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Sunday, 17 August 2014

THE IN-BOX: A REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

What should you expect to find in your in-box if you write books?
   Requests for help. These tend to arrive in the form of entreaties from Nigerian Princesses living in France.
   Rolex watch adverts.
   Plugs for earplugs.
   Viagra. Always the female variety.
   Urgent confidential requests for aid that I never open. So I can't tell you how much money these people want from me.
   This week, I was spammed by a mysterious character. Me. WTF?! Yes. I received an e-mail from myself. It was urgent that I answer this and deal with it. Vital that I check the enclosed attachment.
   Hmm.
   I don't recall writing that one. Or, indeed, sending it. Peculiarly, I have no urgent desire to respond. Hmm.
   Was my e-mail account hacked? No. Sooner or later - and in my case it's been later - you may be spammed by someone pretending to be you.
   I suppose this is designed to catch people who e-mail themselves. Do I e-mail myself? Technically, yes.
   This blog is e-mailed to me as an additional form of archiving. It's quite clear what the incoming e-mail is about. No mystery. And no urgent request.
   Almost all junk, spam, is filtered. Either I never see it or I only note its presence in the filtered folder before flushing occurs.


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Rarely, important e-mail is accidentally filtered out as junk. I believe I've caught it all, so far.


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And the rest? How important is e-mail? You can reach me at the listed e-mail address. Doesn't mean you want to, and doesn't mean you should.
   I deal with other writers on a regular bassoon. We talk of many things: shoes, ships, sealing-wax, cabbages, kings and desperate men.
   E-mail is important.
   When I update a book by altering the blurb or the price, Amazon e-mails me to say the updated book is now live.
   So far I've dealt with legal issues through e-mail and not the courts.
   Payment is noted via e-mail. This is the digital age, and authors should not be paid twice a year. I don't have a paper publishing company dawdling in the background.
   E-mail is relatively swift, and problems can be set right rapidly. Doesn't mean they will be. But the option is there.
   Writers. Check your in-boxes. Yes. Writers need more than one box. I have at least...oh dear. Let me think. Damn, is it seven boxes now? Yes. All tailored to different levels of e-mail traffic.
   My busiest in-box is the one visible on this blog. It is tied to my Twitter account, and I take loads of incoming waffle. But I think that's important.
   I don't routinely Tweet my book links on the Twitter. My best responses come through talking about coffee or showing pictures of ice cream.
   In other words, I try my best to stay human. Even if the content of my in-box appears generated by robots. I can't act that way.


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This blog post was about being sent spam by my evil clone. I had nothing grand or revelatory to say on the business of e-mail. Keep a lid on it...
  Generate the ability to know, looking at the e-mail's subject, whether that message will be useful or not. Occasionally, I've been caught out by a monitor warning me that my outgoing e-mail title might constitute spam.
   Would I like to alter the title? Yes. That's been surprising. Why is this phrase or that word considered spam?
   Don't mention help in an e-mail subject. Try to avoid saying hello in the title. If you hold a doctorate, make no mention of this in the intro.
   Above all, omit the name Sani Abacha from your scribblings. There's no Swiss legacy waiting to be unlocked.
   Must see to my e-mail.

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