Ludicrous facepalms to avoid when dealing with authors

Photo: Star Trek The Next Generation

Here’s what you need to know about authors: they spend a lot of time on their books, care about them, and think that they and their books are special. If you respect what they created, they’ll be happy to talk to you about anything reasonable. If not . . . well, they’re very witty smartasses, too, so expect a snarky response.

Unfortunately, not everybody dealing with authors realizes this.

Here are some facepalms that I have actually experienced as an author:

  • Please speak at our event, you loser. The publicist for an event invites me to give a speech, or a workshop, or something — she’s not clear about it. After several back-and-forth emails and a 45-minute phone conversation, we settle on a format and compensation. During the conversation she tells me I’ve chosen the wrong market for my book and that the way I use Twitter alienates people. The following day, the organizers of the event call me and tell me all the slots are filled and they don’t want me after all.
  • All your models are belong to us. A writer likes a model and acronym in one my books. He modifies the model, adds two letters to the acronym, and publishes it in his own book. While his book appropriately credits my coauthor and me, he never contacts or interviews us as he’s writing it. However, once the book is published, he sends a mass email to me and a bunch of other people (“Dear influencer”) asking us to promote the book. When I respond to the email, I get the Timothy Ferris “I’m too important to respond to you” autoresponse, which looks like something like this:

In an effort to increase productivity and efficiency I am beginning a new personal email policy. I’ve recently realized I spend more time shuffling through my inbox and less time focused on the task at hand. It has become an unnecessary distraction that ultimately creates longer lead times on my ever-growing ‘to do’ list.

Going forward I will only be checking/responding to email at 11a and 4p on weekdays. I will try and respond to email in a timely manner without neglecting the needs of our clients and brand identity.

Hopefully this new approach to email management will result in shorter lead times with more focused & creative work on my part. Cheers & here’s to life outside of my inbox!

  • Hey, generic author, you should work with us. A producer at a company that makes courses invites me to make a course with them. Her email invitation mentions nothing about my book and is clearly a generic template. In my response, I point this out in a civil and factual way (no curse words, honest) and suggest that I’d be more likely to work with her if she’d done a little homework first. She responds “That’s a big assumption about my motives. I feel your call for saying I am full of #Bullshit. It’s ironic. lol.” (No, I can’t figure that response out either. Who uses hashtags in emails?)
  • I’m not paranoid, Facebook is just out to get me. A friend uses Facebook messenger to contact me about whether I’m attending an upcoming event. When I respond on Facebook messenger, he says we shouldn’t communicate further on Facebook because he’s afraid of using the messenger application, and would I please text him instead.
  • My podcast specializes in mystery. A podcast presenter asks me to be on her podcast, but becomes offended when I ask questions about her audience’s size and makeup.
  • You will be assimilated. An event I am speaking at asks me to sign a contract that says that any intellectual property in what I present belongs to them.

All these people had good reasons for doing what they did. And all these actions are stupid and reflect badly on the senders. It’s pretty simple:

  • Treat authors as people who have created valuable intellectual property with great effort.
  • Communicate in a way that shows you know who they are and what they’ve published.
  • If you want personal help, don’t send a mass email.
  • Post resources on the Web, point to them, and make sure they work.
  • If you communicate in a channel, be prepared to respond in that same channel — and quickly.

It’s not that hard. And it will stop you from looking like a fool.

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