I fully admit that one of my weaknesses is an out-of-control email inbox. Between my accounts for writing and day job, I have an obscene number of unread emails. (As in, a hundred times the number depicted in this picture.) Granted, the vast majority of those unread emails are list digests and things that don’t need my attention, but the mess still gives me a headache.
Lately, I’ve been noticing a new type of email in my inbox. Someone I don’t recognize from my blog or social media will contact me from my blog’s contact form and ask for a favor.
These aren’t spam emails (although I get plenty of those too). They’re not trying to sell a service, set up a link exchange, or get me to try their product.
Rather, they want something from me: beta reading, giving feedback on why they’re not successful, or general advice. In short, they want my time.
I’m sure published authors get emails like that all the time. Heck, I’m sure their inboxes are worse, with people asking for a cover blurb, a client referral to their agent, or a review of the sender’s book. But I’m not agented or published yet, so I didn’t expect to be on people’s radar screen for this sort of thing.
Don’t worry. I won’t let this go to my head—other than making my headache worse. *grin*
My regular blog readers know I’m not stingy with my time. I respond to every comment here, to most social media shout outs (mentions on Twitter, tags on Facebook or Google+, etc.), and most requests for help. I hold a big contest every year on my blogiversary where people can “win” my time. I’ve beta read for more people than I can count.
But as much as I’d love to do it all, I can’t. And I hate saying “no.” I’m probably not alone in that. *smile*
Many of us hate confrontations. We don’t want to seem mean or stuck up. Or we don’t want to be disliked. Or we don’t want to seem like we’re not a good friend.
So I need a way to avoid my usual stick-my-head-in-the-sand-and-let-those-emails-lie-abandoned-in-my-inbox thing, but I also need a way to say “no”—in a nice way. I asked for advice on Twitter, and as usual, people came through with plenty of suggestions for how I could respond.
- Angela Ackerman: “Hi, I would love to help, but I am unable to take on anymore commitments at this time. ” Then send them to Critique Circle.
- Roni Loren: I’m just honest and let people know that I just don’t have time to beta for anyone right now, but offer to tweet out that they are looking for a beta reading exchange for whatever genre they write in case any of my followers are looking.
- Jordan McCollum: [Y]ou could host a beta search on your blog. … let [people] sign up describing their work in the comments. Then they find/contact one another.
- Kristina: Perhaps tell them that they could try an online crit group. [Kristina suggested Scribophile and the NaNo message boards.]
- Alison: “Thank you for asking, but I don’t have the time to beta read your story in the way you deserve. Good luck with your writing.”
I’ve also written about how to find beta readers, and nowhere in that post did I include “email a someone out of the blue and ask them to read your work” on my list of suggestions. But maybe these people had a reason for emailing me.
Maybe they’re a regular reader of my blog. Maybe they’ve never commented because they’re shy. Maybe they feel like they know me.
I’d be honored if my writing accomplished all that, but even if that were the case, it wouldn’t change the fact that I can’t say “yes” to everything I’d like to. I’m going to have to come up with a response that shares other sources for help, like Angel and Kristina’s links above, yet finds a nice way to say “no.”
And to quote Smeagol/Gollum from Lord of the Rings, “We hates it.”
Do you get overwhelmed by requests for help? How do you respond? Do you ever feel guilty, and if so, how do you deal with that? Should I offer a page on my website for matching beta readers? Do you have any other suggestions or advice for me?
P.S. Yes, I’m still open for “Ask Jami” type questions for any issues you’d like to see addressed on my blog (use my contact form and put “Ask Jami” in the subject). I don’t mean to imply with this post that I wish for no email or contact at all. *smile*Pin It