February 29, 2012

No, you don't deserve a response

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An item on Chip MacGregor's blog earlier this month got me thinking.

If you send unsolicited mail to a business—that is, something the recipient did not ask for—do you expect a response?

When I worked at the business journal, I got about a hundred e-mails a day. That's not hyperbole. That's an average. I counted. OK, I let Entourage count.

If I answered every story pitch or press release, at a minute per answer, I would have spent almost a quarter of my day just answering e-mail.

But most public relations professionals know that only about 10 percent of stories pitched to media outlets actually get used. That's in line with Sturgeon's Law, which states that 90 percent of everything is crap. The ratio must hold for agent queries and book pitches as well.

The writer who complained to Chip about the lack of response to a query needs to understand that sending unsolicited mail is not your entrée to a conversation. I mean, if a car dealership sends you a letter suggesting that you trade in your Toyota for a new Chevy, the dealer doesn't expect you to send a note back saying "no, thank you." A query to an agent or editor is the same thing: an offer to do business. It's theirs to take or leave. Consider this: unsolicited mail is also the polite name for what we otherwise call spam.

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