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Laura Caldwell | The Author's Most Feared Email

For me, it's one of the tougher parts of the publishing game—the time, usually a month or two before the publishing date—when I receive a forwarded email from my editor, with a vague subject line, usually something like, FW: Kirkus Review.

Or maybe it's not Kirkus. Maybe it's Publisher's Weekly or Library Journal, but it's the first review of the book.

I can feel my finger itching toward the mouse, excited. But some cautionary voice says, Get ready. Just in case. 

The range of emotions upon receiving and finally opening this bland appearing email can range from abject sobbing to happy-dancing around the computer.

Some are zen about it. "Reviews are the one thing I have no control over," says thriller author, Jamie Freveletti, whose been tapped to continue Robert Ludlum's Covert One series. "Since they usually start to flow in about a month before launch there is truly nothing an author can do."

Some authors say they've gotten used to it. "I'm always resigned when I get those e-mails," says Stacey Ballis, author of GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT and THE SPINSTER SISTERS. "I try to remember that once the book is published, it doesn't belong to me anymore. All I can do is try to write stories that speak to me and hope they speak to others. I always want the reviews to be great. I'm thrilled when they are. But when they aren't, I just hope that they're smart and indicate where perceived failures lie."

Is she really so open about bad reviews? Absolutely, she tells me. "I never mind a well written criticism." But she also notes that "at the end of the day, it is e-mails from regular readers that both exhilarate and sting the most. A letter from a fan telling me they were moved, that makes my whole day. And the note scolding me for wasting their $15…that is the one that really hurts."

Jeffrey Koterba, author of the memoir, INKLINGS, agrees that it's the email he receives from readers, particularly about his syndicated political cartoons that are most important to him. "Unfortunately, I read every one."

Author Michael Harvey tells me he recalls something he heard Paul Newman say about reviews—the good ones give you a fat head, while the bad ones make you not want to leave your room for a month.

"I guess I'm from that school," Harvey says. "I try not to read any of them. My wife reads them and will let me know if I need to look at one."

Is that the answer to the dreaded email, the shudder-producing words, FW: Review? Should authors find a trusted friend—sister? mom? agent? officer manager?—and ask them to screen for you?

For this book, I think I'll try a suggestion from Jamie Freveletti, who, essentially, suggests going black-comedy with it. "Every author worth their salt has gotten a mixed review at one time or another," she says. "One of the best ways I've seen of dealing with bad reviews is Brad Meltzer's very, very funny video. It made me laugh and made me want to buy every one of his books."  watch Brad's video

What email do you fear the most? Let us know, we've got FIVE copies of CHAIN OF INNOCENCE to give away today!




27 comments posted.

Re: Laura Caldwell | The Author's Most Feared Email

The email I worry about the most are the ones that contain viruses.
(Mary C 10:46am August 29, 2011)

The e-mails I fear the most are the ones that I send with the best of intentions, and get a reply, literally ripping my head off!! Those are the ones I've been getting as of late, so I decided for the time being, to just climb under a pretty rock of my choosing, until the storm has passed, and seek out those who stand by me through thick and thin. They are the ones who will see me through the storm until it passes. I will also refrain from sending any e-mails, especially to those people. I feel that they do owe me an apology of sorts, because I don't feel that I did anything wrong. All I did was sent an e-mail that I felt was helpful in some way. If they were having a bad day, there was no reason to take it out on me. I think that your reviews should be taken with a grain of salt as well. I'm sure that a lot of people were having a bad day, and decided to take it out on you, so you can find a pretty rock to climb under for a while until the smoke clears, or stand with those that will stand by you through thick and thin to give you added strength to get past these people. I'm sure your book is very good, and I'm looking forward to reading it.
(Peggy Roberson 11:05am August 29, 2011)

Hmmm email I fear the most... Hurtful emails from "family" members who say the most mean and untrue things but I don't fear those. I guess I would say a computer virus because it would take a while to resolve the problems that it could inflict.
(Christine Arcidiacono 11:19am August 29, 2011)

The e-mail I fear the most is the one from one of my sons teachers informing me of some infraction he has committed. Since I don't check e-mails daily, I may not respond in a timely fashion. I'd prefer a phone call, however, in todays "high speed techno" environment, that's just too archaic. Thankfully, these e-mails are few and far between. I can't imagine how you deal with the dreaded e-mail from your editor or a fan. I guess like most in the entertainment arena, you accept it as a downside of the business (as every career choice has), continue to hone your craft, and keep moving forward. Then try to take it with a smile.
(Darchelle McKesson 12:22pm August 29, 2011)

The e-mails I fear the most are those dame "Chain Letters", If I don't send them am I daming myself. What horrors will befall me or will they fall on someone I love. If I do sent them, Who am I pissing off? Damed if you do, Damed if you don't!!!
(Elizabeth Rodriguez 12:54pm August 29, 2011)

Upset family members is a definite. Usually what they are upset about I have no control over but I'm supposed to calm the waters. Being the pacifist in the family is not always great or even appreciated.
(MaryEllen Hanneman 1:14pm August 29, 2011)

There are two type of e-mail I dislike --- political hate mail and the kind that tries to make me feel terrible if I don't send it to others. I dread receiving e-mail from relatives telling about a serious illness in the family, but am thankful they let me know.
(Anna Speed 2:49pm August 29, 2011)

The emails I dread most are from business contacts that always seem to be negative---some people just never have anything positive to say.
(Sue Farrell 2:53pm August 29, 2011)

I really dislike the chain mail and spam e-mails...
(Colleen Conklin 3:07pm August 29, 2011)

Emails from work...more work on its way!!!!
(Dawn Staniszeski 3:43pm August 29, 2011)

I HATE the ones where I reply to all in error and all chian mail & hoax warnings. On the former it seems to start a trend jamming my box and on the latter I always wonder why the sender didn't did take the time to confirm it before sending LIKE I DO!!!
(Marcelle Cole 3:47pm August 29, 2011)

I dislike those emails that say that I've won a million dollars. Always afraid that an innocent person is going to fall for it.
(Shirley Younger 3:54pm August 29, 2011)

I fear any type of negative emails. They can be as impersonal as mass spam emails with viruses or personal attacks from disgruntled people.
(Na S 4:28pm August 29, 2011)

When you get an email that makes you think you won the contest and then it proceeds to say "well, you didn't win this time but..." I also agree with all the spam and chain letters. Oh, and from my husband's uncle, who belongs to the opposite political side than me and sends me all these made up emails that are not true. I constantly check it out at snopes to educated him since he won't do it myself but I'm thinking it's a lost cause because he wants to believe all the lies.
(Jeanne Sheats 4:47pm August 29, 2011)

The dreaded virus hidden within an email. It's happened twice to me now. I had to wipe everything off, scrub the computer & start again.
(Mary Preston 4:55pm August 29, 2011)

One certainly has to be very aware of problems in their 4-mail, but how I would miss receiving all the wonderful things and messages.
(Marjorie Carmony 5:59pm August 29, 2011)

I most fear emails from family with bad news, an illness or accident of some kind.
(Amanda Albritton 6:44pm August 29, 2011)

I fear getting emails that might have a virus in it.
(Linda Hall 6:55pm August 29, 2011)

I don't fear email, I just delete it.
(Deb Pelletier 7:24pm August 29, 2011)

I get the strangest spam mail, I won six million $ just last week.
My emails about my grades for my college classes are the ones I am most eager and dread to open.
(Faith Wafford 7:41pm August 29, 2011)

The email's I fear the most are from my daughter who is out of state attending college. I always know that when she emails it's usually about money. Thinking about it it's probably smart on her part because my first inclination is to say no and suggest she figure it out but given some time to think about it I can usually come up with a solution for her.
Good luck and happy writing!
(Tracie Travis 10:48pm August 29, 2011)

I don't really fear them, but I dread the chain letters, and certain work contacts because they are always gripe-ey.
(Lisa Kendall 10:50pm August 29, 2011)

I think the emails I fear most are the ones from people who are upset with me. When ever someone is upset about something I have done or said I feel like a 5 yr old getting yelled at by my Dad. It passes quickly but I have not yet figured out how to read it and stay disconnected.
(Patti Paonessa 9:13am August 30, 2011)

I don't dread emails but I am very careful what I open. If I don't recognize it I
send it directly to spam. If you know you haven't entered a contest don't open it.
As they say "you can't win if you don't enter" and it's true.
(Sandra Spilecki 12:35pm August 30, 2011)

I don't dread emails but I am very careful what I open. If I don't recognize it I
send it directly to spam. If you know you haven't entered a contest don't open it.
As they say "you can't win if you don't enter" and it's true.
(Sandra Spilecki 12:35pm August 30, 2011)

I fear the email that says I won the lotto which I didn't enter. So just go ahead and delete it and don't even dream about it. It's just a fishing expedition for your identity.
(Alyson Widen 4:21pm August 30, 2011)

Peggy and Patty, I hear you! The emails that are brusque or where someone is clearly upset and you had no idea are of the worst kind! It's like a slap to the back of the head. You didn't see it coming and it hurts.

Thanks for all the comments!
(Laura Caldwell 10:48am August 31, 2011)

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