have someone famous in your corner, or a very large budget to hire a full-blown publicity team, you NEED exposure to sell your books. Make it as simple as possible for those people to contact you.
It’s the stuff of urban legend, the thing we authors dream about. Some big wig movie producer stumbling upon our book and loving it so much they just have to make it into a movie. For Torre De Roche, that dream became a reality just two weeks after she self-published her memoir, Love with a chance of drowning.
Torre says it best in her own words: “A week after launching my book online, I received an email from a movie producer. He’d chanced upon my Twitter profile, which led him to an excerpt from my book. He sent me a quick email to see if my film rights were available.” You can read the rest of Torre’s amazing journey of discovery on her website, but long story short, she not only ended up with a big Hollywood movie deal, she also ended up with a number of publishing houses bidding for the rights to her book!
Now imagine for a second that film producer searching aimlessly on Torre’s website for an email address only to come up blank. How long do you think he would have continued knocking on that door before he gave up, figured she wasn’t interested, and moved on elsewhere? How about those publishing houses?
Do you have an email address clearly visible on your blog or website? Still think it’s a good idea not to list your email address?
Images courtesy of imagerymajestic, Stuart Miles, and David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.