Thursday 5 December 2013

A Publisher’s Mailbox

How much our lives are ruled by our inbox! Email is at once a blessing and a curse. As a publisher, editor, academic, writer, creative practitioner and human being I receive about 200 emails a day. Who says we’re not communicating?

Email isn’t the only task
Though sometimes it can feel like it. So, should we cut it down? It would seem sensible to BUT I’m inclined not to. Everything I receive in my email box is welcome in fact – even the bad and irritating news. Sometimes I can’t action it straight away – so I put it into a “To Do” folder. Sometimes I’m never going to action it in time and it’s not important.  I’ve found this wonderful little button on my computer – marked “Delete”.  I don’t unsubscribe from lists, though. Odd times when there are a few more minutes to spare, I often find something useful on these lists.

Typical emails sent to me as a publisher
Here is a list of the useful ones:
  • ·         Edits returned
  • ·         Proofs returned
  • ·         Realistic suggestions about marketing
  • ·         Submissions when submissions are open and if the author has read the guidelines 
  • ·         Notifications and offers from suppliers
  • ·         Returned contracts
  • ·         Sensible suggestions about contracts
  • ·         Reviews – good or bad
  • ·         Artwork
  • ·         Questions form artists
  • ·         Questions from designers
  • ·         News from the printer  
  • ·         Queries from booksellers and festivals    
And the less useful ones:
  • ·         Submissions when submissions aren’t open.
  • ·         Submissions that haven’t followed the guidelines.
  • ·         Queries about the progress of a book - if there is a problem that isn’t covered by what is in the contract we’d have contacted you.  Having to reply to your query only causes further delays – and puts us off publishing you again.
  • ·         Speculative artwork
  • ·         Traders trying to sell us services or goods
  • ·         Messages that show a lack of trust
  • ·         Something that shows an author has not been able or has been unwilling to respond to editorial comment  

More strategies for coping with volume
I do a thorough check of my mailbox once a day. I go over everything that has come in today and what came in yesterday. Anything I cannot respond to straight away goes into the “To Do” folder.  All of this after I’ve completed demanding tasks of the day – i.e. anything that really must be completed by the next day.
There is, of course, the other “To Do” list that has not come from emails. Both are open at once and I just do the next most important thing – from either list.
There’s always plenty of work but this keeps it in perspective.    
Every day I open my mailbox with a mixture of anticipation and dread. Yet, on balance, there is more good and neutral news than more negative items.       

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