So, the other day I mentioned to my hubby—who is also my technical guru—that one of the online forms at Compose didn’t seem to be working.
As he prodded into both of my sites, he also discovered a glitch in the contact form at Write It Sideways. In fact, there were hundreds of email messages I hadn’t received from my readers, and they were sitting there in my system.
Some of them were more than a year old.
How could this happen? How hadn’t I noticed?
I suppose there were a number of factors: I was still receiving dozens of messages every day that related to my writing and editing work, but they were coming directly to my email address, not through my contact form. I hadn’t been updating Write It Sideways regularly, so I figured naturally I wouldn’t be receiving as many queries. And, I was still communicating with readers who would write to me by replying to my email newsletters and announcements.
In any case, here I was, staring down hundreds of messages and wondering what to do with them. I ended up going through every single one to be sure I hadn’t missed anything important.
Here’s a breakdown of how I handled the email problem, and this will also be an explanation of sorts in case you emailed me and didn’t receive a reply:
Friendly Personal Letters
I drafted a cut-and-paste reply I could send to those who had written me nice letters about themselves, their writing, and how my site had helped them. Every time I came across one of these, I read it in its entirety, then replied with this auto response, explaining the situation. I always appreciate people taking the time to write to me.
Friendly Personal Letters with Complicated Questions
Sometimes I’ll get the type of letter I outlined above, but it includes an in-depth question about the craft of writing or how the writer can accomplish some task. These questions are almost always difficult to answer in one paragraph or less—many would take pages. Therefore, I read and appreciated each of these notes, but this time around I did not reply to them.
I have always received a good number of questions from those who don’t seem to be regular readers of Write It Sideways. Questions like these:
- “Can you teach me how to be a writer?”
- “I wrote this book. How can I get it published?”
- “I’m writing this 300,000 word literary-fantasy-horror-sci-fi-western-romance novel. Well, [Name of Character] just [did something crazy and amazing] but now [I have this huge problem I can’t seem to fix]. What can I do?”
The problem with these questions is that most of them come from writers looking for a quick answer to a long question. Either the questions are too broad or too narrow for me to answer adequately, and a lot of the time it seems like these writers haven’t even tried to find out the answers on their own.
Sometimes I answer these questions if I have time and they come from people who regularly read my blog, and if they’re answerable or if I can point the reader to a resource that will help them. But in this case, I was unable to answer questions.
Yes, I received at least a few rants which seemed to be purposeless. Stuff like, “I saw you wrote an article about literary agents. Why????? Literary agents are the scum of the earth and suck blood and everyone should self-publish so we can rid the world of them!”
Requests to Read or Promote Work
Many had written to ask me to read their novels, poems, short stories, or websites and provide feedback to them. Others asked, would I be willing to share their latest blog post on social media or repost it on my blog, or share their latest project with my readers?
These are usually well-intentioned, but unfortunately, I’m not able to honour these requests.
No, Sir, I do not want to set up a time to discuss SEO with you. Or crystal watches. Or goji berries.
Spam Masquerading as Guest Posts
This is my ultimate dislike: when “freelance writers” working as low-paid minions for SEO-driven websites send requests to guest post. These requests are so obviously written from a template because they all sound the same. Typically, the writers says they can write about anything I want (red flag!), or sometimes they’ll send through a completed guest post which is poorly written and contains obvious backlinks to their host website.
I never reply to these requests.
Real Guest Posts
I felt really bad about not receiving dozens of guest post pitches from real writers and bloggers who had great ideas. Unfortunately, many of these pitches were months old or more, and had likely been placed elsewhere, so I felt it was a waste of time to reply to the majority of them. I did keep a couple of the most promising ones in my inbox, and will get back to them soon to see if they’d still like to contribute.
So many press releases. Most of them were from authors just releasing a new book, or a self-published author releasing a new book. Rarely, I will read and review a book if I have time and think the book will be helpful to my readers, but it’s hugely time consuming.
Most of the press releases I received were old, so they were deleted.
V. Important Biz
Here was the category of letter I was most upset about not getting: letters from people who had purchased Story Is a State of Mind through one of my affiliate links and were now looking to receive their bonuses I’d offered them.
Thankfully there were only a few, but I felt terrible that they’d had to wait so long for my reply. I believe these are all resolved now, but if you are one of these people and have not received your bonuses, I promise that my contact page is now working!
Sorry for this rather long-winded explanation, but I wanted to give you a good idea of just how much junk bloggers have to wade through to get to the important stuff. I love receiving personal notes from readers, so please don’t let this discourage you from writing in the future.