The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

Rant Against Voicemail Day

I was scrolling through the lunch-time HARO email the other day being a good book publicist looking for stories that might be applicable for my authors, when one query, about people who hate voice mail, caught my eye.  (Yes — an article is being written about people who hate voice mail.)

Once upon a time, around the time Attila the Hun was laying waste to the Urals, voicemail was indeed a handy tool.  Then came email.  And text messaging.  And call logs.  And Twitter.  And the carrier pigeon.  Perhaps not quite in that order.

Chronology aside, I’ve noticed people who leave me voice mail messages tend to fall into one of three groups:

1) People I know / have worked with.  Which is fine, because not having to painstakingly listen to a message (sometimes multiple times) to catch a phone number and / or address really sweetens the pot.

2) People who can’t be bothered to write an email message.  I’m not surprised when I call someone and they pick up the phone sounding like they’re in a rush.  I do feel a bit put out, though, when someone calls me and theysound like they’re in a rush — you’re making me take time out of my day to talk to you and all you want to do is …  not talk to me?  These people tend to leave voice mail messages along the lines of, “My name is John Doe.  I’d like to interview your author Jane Smith.  Call me back at 555-1212.”  And so commences a highly inefficient and even more annoying game of phone tag in which you have to figure out, in the most time-consuming manner possible, availability, interview details, contact information, etc.  (Hint: this information can all be transmitted in one email message, although it would take, say, more than 10 seconds to write.)

3) Interns and assistants who’ve probably never used a land line until their current position, but who’ve been told by their superiors to “call the publicist” for a copy of a book / to request an author interview or other information.  Sometimes, those of us born before 1980 prefer email too, especially when you have a lot of detailed information to impart.

Although I may be particularly outspoken about voicemail, you know there are others out there who agree — like some of the journalists we pitch, for example (or literary agents receiving hundreds of queries from writers).  So for those of us working in book publicity (and those of us not), we should think before leaving voicemail messages: does it make sense?  Sometimes the answer is “yes,” but don’t assume that because it’s easy for you to leave the message that it’s easy for your recipient to get it.


March 25, 2009 - Posted by | Papyrus Files |


  1. I hate the phone. Like, passionately.

    Comment by Kerry | March 25, 2009 | Reply

  2. I also find voice mail to be horribly inefficient, especially as my direct dial is the wrong number to reach for more general information (I am in marketing, customer service is a toll-free number always staffed). I do try to have my greeting offer information such as “If you need this, please call customer service at x”, but I find that people are too rushed to even listen to that.

    Email, email, email!

    Comment by Jean | March 25, 2009 | Reply

  3. Email all the way! So much more efficient — and there’s a record of what’s been discussed and agreed upon. I’m with you.

    Comment by Julie | March 25, 2009 | Reply

  4. I understand your points. However, there have been many times when I’ve sent an email pitch to a media contact, then followed up later with a voicemail message, and they’ve called back saying “Thanks for the heads up, my email box is so full I didn’t see your email and YES, I’m interested in booking your client. Here are some dates & times…” So voicemail does pay off sometimes.

    Comment by Kathlene Carney | March 25, 2009 | Reply

  5. I abandoned voicemail once email became sufficently stable and common (around 1999). I used to hate the dreadfully overlong voicemail pitches — sometimes two minutes or more (!) — ending with a phone number blurted out so carelessly I couldn’t understand it. Email is HANDS DOWN the superior way to do things. (P.S. I do miss hearing the very friendly voices of many of those I’ve worked with for many years.)

    Comment by Bill Thompson | March 25, 2009 | Reply

  6. I’ve often been frustrated by the phone tag game, in which it takes 5 voice mail exchanges to get all the information I need to confirm an interview. E-mail, while better, doesn’t always eliminate that though. How many of us have responded to an interview request via e-mail asking for X, Y & Z, and only gotten an answer to X & Z? How many will admit we’ve done it ourself sometimes? I have (hangs head in shame).

    Comment by Kama Timbrell | March 25, 2009 | Reply

  7. I’m just into direct contact. I leave my voicemail full on purpose
    so one HAS to call. If the matter is very important, you will
    keep calling until you reach me.

    Comment by Jerode King | March 25, 2009 | Reply

  8. I recently received a voicemail from a news reporter complaining about the lack of information on my voicemail (who she could contact if she didn’t hear from me by the end of the day, my email address). You just can’t win sometimes.

    Comment by JMC | March 30, 2009 | Reply

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