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Picture Me Blinking In Astonishment 11 March 2010

Posted by Camille Gooderham Campbell in Hall of Shame.

Theoretically, writers who submit their work for publication want to hear back from the publisher.

So I was surprised, a while back, to come across a writer who had set up an email spam blocker that would only accept incoming mail from an approved list — our response to a query generated an auto-reply email asking us to click on a link and “fill out a short request form to be added to the list of approved senders”. The automated email noted: “I apologize for this one-time inconvenience”. Did we click on the link and fill out the short request form? No, we did not.

Ever since then, I have mentally enshrined that particular incident as the most counterproductive author communication effort possible. It couldn’t possibly be outdone — send a query, but make it impossible to receive the response without an extra step that involves clicking a link and filling out a form. Quite apart from it coming across as a phishing trip (you don’t know me! click this link! give me your personal information!), neither I nor any other editor that I know of has time to go around filling out little forms. Brilliant strategy for getting published? No. Gold star for total bemusement factor? Yes.

Today, I encountered something that rivals even that one.

The subject line of what was clearly an auto-response email read: “I am no longer communicating via e-mail”. In the body of the email, it said: “If you wish to get in touch, please write me at [snail mail address here]. My website, [website here], is still active and contains a list of my recent publications. Thank you!”

So, picture me blinking in astonishment. Gold star for arrogance in thinking that I’m seriously going to go get a stamp and send a snail mail letter. Welcome to my Hall of Shame.


1. Harry Markov - 14 March 2010

Now that is interesting. My e-mail is always open for anybody, except newsletters. I still can’t exorcise my in-box from those and I send them to Spam.

But way to go for these people, who are apparently living in their own fantasy world.

2. Elisabeth Fraser - 4 April 2010

Nervous writer? Possibly Internet abused? Sounds like me. I have several emails now, one for mostly Spam, one for friends only, one for business stuff – which would be you and one for banking, lawyers, etc.

I’ve set up a system which annoys me somewhat. I did this because I gave three nice, open and friendly addresses to a (only one) person I trusted and had known for years – then we had a fight.

I received 270 pages (50 per page) of Viagra, Penile implants, Pfizer and Homosexual/Heterosexual/Transexual – and recently he’s placed me on a couple of dating sites.

MY ISP is helping me sort it all out. We’re down to 30 – 40 special Spam a day now.

I’m ‘gunshy’

I know you are very busy, just take a look from our end of the binoculars. Some of us are scared, that’s why we set up ‘blocks’.

Camille - 4 April 2010

Wow, I’m very sorry to hear that your ex-friend would do that to you! That’s just horrible.

I completely understand that some writers are concerned about their personal information. However, there are ways to handle that concern without coming across as unprofessional or setting up roadblocks for editors and publishers who want to respond to submissions.

Here’s a particularly effective method which I know is used by several authors who submit work to EDF: with all the free email services available, it’s easy to set up an email address specifically for the publication you’re dealing with (such as, for example, authorsname.edfsubs@gmail.com). So you may have five or six or more of these, if you’re submitting regularly to a bunch of venues, but you don’t have to check them individually — just set them all up to appear in your Outlook inbox (or whatever program you use). This is relatively easy to do; I have five email addresses and check them all in one place. Then, if one publication should be so horrible and dishonest as to sell or abuse your email address, you can delete that account without affecting anything but your relationship with that one publication (which would anyway already be spoiled).

Again, I’m very sorry you had such an unfortunate experience.

3. Bernard S. Jansen - 17 June 2010

I enjoyed this. The things people do are weirder than what any fiction writer could get away with. Imagine submitting a story with a fiction writer submitting work to be published and then pulling that stunt.

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