Kirstin asked about email etiquette for writers. Here’s the answer…and a reminder that there are no dumb or simple questions!
I was wondering about setting up email accounts. I have a personal one (family, friends). Should I make a “writing” email separate? (i.e have that ONE email devoted to exchanges with CP’s, new writing friends, bloggers, asking for advice, submitting, commenting on others blogs with that email, etc)…and should that email account be in my full name or something else like “writingstories@gmail” etc. And do you recommend Gmail accounts as best?
Email Etiquette for Writers: the Basics
1. A Separate Writing Email Account is a Good Idea
If you can deal with a little technical complication in your life (multiple inboxes), I think a separate writing email account is a good idea. If you really want to know, I have about a dozen different emails that I use on a pretty regular basis (one for online shopping logins, so that when the retailers start spamming me with catalogs, as they invariably will, it doesn’t go to my regular email…my personal email…my work email…my query inbox (that my work email automatically forwards queries to)…my kidlit email…etc.). A lot of these email accounts get imported into one or two main Gmail inboxes that I have, but, still, that’s an awful lot of windows!
2. Everything Makes an Impression
You all are very savvy. That’s why you’re bothering to read an industry blog and educate yourselves. So I’m guessing you have a certain measure of common sense in terms of email etiquette for writers. Hence, remember: everything you do when you interact with the publishing world (your potential employers, if you consider writing your job, which might be a good mindset to get into) makes an impression. And you want to make a good one, especially during critical first steps like sending query letters to publishers. So if your personal email is “suzieluuuuvscats76@gmail” or whatever, I think that’s a little personal and a little cutesy for business correspondence. A wacko email address is unlikely to be a dealbreaker, but it may make me look twice. (I mean, swearing, porn, or the admission that you’re a serial killer or KKK member in your email may be a huge red flag…just sayin’…) Since, again, all of my beloved readers are of above-average intelligence (and really good looking!), I trust that you’re not making this kind of no-brainer mistake.
3. Avoid Cutesy, Precious, or Too Specific
So you decide to set up a separate writer email — great! Keep email etiquette for writers in mind as you select the address, and be mindful of the impression it makes. I’ve seen the cutesy thing with writing emails, too, and I must admit that it gets an eyeroll from me every once in a while (“musingsfromthemuse@gmail” or “thebestwriterever@gmail” are a little…ahem…precious).
I’d also avoid naming your email address after the current project that’s the topic of your query letters to publishers (“firstname.lastname@example.org” or whatever). That novel may not go on to get agented or sell, and then you’ll have to either keep the same address for a different project or make another email for each new project, which is awkward. Alternately, your title might change in the revision or publication process, as many do, which would date the address.
So if you want a nice and classy writer email, go with “marykolewriting@gmail” or “suziekatznovels@gmail” or something that can apply to more than one project and that isn’t over the top in any way. That’s probably your best option.
4. Follow General Email Best Practices
Other than that, email etiquette for writers entails following general email best practices in all of your correspondence with publishing people. If you include a signature in the email, make sure it’s not too obnoxious with images or crazy fonts/colors. Maybe cut back on inspirational quotes (and definitely don’t, as one writer did in my slush, quote yourself or your novel as a signature). Don’t call yourself an “author” unless you are actually published (“writer” is just fine, and there is a distinction, even if it seems nit-picky). And no need to include copyright information with your query or sample. Check out my post that delves into the question “How do I copyright my writing?” for insight on why doing so might be a red flag for agents.
5. You Can’t Go Wrong with Gmail
As you can tell from my run-down of my own email addresses and all of my fake example emails, I am a fanatical proponent of Gmail. It is simple and easy to use but extremely powerful, in case you want to start doing fancy stuff like labels or account importing or forwarding or auto-responses, etc. I’ve definitely grown as a Gmail user in the past few years and am wild about it. It’s free and popular, and it has almost never done me wrong. Plus, it has a lot of space, is hosted online, and, because it’s Google, has great search functionality. So if you have tens of thousands of emails, as I do, you don’t have to delete them to free up space and you can find that random thing you’re looking for from four years ago quickly and easily. (I am not being paid for this endorsement, I just love Gmail, LOL!)
6. Don’t Make Agents Jump Through Hoops to Respond
Finally, some people have spam filters set up (Earthlink or something similar has a very aggressive one…can’t remember the exact program right now, sorry) where, if I try to respond to you, it makes me go to a separate page and prove that I’m not spam. Making your potential employers do extra work for something that should be simple is definitely a “don’t” in terms of email etiquette for writers.
Keep in mind that I’m responding to hundreds of queries and, I’m not going to lie, it’s annoying when I have to prove my message isn’t spam. For those of you who have such powerful spam filters that require an additional step for people trying to send you email, you may not get a response from me, depending on workload, because I don’t want to jump through the extra hoops. Maybe when you’re sending query letters to publishers, disable the spam response filter or add all the agents you’re querying to your “safe” list. We really appreciate it.
* All of the email addresses here are made-up. If I have insulted your actual email address, or you have one that’s pretty close to one of my “don’ts,” I’m very sorry. I was just thinking of some quick examples.
Did you find this practical advice useful? I am happy to be your manuscript editor and consultant for writing and publishing advice that’s specific to your work.