More and more, I’m becoming convinced that people who don’t reply to e-mails should, after death, be confined to Dante’s Sixth Circle of Hell, right next to those folks who back into parking spaces. Yes, I realize that e-mail etiquette is still a work-in-progress for society. Yes, I realize that some people receive lots and lots of e-mails. No, I am not expecting anyone to drop whatever they’re doing and rush to answer their e-mails as soon as possible. No, I don’t mean replying to spam or trolls or handflappers who are obviously abusing their Internet privileges at the group home.
What I mean is that if someone–especially in business–takes the time to write an e-mail asking a question or making a request, the least the recipient can do is get back to them at some point. I bring this up because in attempting to publish and promote my young adult novel Dragontamer’s Daughters, I’ve e-mailed literary agents, book reviewers, newspapers and radio stations. Most of the time, I get a response, either a “yes” or a “no” to whatever I’ve asked. “No’s” don’t bother me: in book publishing, rejection is the default setting. If you can’t handle rejection, you’re in the wrong line of work.
No, what bothers me is not getting a response at all. Example #1: recently, I e-mailed a newspaper asking them whether they’d like to do an article on DTD. After a few weeks, I hadn’t heard back from them, so I e-mailed them again. I found out, not from the people I was e-mailing, but from someone who told me, that the article had run in the paper several days before I had e-mailed them a second time. So I had pestered the newspaper (and looked like a doofus) because they hadn’t replied to my first e-mail with a simple, “Yes, we’ll run an article soon.” That’s all I wanted from them.
Example #2: Last year, when I was submitting DTD to literary agents (which I’ll tell you more about later), one very prominent agency seemed VERY interested. They asked for the full manuscript to review (always a good sign) and told me they’d get back to me in three months. After three months, I hadn’t heard from them, so I e-mailed them: did they want to move forward with DTD? No reply. I e-mailed them again. No reply. I did some research on writer online forums and found out that for some agencies, including the one I had been dealing with, no reply means “no.”
As I’ve said, I don’t have a problem with hearing “no.” What I have a problem with is giving someone three months–during which time I did not send out DTD to anyone else, as per the agency’s request–and not even receiving the courtesy of a “No thanks.” That’s all I wanted from them. How long does it take to type that–3 seconds? Yes, I know they’re busy. Yes, I know they get thousands of e-mails every week. But they had already invested time in me by replying when I had asked to submit DTD to them, and to reading several hundred pages of my manuscript. Would investing 3 more seconds have been too much hassle?
Well, to the Sixth Circle with them. And the people who make you wait while they back into their parking spaces.