Recently I visited a writer's blog on which a reader commented that with only a few exceptions, authors are "too selfish" to answer e-mail from aspiring authors. She went on to complain that she'd been unable to establish contact with several of the authors she'd e-mailed. I didn't post a response to that, because it would have strayed from the topic being discussed, but her attitude bugged me. This individual has decided that if an author does not answer her e-mail, that author must be a selfish person.
If you owned a hamburger stand and I e-mailed to tell you I really enjoyed the hamburger I bought at your place yesterday, would you feel obligated to answer my message if it went on to say, "I want to open a hamburger stand, too. Would you tell me how to get started?"
That's what people do to published authors every day. Few and far between are the e-mails that say, "I loved your book. Keep up the good work!" Most are along these lines: "Loved your book. I'm writing one, myself. Would you please share your secrets for getting published?"
I spend, on average, over an hour each day (yes, even on Sundays) responding to e-mailed questions from readers of my book, my website, and this blog. Oh, I'm glad to do it. If I didn't get a kick out of "meeting" all sorts of people and trying to encourage them in their writing, I wouldn't do it. But I can absolutely understand why many authors don't have the time or the inclination to answer that kind of e-mail. And if you want to see me back away from you fast, just try hinting that I owe you something (other than a sincere thank you) because you bought my book or visited my website or are a faithful reader of this blog.
I've been thrilled by the increasing popularity of this blog, but it's been responsible for a steady increase in the amount of e-mail I receive, and I may be nearing a point where I'll have to stop promising a personal response to everyone who writes. Sometimes I have an e-mail backlog of two weeks or even more. It has been months since I've had an empty inbox. If I answer eight messages one afternoon, nine more are sure to drop into the box before I've finished.
Some authors and bloggers believe interacting with their readers is fun and encourages "buzz" about their books and blogs. But some prefer to spend their time in other ways. I get a kick out of communicating with all of you, but if it stops being pleasurable or if it begins to require too much of my time, I'll walk away without a pang of guilt. I'm aware of no moral obligation to answer unsolicited e-mail.
Lady, the authors who don't answer your e-mails are not being selfish. You are.