Successful Email Management for Writers & Publishers

Lately, a lot of people have been asking me about my email management techniques. With two businesses, several PR clients, dozens of journalists, over 1000 emails a day, and no end in sight, how do I get it all done? Iíll talk about time management another time, but hereís how I manage my email:

  • Every morning, I immediately delete all the obvious junk—everything from the Nigerian inquiries to the Viagra ads.
  • I whip through my lists (all of which come as digests) to see if thereís anything I need to respond to. If not, I delete.
  • I then get back to all the journalists looking for quotes, whether from me or from my PR clients. Journalists are always under deadline pressure, so this is the one part of your email onslaught that you shouldnít wait with.
  • I file everything else into an email folder. Here are my categories:
    • Journalists (I break this folder down further into hot (thatís for when Oprah calls), warm (those are the journalists with whom Iím on friendly terms) and cold (those with whom I donít yet have a relationship.) For many authors, just a journalist folder will probably be sufficient.
    • Action (Action means I need to do something about it today, or at least this week.)
    • Someday (Someday is if I need to do something about it one of these days, but realistically itís not going to happen this week.)
    • Waiting for. (This folder holds all the email (which I CC to myself) when Iíve delegated a responsibility to someone else such as my assistant; or when Iíve written to someone for more information and am waiting to hear from them (such as a bookstore on whether or not theyíre going to do a booksigning for a client.)
    • Client folders. (I have one folder for each of my major clients. All email that pertains to them—unless itís an action I need to take, something Iím waiting for, or relevant to a journalist, is stored in their folder for easy reference.)
    • Book folders. (I keep one folder labeled for each of my books, so that I can easily slide relevant email in; when Iím ready to update the book, I just go through the folder.)
    • Organizations. (Likewise, I keep one folder for each organization in which Iím active, or on whose board I sit, so that I can easily track those details.)
    • Speaking. (I keep one folder for everything related to upcoming speaking gigs—directions, details, to-brings, my Amtrak Acela reservations, etc.)

Everyone once in a while I need to create a temporary folder for something else—a new project, a party big enough to need to track invitations and RSVPs, a conference Iím planning-- but for the most part, this system of folders keeps everything pretty organized.

Iím careful to always keep my inboxes close to empty, and I schedule time each day to go through my Action and Waiting For folders to make sure Iím keeping up with all my responsibilities. (If I notice the same undone item cropping up again and again in my Action folder, sometimes I move it into my Someday folder—which is a great guilt alleviator.)

Sounds simple, but Iím now accomplishing more than double what I was getting done before. I hope it works for some of you, too.

Fern Reiss is the author of The Publishing Game: Bestseller in 30 Days (book marketing), The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days (finding a literary agent), The Publishing Game: Publish a Book in 30 Days (self-publishing). For more information on Publishing Game books, workshops, and consulting, and on getting your book and business featured in the national media, sign up for the complimentary PublishingGame/Expertizing email newsletter at

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