Every author I know loves getting emails from readers. Even among authors I don’t know personally (read: Twitter), I have never heard an author say something along the lines of, “Ugh. I wish these people would stop EMAILING me.” We write stories for other people. That’s the whole point of publication. If our stories affect our readers to the point where they want to tell us about it (even negatively!) that’s really meaningful. One of my favorite reviews is actually a pretty negative one, where the reviewer starts talking to my characters and telling them what to do. It’s an impassioned, non-snarky review about the actions my characters took. And even though it was negative, I could tell that my work affected her. That’s really powerful. (That’s one of the reasons I love when people take the time to review my work, almost as much as I love when they email me directly.)
Sometimes (many times), an email will start like this:
Dear Ms. Kemmerer: I am so sorry to bother you.
Stop it. You are not bothering me. This isn’t even about emailing authors. You are NEVER bothering someone by emailing them. (Unless you’re a Nigerian prince and you need somewhere to park two million dollars. Then you are a bother.) I appreciate that you think my time is valuable. But guess what? YOUR TIME IS VALUABLE TOO. I am not sitting on some altar, waiting for fans to supplicate before me. We’re all people. All of my readers are important. All people are important. That includes you, yeah, YOU, the person reading this post. Yes, I’m busy, but everyone is busy. Don’t apologize for writing to me. If anyone should be bowing in gratitude, it’s me. Really.
Oh, and you don’t have to call me Ms. Kemmerer or Mrs. Kemmerer because I think you’re either writing from the electric company or you’re looking for my mother-in-law. You can call me Brigid. Or Brig. Or Hey you. Really, anything is fine. You’ve seen my characters at their worst. That’s kind of like taking a sneak peak into my brain. It should be pretty obvious that I don’t sweat formalities.
I do respond to all my own emails. Someone asked me recently if it was really me because I responded immediately. Yes, it’s really me. No one else has access to my social media accounts either. (My husband is listed as an Admin on my Facebook fan page, but that’s only for emergency purposes, like if someone posts something inappropriate while I’m at work, because Facebook is blocked by my company.)
Sometimes I respond immediately because I can. If you write to me when I’m drinking my morning coffee, usually between 4:30am and 5:45am, depending on when I wake up, you’re probably going to get an immediate reply. Same with if you write to me while I’m sitting at Starbucks trying to write a chapter, because I’m generally looking for any excuse to procrastinate. 😛 If you write to me while I’m at work, the email gets flagged for a response over the weekend, and I usually don’t look at it again until then. (Sorry. It’s how I manage email traffic.) If your email is more involved, I might take a few days to think about it. I do try to respond to everyone, so if you’ve emailed me and you didn’t get a response, please try again. The only emails I don’t feel obliged to answer are huge blast author emails looking for swag. I’m not opposed to those emails, but I only respond if I have something to donate. I’m not going to make the poor person on the other end track a bunch of “no” responses, too. (To be clear: I don’t mind those group emails at all. But if I don’t reply, please don’t take it personally. I just don’t have anything to offer at this time.)
I’m sure there will come a day when I can’t respond to everyone. (That day seems to loom closer with every month.) There are many authors whose personal and professional lives don’t afford them the luxury of responding to their readers. Please do not take this personally. I wish I could show you all what my email inbox looks like on a given day, and I’m not a mega-bestselling author. If you write to an author and he/she doesn’t respond, it doesn’t mean you aren’t worth a response. It means they didn’t have time to meet deadlines and be a parent and get a good night’s sleep and go to the bathroom AND write back to you.
If you meet me in person, you don’t have to be nervous. I’ll talk to anyone. Again, you’re not wasting my time. The only time I get shy is around strangers who ask me what I do. I’m never sure if I should talk about my day job or about the writing. If I talk about the writing, I have to explain what my books are about, and sometimes people think I’m weird. I had enough people thinking I was weird in middle school and high school, thank you very much, and I try not to continue that trend now that I’m in my thirties. But if people know I’m an author and they know my books, I’ll talk to them until I’m blue in the face. In fact, if you want to join me for a writing sprint at Starbucks, drop me a line. We can plug in headphones and be anti-social procrastinators together. 🙂