Contributor: Steve O'Keefe
main reason most people go on-line is e-mail. Steve
O'Keefe writes an essential article for those wishing
to learn the basic principles of using e-mail effectively.
For all the hype about the "information superhighway,"
the World Wide Web and real-time video, the most
useful electronic communications tool is plain old
e-mail. While only a fraction of the people online
have access to some of the fancier tools, everyone
can use e-mail. And all of the online services have
made it possible to send e-mail to, and receive
e-mail from, every other Internet address.
E-mail is typically very informal. Perhaps due to
its immediacy, it is written more in the style of
a memo than a letter. Very rarely does one use a
formal salutation; most e-mail is on a first-name
In e-mail, brevity is rewarded, and we are talking
brutally short here. Anything longer than a screenfull
is suspect. If nothing else, the Internet is going
to teach everyone how to communicate powerfully
in a paragraph.
Several sociologists have noted how people tend
to speak their mind more freely in e-mail. Curt
e-mail has cost a few employees their jobs and ruined
business relations for others. You've all heard
about the "flame wars" that erupt online.
I suggest you allow any serious flames to simmer
in your mailbox overnight before sending them to
your soon-to-be-scorched correspondent.
Jill Ellsworth, author of The Internet
Business Book, suggests that the most effective
marketing tool for Internet newcomers is a good
signature. A "signature" (or "sig")
is a few lines of text automatically appended to
all your outgoing e-mail. It's the equivalent of
letterhead, except it appears at the bottom of your
Some people use bandwidth-hogging signatures complete
with ASCII graphics, pithy quotes, and entire life
histories. The problem with these gimmicks is that
they get old in a hurry. There's only so many times
I can read the same quote by George Bernard Shaw
without wishing for a fresher blurb. And the problem
with ASCII graphics is that how they look is determined
by the font the reader is using. Your replica of
the Starship Enterprise looks more like the garbage
barge from Alien in the proportional font I use.
When I post to online discussion groups, my sig
consists of my name and a tagline:
Internet Publicity for Book Publishers and Authors
I don't need to include my e-mail address because
it's embedded in the header. I don't include my
mailing address, phone or fax numbers because curious
people always approach me first by e-mail. When
someone requests specific information, I use a second
sig that includes my street address and phone numbers.
Most e-mail programs allow you to attach files to
outgoing mail. Many people don't realize, however,
that unless the file is "saved as text"
(with formatting codes stripped out), the recipient
will get a file full of code that must be converted
before it can be read. You'll save yourself a lot
of time and trouble if you keep a separate folder
for attachments where you store text documents for
Useful files might include basic information about
your business, flyers for the books you publish,
an order form or other information on how to buy
your books, electronic news releases, requests for
bids from printers, etc. Your formatting will be
limited -- centering, bold, italics and large point
sizes are stripped-out when the document is saved
as text. Try to use ALL CAPS and *asterisks* to
Most e-mail programs allow you to create address
books for easy e-mailing. A good tip is to always
include the person's name in their e-mail address,
Steve O'Keefe <email@example.com>
The greater-than and less-than signs tell your e-mail
software that the address is between them. By having
the person's name in the address field, it won't
look like a wall of graffiti when you open your
address book. Some address books let you assign
group names so that, for example, you could address
a message to "wholesalers" and it would
be sent to every e-mail address in the wholesalers
group. This is a very convenient feature.
As you come to rely on e-mail, you will find yourself
doing more bulk mailings. If you don't want your
recipients to know it's a bulk mailing, address
the e-mail to yourself, and put the remaining recipients
in the "BCC" field. "BCC" stands
for "blind carbon copy," and it means
that no one will see the names of the other recipients.
of archiving e-mail. A better strategy is to print
out anything you want to save and keep it in a regular,
paper file. By not deleting e-mail as you read it,
you waste computer space and you waste time. Months
later, when you finally decide to cleanup your archives,
you'll have to open and read most of those messages
to remember why you saved them.
you must squirrel away your e-mail, save it in folders
with logical names. When you transfer the mail from
your in-box to a folder, change the subject line
to one that will be more useful to you at a later
is the dominant tool in the electronic kit. It pays
to buy good software and learn how to automate much
of your work. Use email wisely and you'll reap the
benefits of this great communications tool.
O'Keefe is a prolific writer. He has edited
six newsletters and has written more than
100 articles and several books. His writing
has appeared in Harper's, The Wall Street
Journal, Outside, Salon, HotWired, NetWorth,
Entrepreneur, Curio, and dozens of other magazines.
He was one of the original writers for Internet
World magazine, a columnist for the COSMEP
Newsletter, and a frequent contributor to
Small Press, PMA Newsletter, SPAN Connection,
and other publishing periodicals.
Steve's writing has been anthologized in several
books, including Publicity Basics, by the
Council of Literary Magazines and Presses.
His latest book is Complete Guide to Internet
Publicity (John Wiley & Sons, 2002-2007), the
successor to the critically acclaimed 'bestseller',
Publicity on the Internet (Wiley, 1996).
Adjunct Faculty, Tulane University College
Executive Director, Patron Saint Productions,
741 Saint Philip St. #241, New Orleans, LA
Voice: (504) 586-9517 Fax: (504) 586-9518
Web Site: http://www.patronsaintpr.com
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