Should I pull the plug?

by Tess Gerritsen

Last week, I flew out of town for a speaking engagement.  For four days, while I was away, I didn’t check my email.  The morning after I came home, still groggy from fatigue, I booted up my computer and stared at a hundred new emails in my in-box.  Only a few were from friends or family, a few were from my agent and editor, but the vast majority were from people I’d never met.  Some of them were very nice emails telling me they liked my books.  Others asked for signed books for their charity auctions, or for signed photographs (I seem to get a lot of these requests from Russia), or for advice on how to get published or get an agent, or whether I’d come to speak at their library/school/luncheon/etc.  There were emails asking for online interviews or to set up lunch dates so they could tell me the needs of their favorite charity.  There were emails asking for money.  And there were a few from people who were angry that I had insulted old people or obese people or their favorite dog breed in my latest novel, and they would never read another one of my books.  Facing that long list of emails, I felt a sense of overwhelming exhaustion because each one of these emails needed to be read.  Each one needed a response (and I do try to respond to every single one.)  And if I put it off for a day or two, I’d just end up with fifty new messages waiting for me.  Meanwhile, there’s a book I still have to write, a husband who’s irritated that I’m not downstairs for breakfast, and a stack of snail-mail that needs to be attended to.

Which is why I’m thinking about shutting down my public email access, unplugging my internet, and hiding in a cave.

Other authors have told me they’re astonished that I’m still accessible to the public by email.  They shut down their public email addresses ages ago because they didn’t want to deal with the nasty messages.  One author has her husband read all her emails first, and he deletes anything that might be upsetting.  If you’re a public person, you will certainly get those messages.  Sometimes they’re upsetting enough to screw up your writing brain for the day, as you obsess over how lousy a writer you really are.  

Then there’s the dilemma of how to graciously respond to all the requests for your time and attention.  You want to be polite.  You want to be understanding.  But sometimes I’m really bad at saying no, and I’ll fret over just how to word my response without sounding like a jerk.

The truth is, staying in contact with lots and lots of people is not just distracting — it’s work.  While I do have a Twitter account, I tweet only once or twice a week, and usually only about the TV show, “Rizzoli & Isles.”  I have a Facebook account, but I’ll post only occasionally, usually about publishing news or events. And that’s about it for my online social life.  In fact, it’s a lot like my real social life.  I like hiding out in my office. I like eating popcorn by myself on the couch, in front of the TV.  With the phone unplugged.

I just watched “The Social Network,” a terrific film about the founders of Facebook. I came home thinking that there’s something wrong with me, because I don’t understand the overwhelming popularity of Facebook.  Yes, I do use it.  I appreciate its ingenious design.  But I never imagined that people would want to stay so obsessively connected with each other.  

Because most of the time, I just want to be left alone.  

In the recent Time Magazine article about Jonathan Franzen, I came across a description of his workspace:

Franzen works in a rented office that he has stripped of all distractions. He uses a heavy, obsolete Dell laptop from which he has scoured any trace of hearts and solitaire, down to the level of the operating system. Because Franzen believes you can’t write serious fiction on a computer that’s connected to the Internet, he not only removed the Dell’s wireless card but also permanently blocked its Ethernet port. “What you have to do,” he explains, “is you plug in an Ethernet cable with superglue, and then you saw off the little head of it.”

Most people who read this probably think: “Wow, Franzen is a total weirdo.”  I read it and think: “How do I keep the superglue from getting into the rest of my computer?”

I think Franzen has a point.  All this social networking is getting in the way of our writing.  It’s distracting us.  It’s sucking up our time.  Yet we’re made to feel obligated to do it, for marketing, for success.  Every author’s been told she must have a website.  Every author must blog.  If you drop out of the chatter you’ll be forgotten, and no one will buy your books.  If you neglect to blog, tweet, and continually post on Facebook, you are doomed to die penniless and unread.  

Yet I don’t know if it’s worth it anymore.  I’m mulling over the consequences of getting unplugged so I can devote more time to what got me here in the first place: writing books.  Not answering emails.  Or taking on more speaking gigs.  Or tweeting and Facebooking.  

So here are some questions I’d like to address to other authors:

Do you still have a public email address?  

Do you answer your own emails?  

If you went private, why?  

Are you getting more writing done as a result?

45 thoughts on “Should I pull the plug?

  1. Ali

    I know that feeling well, running concurrent lives, in business, writing , reviewing and trying to get a life. I have to totally organised but used to hate that sinking feeling logging onto email and waiting for my two main email accounts to download all the emails, spam and wiffle.

    Now thanks to Iphone 4 – I do it all the time in free moments, rather than suck a few hours each day from [productive time]

    The problem is the 'google effect' with a reduction in attention span!



  2. Laura Jane Thompson

    Speaking as a reader, I think all authors should permit some way for readers to contact them (either e-mail or snail mail). It drives me crazy when authors say, "I'm too busy to hear from you."

    I've written to two authors in my lifetime: Ann M. Martin (when I was in junior high), and Dean Koontz (several years ago). Both authors responded with form letters, though Dean Koontz scribbled a note to me at the bottom of the typed letter, commenting directly on the content of my letter. It made my day because I've been a fan of his for years, and the fact that he'd taken a moment to thank me for my letter and my support of his work seemed exceedingly gracious.

    The problem with e-mail is that it's too easy for people to fire off whatever happens to be in their minds. Sending a letter by snail mail costs time (plus money for the stamp and envelope). That's not to say you won't get hurtful or derogatory letters through the post, but at least you've made them work for their right to be hateful.

  3. Grace

    Hi Tess:

    I don't have that problem yet as I'm still trying to get published but my two cents worth — I would have a private e-mail for family and friends only, a public one handled by a PA who could weed out, sort, and filter agreed upon important ones to you.

    Love your books. Love the post. So many problems today with all our automation.

  4. Shiloh Walker

    Well, personally speaking, I think it's best that an author have SOME way for readers to contact them. I know when I've read something and enjoyed it and then go to try to find some way to contact the author and let them know, I feel kind of…cut off…if I can't find it.

    I'm social enough that I don't mind doing things like twitter or my blog, although I hate facebook anymore. I don't need to be THAT connected. Sorry-just don't. If I get too stressed or if there's too much going on, I don't feel at all guilted into keeping up with that social aspect as well as writing.

    I do get the frustration, though. One thing I do when I'm going to be out of town or if I'm coming up on a deadline and I know I'm going to fall behind on email-I set up an autoreply- "Hello…I'm sorry for the auto reply for 'such and such reason' I'll be away from desk for some time. Please know that I am reading my emails but may be unable to answer everything at this time."

    I DO still read them, but if it's something negative-especially if it's ugly in nature, I don't feel obligated to respond-I never mess with those anyway.

    Others that I easily mark off and don't both answering are things like blurb/quote requests, because it says on my site that all such requests are to go through my agent.

    One thing some big names do is post to their site an email where readers can contact them, along with a note that please understand that the author isn't always able to personally read and reply, especially if she is to keep up with her writing schedule-like the one on Nora Roberts' page. She has a personal publicist who handles them. If you've got an assistant, they could field the email for you and just keep you up to date on the need to know stuff?

  5. JD Rhoades

    Sounds like you're to the point where you might want to consider hiring at least a part time assistant. All the Kool Kidz have 'em.

    Mine's still at a manageable level, although when you combine it with "day job" e-mail, it gets to be a strain. I can't imagine having to deal with 100 e-mails at a pop.

    I haven't gotten to the point of trying to mutilate my computer, but I have tried to get an old one without an internet card running just for writing. I installed one of the stripped down Linux versions on it and tried to run OpenOffice. No joy. Slow as molasses.

  6. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Tess

    Thank you! Now I don't feel so guilty for not being plugged in 24/7. It IS a huge time-suck. I know there's so much pressure on authors to do a lot more than just write, but sometimes it becomes an 'instead of' deal rather than an 'as well as' one.

    I try to answer all emails, although sometimes it takes me a little while to get to them. But it seems that every day I get invites to join some new author networking site, which all requires input and updating. I just can't do all that, and work, and write. I've come to the conclusion that I either do something properly, or I don't do it at all. So, I confess I don't Tweet and I don't Facebook. I don't WANT to be that connected. It seems a lot of other people don't, either, and there's a special website that will hunt out and delete all your social networking data for you. People who are 18 this year have never known a life without the internet. It's a scary thought.

    Oh, and be very wary about those Russian picture requests. I had a bunch of them a few years ago and was warned off as it was reported to be some form of identity theft scam. If you do send a picture, make sure it's signed in such a way that it can't be used as any kind of official ID photo

  7. Debbie

    Signed up for FB yesterday for no other reason than to read Dudleys post. I had eight emails in half an hour and I'm nobody. I don't envy anybody who ends up in the eye of the public and would not be offended if I couldn't contact you. That said, it's great knowing I can. Btw, I didn't use my real name nor b-day-eight, count em! I'm curious if I don't friend people am I rude?

  8. Karen in Ohio

    No need to mutilate your computer; just install Freedom on it. It's a program that allows you to block any access to the Internet for a by-you-specified amount of time. It's a very simple little program, available for both Windows and Mac, and free:

    You're welcome. 🙂

    Truly, I don't know how you do it, Tess, without an assistant for at least a day a week.

  9. Barbie

    I'm not an author, and, honestly, Tess, I started reading your books way before I even got into the internet thing — There was a time I didn't like the internet — amd, really, besides reading your blog here on occasion, I've had no contact with you. Yet, your books are autobuy in our home. Twice. Once when they come out in English, for myself, and when they're translated to Portuguese, for my mom. I think authors who social network and email are great! But, to me, it doesn't weight on the decision of whether or not I'll read their books 🙂

  10. Mike Cane

    >>>Because most of the time, I just want to be left alone.

    You have a right to this. It's how we writers work.

    Don't get sucked into the "You Must" of social networking if it's not something you have a natural inclination towards. I'm on Twitter, a lot, but I'm not doing my own writing while I do that. When I do get to the writing again, I will scale back to the point people will wonder if I'm still alive. That's what needs to be done.

    Online, there are two aspects: the social and the market. Pick one as your primary goal, but don't mix the two.

    And it's harsh, but yes, kill the public email address.

  11. Julie Ryan (Hilton)

    Hi Tess,

    First off, I want to say that I'm so happy that I made the cut (or that you just couldn't say no to me), and agreed to let us interview you a couple of months ago.
    I'm not quite in the same boat as you, but I have a personal Facebook page, and a "work" Facebook page for listeners. I try to keep my personal life as private as possible, especially since I have two little girls now. Although, I don't do much with the "work" Facebook page… I mainly have it so I don't have to share my two worlds.
    As for social networking and your career… I would read your books whether you're online or not. I would think that's the case with most readers. I know some people swear by social networking, and say how much it has helped their careers, causes, or whatever it is they're trying to get the word out about. In the end, I think it comes down to your personal feelings… if you're not comfortable with it, or you're just tired of it… don't do it, girlie! I will admit that when you answered my email, I was so very excited. I get to meet singers and actors because of my job, and talking to you was one of my highlights. As a fan, it was really cool to be able to interview you. Thank you!
    If you need an assistant, I'm free after 10:00 am Pacific time!

  12. tess gerritsen

    Thanks for all the comments so far! I did consider having my husband and/or son answer my public emails, but then they'd keep asking me how to answer this one and that one, or did I want to accept this particular invitation, or they wouldn't know if the person emailing me was someone I knew and wanted to personally respond to, and in the end it was just as much work as if I'd done it myself to begin with. The dilemma is that there ARE some emails I'm really happy to receive — from people I've met or haven't talked to in a long time — and the only way they can find me is through my public email address.

    Some days I just get grumpy from feeling I've fallen so far behind. And I wrote this blog on one of those grumpy days!

  13. Kate Gallison

    See, Tess, your problem is that you write good books and word has gotten around and now you're famous. I don't have this problem. I'm not complaining about it, because the upside is that since nobody reads my stuff nobody cares what I do. I have complete artistic freedom. If I ever became famous, and folks started bombarding me with emails, I would pull the plug on the emails in a heartbeat unless they were all adoring fan letters. Maybe even then.
    It's true that you need an assistant, probably one of those dry, dispassionate women who always get hired by famous writers in the forties movies. Shoulder pads and horn-rimmed glasses. You know the one.

  14. PK the Bookeemonster

    Sorry, you're in the business — emphasis on business — of writing books and communication is part of doing your job. You can unplug, but so will your audience eventually. Cold, but that's a part of working life – you have to take the uncomfortable with the perks of a paycheck (eventually) and celebrity (smaller than a movie star but bigger than average people).
    It's okay to feel tired. It's okay to put it off until you can deal with it. It's okay to have an automatic filter or hire someone or forward things on to your agent as need be.

  15. tess gerritsen

    Kate, I really, really want one of those assistants with the shoulder pads and the horn-rimmed glasses!

    PK, it's the balance I haven't figured out yet. Stay accessible (and tired) or become JD Salinger? Where's the in-between?

  16. PK the Bookeemonster

    I'd look at it as an aspect of the job. Set aside a specific time frame to do that one task. One hour, ninety minutes, or specific days, whatever. You do what you can do in that time period, you do your best, but when that time is over you leave it and do the other things that need doing.
    I don't have your specific situation but I work in unemployment insurance and believe me with so many claims to work and the pressure to help everybody you have to learn to do what you can in the time you've allotted, do your best, and then move on and pick it up again the next day. It will be there; you'll get to them all eventually.

  17. chris2

    I too, do not get the whole social networking/twitter thing… really, I just don't care that people I don't know are doing mundane thing they want to talk about — and it does not effect whether or not I buy their books — and frankly, after the interpol chief had his identity stolen last month via facebook, that was enough to warn me off, probably forever

    and as a reader, I really don't expect authors to make themselves accessible to me, I read fiction for entertainment, and when I buy a CD for entertainment, I don't expect that I will be able to email the recording star and have them email me back, so why would I have that expectation for anyone else who provides entertainment for me —

    and it's a nice touch if I email and complement a specific book and then get a reply, but I don't really expect to get a reply, what I'm really expecting is an autoreply — I also think it goes above and beyond the call if the author has a forum on their website and they pop in every now and again to comment to their readers, but again, even that is something I don't believe should be an expectation on our part as readers.

    so I think several email addresses for your privacy and convenience is certainly reasonable and then an auto-reply for the us as general public is what most of us really expect.

  18. toni mcgee causey

    Tess, I empathize. I'm more of a hermit than an extrovert, and if I'm spending a lot of time on email or phone calls, I'm zapped of the mental energy I need to write. It's a difficult balance.

    I looked over your FAQ and maybe you could expand it a bit–that might cut back on some types of emails. Have a section there for writers which gives links to a bunch of other already-on-the-web sites for people who want to start, but don't know what information to trust. You wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel there, just open the door. You could also state your non-reading policy, and that you can't help anyone get an agent (but link to good agent-hunting services, like Query Tracker). Maybe then put your contact information down at the bottom of that FAQ – so that, presumably, others will have to read or at least *see* the rest of the information before writing you. That might cut back on some of the requests.

    You might even want to put a hate-mail answer in the FAQ. Meaning, you could state something like, "Hey, it's fiction, and sometimes in fiction, there are bad guys. To keep the bad guys from being cardboard cut-outs (no offense to all of the Cardboard Cut-Out People), I give them traits and hobbies and jobs and personalities. Sometimes, they're going to have traits that you love, and you're going to be offended about that. Please remember, it's fiction, and I am, in no way, trying to disparage your personal hobby, lifestyle, illness, or choice of pet/car/job, etc. If you still feel like I need to be educated about why these particular things should not have been chosen to flesh out my villain, feel free to write, and as long as you're polite, I will respond."

    I haven't had hate mail, per se. I think because the BF books are humor, I've dodged a bullet. I've had a few people angry at me for the language, but usually, once I explain why I made that choice, I get *the nicest* letters back and they've been long-term fans. Go figure.

  19. Judy Wirzberger

    Success can be hell as well as heaven. And the truth is you just can't operate the way you did. Imagine a Fortune 500 company trying to operate like they did when sales were $100,000/year. It just doesn't work.

    I think Connelly does a hell of a job. He has the greatest assistant and with an assistant you would have many more marketing opportunities.

    I know you would like to give your personal attention to each and every email or request. Can't be done without cloning yourself. Remember, that breakfast with your husband is important. There could come a time when you decided never to write another book (gods forbid), but he will be there, your family and friends will be there.

    Sorry to say, fans are fickle. Sorry, I think it's time for you to get an assistant. Dang, which I lived nearby — I love your workspace!

    You may want to start with – what's the most I can give up and still fill genuine and responsive to my readers. You're one heck of a person and writer. An assistant will help that light shine brighter.
    One caveat – you can't give up the Murderati blog. I learn so much from all of you.
    A fickle fan – loved seeing Angie on Oprah!!!

  20. Louise Ure

    Tess, I think you're a saint to even read all those emails, let alone reply to them.

    I would:

    * State on my website that I can't answer every email
    * Never reply to hate mail
    * Never reply to a photo request
    * Only reply to the charity requests where the visibility for you is equal to the rewards for the charity
    * Only reply to the interview requests where the visibility for you is equal to the time it would require
    * Definitely write a short thank you to a fan who wrote you

    So what if some people never hear back from you? I've been astounded at the requests that have come in from people who have no idea who I am or what I write.

  21. Allison Davis

    I was fine when I just had a Twitter account but my sister insisted I get on Facebook when she was down in Haiti because she didn't want to keep up with a bunch of individuals, so I got sucked into that (although with an alias and only with family)…Jungle Red Writers recently had a "Write First" contest where you had to write at least a page before you checked anything on your computer. Try it, it's hard. I have really focused on getting the writing done first (I write at night) and it's helping me move along.

    Part of what one needs to let go of is the feeling of being obligated. You are giving something away when you communicate freely with your fans, which is great, but this is not a social contract and the guilty feelings that come with not being efficient (type A's want everything to be perfect) or not getting it all done is a burden that you need to get rid of. Thus, you don't have to be JD Salinger (I don't think you could anyway) nor do you have to be everybody's mama. Do you best, and know that's enough, and don't compare yourself to others who do more (or less). Do what you feel is right, and that will be good. if you need to lock the door and unplug, do it. If I had to write in a spare room, I'd go crazy. I love my yellow walled great room with paintings and flowers and jazz music — we all have our spaces — so focus on what you need to feel right and good about your writing. There is no answer, just a whole lot of choices and thus distractions. Use the tools but don't feel you have to use them, just what you need to get the job done.

  22. tess gerritsen

    Toni and Louise, I love your suggestions and will definitely be implementing them! Time to re-do the FAQ page, that's for sure.

    And Allison, you understand exactly where I'm coming from. I wonder how much of this has to do with being a woman, because we're taught from an early age to please people and honor social contracts, and we feel guilty when we can't keep up. My husband, in contrast, has no problem at all ignoring messages or telling people to go away when he's not interested in whatever it is they're proposing.

  23. JT Ellison

    Nicely timed post – I was about to do one myself. Yesterday, after months of thought, I shut down my main Facebook page in favor of the "fan" page. Maybe it's the debutante in me, but I feel compelled to acknowledge when people acknowledge something, and that vicious circle has gotten overwhelming. I made the mistake years ago of allowing my Facebook page to be coopted for marketing. I'm approaching the maximum friend limit because of it, and keeping up with the hourly events of 4200 people is more than impossible. It's a massive distraction.

    Having just launched a book, and testing the use of social networks for marketing, I won't know for a few weeks whether they really work. But what's much, much more important to remember here is the fact that we're writers. If we spend all out time on FB and Twitter, we don't get the writing done. So without new books, there will be nothing for people to comment to us about.

    Somewhere along the way, the dynamic has changed, and author access is a reader's right, not a special event. I do answer all my emails. I handle my networks. It's cutting into my writing time. So I find myself faced with 2 choices – hire an assistant, in which case no one is talking to me anyway, or cut way, way back. I'm opting for the latter for a month, just to see how it works. Because I'll tell you, trying to manage all of this and write two books a year isn't working for me. I'm a popcorn on the couch girl, and while I've used social networking to help myself out of the shy world, it's still hard. So I over-think too, and that wastes even more time.

    Great post, Tess.

  24. JT Ellison

    Oh, and in addition to Freedom – which turns all Internet access off, I installed Leechblock, which is a Firefox add-on. You mark what pages are your time sucks, set limits – mine is 10 minutes every 3 hours for all the networks and my guilty pleasures – and let it run. That way, you can shut of the distracting parts of your internet.

  25. pari noskin taichert

    Still have public email via my web address. Do FB. Have a twitter acct. but don't do much with it. AND I do all of my creative writing on a non-internet /non-email computer.

    And I take vacations from the internet often.

  26. Boyd Morrison

    I got one of those Russian photo requests, too. I thought, what the heck? If he really wants a photo, I'll send it. But I did not include my home address anywhere on the mailer, wary that there might be something fishy going on. Now that I know it's a potential problem, I won't do it again. However, the photo is something they could print off the Internet, so I don't know how sending a photo can lead to identity theft. What kind of world do we live that we have to be afraid of sending a fan a signed photo?

  27. Allison Brennan

    When I was 13, Stephen King responded to a fan letter I sent him via his publisher. Because of that, I answer all my fan mail. Sometimes I'm behind (like now) but I'll take an entire day to catch up when I need to. A quick thank you doesn't take much time, and I have links to all the FAQ.

    I don't respond to hate mail or non-personalized emails or people asking for autographs (unless it's also a fan letter.) I don't engage in conversations (i.e. back-and-forth exchange in email.) I'm often surprised when I get an email from a reader who says I'm the only author who ever responded.

  28. Marie-Reine

    I discover most authors and books on their blogs or bookstore blogs, or group blogs like this.

    I get many email requests from college students all over the world asking how to get into Harvard Medical School or Harvard Divinity School. I have a form response that I think is actually useful. Those that respond to that, I send a more personal response, along with a referral to someone who is more current at the schools.

  29. Debbie

    Is this a new take on your topic? You are accessable-through book signings, blogs, your web page, cons that invite the public in, blog tours, interviews…. You pay your publishing company (in the sense that they set the book price and you receive a royalty) and they get you and your book out there. This is to a great extent their job isn't it? Yours is to write and be reasonably available for promotion by that company. If you are self publishing on the other hand…than you need to self promote.
    We care about you and about your writing. Too many demands may cause resentment, frustration directed towards what you love and what brought about the\
    demands-the writing. Don't leave the profession behind, leave the pressure behind instead.
    If you're considering it, the question becomes, 'what approach?' Will you just stop emailing, set limits to what you'll respond to, provide say, monthly access on a fan site? Never mind the emails I'm overwhelmed by the topic! 🙂

  30. Marie-Reine

    Well… for whatever help it might be, I'd never heard of you or your TV show before seeing your name on Murderati.

  31. Anonymous

    You have written a lot of books, Tess. You have a tv show based on your characters. I think it is time to move up to the big playground and get a personal assistant. There are REALLY good ones. Your agent or publisher may be able to suggest an employment agency specific to your business. The PA will filter most of the emails and/or respond professionally for you and can show you a list of emails for your approval or trash can that he/she is unsure of at the end of every few days.

    People who have written as many books as you have need an assistant. Period. Even famous artists have assistants do some (sometimes A LOT) of the work on *their* art. Sculptors, installation artists and muralists in particular. You don't need anyone to help you write. You need someone to do *secretarial* tasks.

  32. Spencer Seidel

    I sincerely hope this is a problem for me one day 🙂

    If I were lucky enough to have this problem, I think I would do what at least one other here suggested: set aside an hour a day to answer fan email, ignoring all the weirdos and people who've taken it upon themselves to yell at you for some reason. If it takes 3 weeks to get to someone's email, than so be it. I don't think that any fan writing actually expects to receive a timely response, no? I sure wouldn't. I would be amazed with any response from a writer I admired!

  33. Debbie

    I quickly checked out the Russian romance scam and it's basically a request for money. Corespondence begins between the scammer and the victim once the scammer has a photo to enclose with love letters. A photo is sent and eventually a request for money is made because a job was lost, an operation needed…. If you're really curious this lengthy post explains how to scam the scammers. So your photo, in this situation, only proves to the victim that an attractive woman is falling in love with them. The provider of the photograph is not asked for the money by the scammer, the victem who received your photo along with love letters is.

  34. Boyd Morrison

    Allison, do you know how the Russian scam works? The only thing they have is my photo and autograph, which is not my legal signature. They don't have anything you'd normally associate with ID theft, like my address, phone number, SSN, or credit card info. I haven't gotten any requests for money (which I would simply ignore). The thriller writer in me is curious.

  35. Susan Shea

    I know I'm in trouble when I think of spending a whole day without Internet access or solitaire as untenable. I may need a 12-step program, but Franzen's right. Writing is writing. The rest is diluting writing time. Food for thought for me, with 2 manuscripts and a quiet book tour in progress.

  36. KDJames

    Good grief. People ask you for money? Strangers ask to have lunch with you? Fan mail I can understand, but this boggles my mind.

    I've been reading your books for as long as you've been writing them — yes, really, all of them — and I have a tough time "bothering you" by commenting on your blog posts (yes, I know it's not a bother, but still) and I cringe at the thought of even addressing you by your first name over here. It would never occur to me that I should send you an email. For any reason.

    Apparently there are people who don't recognize conventional boundaries. Or good manners. I haven't been in your situation, but it sounds to me like Toni and Louise gave some very good advice. But I will suggest that you should stop feeling guilty about dealing with reality as it exists for you and doing what needs to be done to alleviate the stress.

  37. Allison Brennan

    Boyd, I'll ask my FBI friend next time I see him. I am hugely skeptical that they want this information for legitimate purposes. I got my first request before my first book even came out! And my book signature isn't my "legal" signature since I sign legal documents with my full name.

    BTW, Tess, I agree with those who say to hire a personal assistant. My mom helps me part-time and I supplement her social security. She does errands, makes sure I have paper and supplies, mails my books, inputs all my receipts, handles any special mailings, etc. The only thing I don't have her do is manage my email and social networking. But there may come a day where I have her do those, too–A

  38. Laura

    Hi Tess,

    I can imagine it must be hard to look at the overflowing inbox! But as a reader that you replied to with a lovely email I cannot tell you how excited I was to get your reply. I would like to say thank you so much for taking the time do that because it meant a lot. 🙂

  39. Anonymous

    That was very sweet and very cool, Laura. You are one of the ones who should not be relegated to the trash file. How is an author to know whom to weed out and whom to trust? Who will be directly and emotionally connected by a response? Sigh………

    Laura makes the dilemma so real and so confusing. Bless her heart.

    But still, Tess. Get the PA. A good one will be able to grab the Lauras and bring them to your attention for you to personally respond to when you have the time. Pay that person to assist you with your responsibilities… whatever you perceive them to be. It is a gratifying job for someone and someone would kill to have it. Seriously.

  40. RDorn

    I think answering fan's email (the appropiate ones) is really important because they help pay your bills.
    You mentioned that if you had a personal asst or your husband was helping you they would always be coming to you to ask how to do this and that. I was a personal asst once and after a while you just get to know your boss. Hire a good one and it will only take a month or two before they can read you well and clear so much off your plate, even if they're ony part time.

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