May 23rd, 2012
I know unsolicited email annoys the hell out of a lot of people. Just like old-fashioned, snail mailed junk mail. But I’ve always figured the press of the delete button was so easy, it was the less offensive way to try to make potential clients, traditional publishers, aware of my book design and page comp/layout services.
So, since about 1998, every six months—more or less—I’ve sent out a cold email to every publisher I could find an email address for in the current year’s edition of Writer’s Market. Most of the time, I would attach my résumé and some samples of my work in a short, clean PDF. Whenever possible I directed this email to the director of production or some such title; by name if I could find one.
On the one hand, the overwhelming majority of recipients simply ignored it. One, single time someone, a man, at the University of Alaska Press, immediately emailed me back and harangued me about unsolicited email. I emailed back to apologize and received another answering email, this time from a woman, the production manager at the Press telling me not to worry about it, that the guy who’d raked me over the coals was a curmudgeon, not the one who hired freelancers, and, in fact, no longer worked there. So she was surprised I even got an email from the guy.
Never have received work from the University of Alaska Press, however.
But the tiny percentage of people who responded to express some interest in my services, most of them just to say they would keep my information on file should a need for a freelancer to do book design and/or layout work present itself, made my efforts worthwhile. In one instance, I worked for a small press for about three years, doing fair-paying layout work on seven or eight books of their own design. It took seven years before I heard from this particular press in any way whatsoever, but it paid off.
I’m left with thinking that for all the people who ignored me and the one person who may have (unofficially) been angry with me, the unsolicited email contact was not a bad thing to do. I do not believe I would have grown my book design practice to the point I have without such attempts at contact on my part.
Now I am planning an HTML email newsletter. Short, to be sure, but with pictures of a few of the books I’m most pleased to have worked on and with how they look and maybe just a bit of narrative about how my approach to making books has evolved. Again, however, I am concerned about sending unsolicited email.
So what is the protocol? Is it okay to send out one edition of an HTML newsletter unsolicited as long as I include a “send no more” option in the email? I mean, it is the 21st century, professional people should have wider bandwidth and larger mailboxes, no? We should all be sophisticated enough by now to just delete unwanted email and move on, no?
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