The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

The Papyrus Files: Using personal email services for work purposes

When I was in college and interned at a PR firm one summer, no one had email except for Lucy, my boss, who used her personal Compuserve account at work.  (When I say no one had email, I mean the entire company did not have email.  At all.  Hotmail hadn’t been invented and Google wasn’t even a brain cell.)  Long story short, these days, using personal email accounts like AOL for work is O-V-E-R. 

Now, it’s one thing when Mom emails to ask what you had for dinner and to remind you that yoga is good for you and boozing and late nights are not.  It’s quite another when someone emails in a professional capacity to request a review copy of a book or an interview with an author.  I need to know who someone is, who they work for, what their contact information is, what their website is.  I need to know if someone I contact is on vacation and not checking email.  I need a message trail so when I receive a response I know what exactly the recipient is responding to.  I need to not to have to ask for this information or to have to trawl through various folders to figure out what the heck is going on.

Gmail is probably the most well-known free service that offers email signatures, out-of-office message options and message trails.  I’m sure there are others, so I hope authors / freelancers still using personal email services will at least consider these options (moms excluded).  I do realize, though, that switching services is easier said than done, so here are a few suggestions of various levels of “disruption:”

1. First of all, it’s easy to create a message trail — even if your service doesn’t automatically provide one — by simply copying and pasting the sender’s email message into your reply.  (Control-A selects all, Control-C copies what you’ve selected and Control-V pastes your selection.)

2. Secondly, try to set an email signature.  At least one person I know with an AOL account has done so, so apparently it can be done, even if it’s not an obvious option.  (Sorry — I’ve never used AOL so I don’t know how to do this.)

3. And lastly, if you do decide to switch to Gmail or another similar service, you can migrate your old email messages (to Gmail, at least).


April 21, 2008 - Posted by | Papyrus Files | , ,


  1. Here here! Communicating with an author via aol for instance (with no paper trail) drives me completely insane. And, for the record, I first started using email in college round about 1994. When I got to NYC and started working in publishing in 1997, I was quite shocked that email/internet access was not available or used for work. My first day of the job, someone asked me to cut and paste something and I assumed they meant on Word…no, they actually meant by hand. Thank god things have changed a bit.

    Comment by Holly | April 23, 2008 | Reply

  2. Getting a brief response back without any e-mail history is a huge frustration. Especially when it’s been a couple of days. The worst part is that it can actually lead to missed opportunities–it takes time to slog through that sent items folder and find out what the original query was in the first place (my memory used to be much better!). And with media needing responses ASAP, and publicists juggling multiple books, it’s easy to miss out on something when you don’t have the e-mail history right in front of you.

    Comment by Kama | April 23, 2008 | Reply

  3. […] few weeks back I wrote a post touting the benefits of Gmail (or similar email services) vs. dinosaurs like AOL.  So imagine my excitement when Fiona from […]

    Pingback by Morning Brief — Wednesday, May 21 « The Book Publicity Blog | May 21, 2008 | Reply

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