Email Ejection

by Pari Noskin Taichert

Okay, so, the scuttlebutt is writers should stay in touch with their readers. Usually we do that by writing books. But, sometimes, there’s a bit of a pause between tomes and we need to resort to other methods.

Like a good kid, when I first started out, I collected e-dresses and invited people to be on my list for "updates." Because I despise spam, I made sure to only send out notices when there was something important to report such as new contracts, book releases and signings, talks, articles published. My other vow was that I wouldn’t inundate anyone with my propaganda.

Three years later, I’d accumulated a list of 500 names — give or take. I know that’s not a big number, but it made me happy enough. However, with spam filters being what they are, mailing my updates became a nightmare. I had to break up my lists into itsy, bitsy, ones in order to make it through indiscriminate email sieves. Sure, I could have paid for someone else to do it — a company online — but with all the PR I do, and the humble number of my list, I didn’t think the expense was worth it. Not really. Not yet.

Anyway, the effort to stay in touch became a disincentive. I stopped mailing even quarterly updates. Names and addresses sank into obsolescence. That might have been all right for awhile, but now I’m gearing up for my new book’s entry into the world. (January will be here before you know it.)

So, I decided to resurrect the updates. This time, I created a private, unlisted group through Yahoo. I keyed in hundreds of names in January and got a horrid return on opt-ins. Sure, the people who responded really wanted to hear from me, but what about the others? Did they hate me? Did they hate my writing? Had I been annoying them for years without knowing it? Were they dumping my updates the way I often do when others send generic announcements to me? I felt totally rejected.

It’s stupid, I know. But there’s the truth.

What mature thing did I do? Nada. I stopped keying in any more names. Yep. Pretty pathetic, hunh?

The whole exercise devolved into another reason to feel rotten, to re-up for the emotional rollercoaster, to sulk. Heck, there are so many email newsletters out there, so many websites and blogs, listervs and online "communities." Why bother trying to put out my own missives anymore? Why bother trying to communicate at all? Wah.

Here’s the BECAUSE:
There are people who DO, indeed, want to hear from me.

This week, when I need a break from writing or have a couple of minutes between kiddie-taxi duties, I’ll try to complete my data entry. Though invitees may opt not to join the list, it’s a chance I’ll take.

At public talks and private book clubs, I’ll continue to collect email addresses and offer to stay in touch.

And, with each acceptance, I’ll feel a bit more connected, a bit more encouraged . . . a bit more like this particular exercise is worthwhile.

22 thoughts on “Email Ejection

  1. Sharon Wheeler

    Pari, I always enjoyed receiving your email updates. I’m notoriously touchy about BSP, so my way of hearing about authors whose work I like is to opt in to their newsletters. And I suppose ‘opt in’ is the problem — a lot of people won’t bother because they never quite get around to it.

    Collecting email addresses at signings and conventions sounds sensible to me. I used to be a music writer, and the big tradition after gigs was for fans to sign up to (then) snail mail mailing lists. I still get material from two bands from about 15 years ago!

  2. pari

    Sharon,I think you’re right about the opt-in part of it. I know I’ve fallen off of some lists because of it.

    Still, I think that it’s a better alternative for the reader and for me. At least those people who do decide to receive the info REALLY do want it.

    Do you find you get all kinds of info that you simply don’t want or need anymore, that you’ve outgrown — but are too lazy to request a stop?

  3. Lorraine.

    You scared me for a moment, there. I keyed over to my Yahoo groups and Pari updates is still on the list, along with SinC, etc.So, I guess I’m safe, and will be reminded when a new book or new series comes out.Actually, I really appreciate the way you do it. Some authors send out frequent newsletters, which I have to skim through to make sure there’s not real news, like a new book, and then delete when it’s just a ramble, I suppose with the intention of keeping their name in my mind — but my mind is already very cluttered, so I don’t want them there unless it’s to remember to look for a new book.

  4. Louise Ure

    I must admit, there are a couple of author newsletters that I’d like to unsubscribe from, but don’t, fearing that I’ll hurt their feelings.

    Your opt-in solution is a good one. I wish more authors used it.

  5. MF Makichen

    Hi Pari,My husband has a nonfiction book out and I end up doing most of his admin work including the e-mail list so I know exactly how you feel! I wanted to tell you that I was that the Seattle Mystery Bookstore this weekend and picked up a signed copy of The Belen Hitch. I’ve been wanting to read one of your books since I started to visit this blog. So that’s the first one. Also, please add me to your list and I’ll definitely opt-in!

  6. Naomi

    Your blog about e-mail list comes at the right time for me, as I’ve been witnessing the Queen of Book PR, Denise Hamilton, collect e-dresses at various signing events. I think it’s definitely smart to get those addresses. I’m much less consistent about it. If I start a conversation with a reader and it seems that there’s a connection, I’ll ask them for their e-mail address. I try to group my e-mail addresses into categories, but I need to be better about the geographic groups. It sure is nice if you return to a certain bookstore or/and area, and you can blind copy a category. I try to keep people in one category so they don’t receive multiple e-mails, but as a result, you might miss a few e-mail opportunities.

    I think once you’ve reached a certain status, like a bestseller list, etc., you can start using Vertical Response, etc., but what do you do when you’re in midlistland? I’ve chosen to post a new monthly message on my website. I figure if people are really interested, they will check there.

  7. JLW

    I am so disappointed. I thought your post was going to be about dealing with rejection and sense of loss, and instead it’s about email.

    If it had been the former, I could have helped. I know all about feeling rejected and lost. I could have shown you the two most important ways to deal with these feelings: (1) how to be bitter and depressed, and (2) how to make others think you are maintaining the pathetic illusion of self-worth.

    On email and newsletters, I will say this: I have never bought a book because I learned of it through an author’s newsletter. I do subscribe to a few, but I almost never read them. I rely much more on bookstores’ email newsletters, because they contain so much more information and may introduce me to new authors.

  8. pari

    Lorraine,I love the comment about your mind being very cluttered. I feel that way often.

    Louise,You know what? I do the same thing and stay on lists because of a similar concern. Now that I use Yahoo, I can say the fear is justified. The list moderator knows everyone who is on and who decides not to be.

    Oh, Mary Frances,I hope you like BELEN.

    Your husband is lucky to have you to do the admin stuff. You’re giving him a tremendous gift. (And, I’ll invite you sometime this week . . . heh heh heh.)

    Naomi,Yeah, Denise is astounding, isn’t she? But you’re right about the mid-level author. That’s why I’ll keep doing it on my own for awhile.

    Re: your message on the websiteI think it’s a brilliant idea. We’ve got a webmistress in common and I’ve already told her I want to do something like it. The other nice thing about that approach is that you can update your signing schedule and so forth at the same time.

  9. Robert Gregory Browne

    I’ll tell you, I’ve collected a bunch of email addresses and have yet to do anything with them. Truth is, I’ve subscribed to a few author’s newsletters and I rarely even open them.

    So I hesitate to do one myself. Is the effort worth it? I have no idea.


  10. pari

    James,I am so glad you read and respond to these blogs. I got such a laugh from your post. Thank you.

    Actually, I think I might write a post about rejection soon . . .

    The point you make about author newsletters is true. I don’t think I’ve bought a single book because of one. But, I do like to know what some of these people are up to. Sometimes one of their newsletters gives me more specific info about them.

    Sometimes, I just feel overwhelmed with shoulds.

  11. Elaine Flinn

    I’d thought about the newsletter thing once – but then realized readers might consider it intrusive. Lord knows everyone is bombarded with e-mails and chat room digests as it is. And it seemed to me that it might seem impersonal to the reader and perhaps smack of self-serving BSP rather than an update. But then – that’s just me.

    I agree with Louise – there are some I’d lke to opt out of – but that would appear rude.

  12. Sharon Wheeler

    The author newsletters that work best are those that are chatty and to the point, and only sent out when there’s something worthwhile to report! I enjoy those from Tess Gerritsen, Val McDermid and Mark Billingham.

  13. Alex Sokoloff

    “Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with shoulds.”


    The newsletter thing is overwhelming to me, too. I think I’m just going to have to do it to announce books coming out, for the time being.

  14. pari

    I think Sharon nailed it — the ones that work are personal. That addresses part of Elaine’s comments as well.

    That’s one reason I like the feel of a self-created newsletter — because it has the rough edges of personality.

    One of the nice things about sending out my updates is that I get a couple of really wonderful responses — people whom I haven’t heard from drop me a line. It feels good.

    Alex,Your solution works. I think you’re in the mystery world so much through conventions that people will remember you that way, too.

  15. pari

    I just saw Rob’s email.

    There are so many ways to “stay in touch” that it is really difficult to tell what works and what doesn’t.

    I think it goes back to doing what works for you. The updates that I do send out work for me. That’s why I do them.

    For others, they may not.

    And, again, I don’t send to anyone without that personal contact (their request or my inquiry after an interaction of some sort).

  16. JT Ellison

    God Bless all the kids at Va. Tech. and their families. Horrifying situation.

    There are a couple of newsletters — Karin Slaughter’s comes to mind, that are worth the time to open. Many aren’t.

    As far as newsletters, I think we have to be careful not to market to one another rather than to readers. I’ve got a sign-up for newsletter option on my website, and I appreciate everyone who signs up for it. But I want to gear it to readers, (and yes, I know that we’re ALL readers too, I’m talking about outside the inner industry readers) Am I wrong in thinking most of us are on top of each other’s status on a regular basis, through blogs and lists? I want the newsletter to be engaging to the folks who don’t get inundated by me on a daily basis, people I meet who are interested in my books, etc.

    Am I thinking about this all wrong? Let me know before I send out that first fateful newsletter, please!!!

  17. Sue Trowbridge

    OK, everyone who wants to set up a mailing list, here’s my recommendation for you: Your Mailinglist Provider – . It’s super-easy to use, and if someone wants off, they can simply click on a link that’s automatically added to the bottom of every newsletter. I am not affiliated with the company, I’m just a satisfied customer.

  18. pari

    I should have asked you before I started with Yahoo, Sue. Now, I’m about half way done with keying in the names. Would I have to do that all over again for this new system?


    And, J.T.,Newsletters/updates are for readers and friends. My list is a combination of both — mainly readers. You actually reminded me of that. And, that makes me feel better.

    BTW: drink scads of luscious red wine for me — a couple of barolos and amarones, please. Yum.


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