Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Keeping Up Your Database

All authors, both published and pre-published, need to be maintaining a database -- tracking people you meet, people who email you, people who order your book directly from you, people who attend your workshop or booksigning, people you interview or work with, folks who hand you their business cards, fellow writers you meet at conferences, and so on.

Don’t make it a big deal, though. Don’t spend hours. You can do it as they come in or you can save it up and enter things once a week. If you don’t do it, you’ll lose track of those people. And you’ll lose the opportunity to include them in your announcement of your recent publication. Or your upcoming appearance on TV. Or your book launch. Or whatever you need to promote.

Now, don’t be collecting contact info on people you don’t know or haven’t met. If you send them stuff, you’re spamming. Nobody likes spam - the email, phone or snail mail kind. Everybody likes spam the meat. Or is that just me?

Find an easy way to keep your database. I keep mine on my Palm - not my hand, the device for keeping your calendar and addresses. Other people use their Palm for other things, but mine’s one of the first, ancient ones and I don’t have Internet connection and all the other jazz. I can put in all the information I want on someone and even label the entry, such as Author or Agent or Personal. Get a program where you can create your own categories for sorting.

There are other, newer programs that are even better. This is what I’ve been using for years.

Anyone else have a recommendation for keeping up with your database?
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  1. I'm like you - just update it here and there as new contacts are made. No biggie if you're in the habit of it. I keep a word.doc file with names, phone & snail mail info, and an email list for announcements. But I do it on my PC, I actually haven't gotten a palm yet (the non-hand kind - lol), so when I travel I email the updated lists to myself and download it on my laptop, then when I get home I email the new additions to myself and download them on my PC.

    Hmmm - now that I read my somewhat laborious process, mebbe it IS time to get a palm?

  2. I need to get busy and get a current database going. Right now, I've got contacts on my Iphone, I've got stuff on my old Palm, I've got e-mail address on the computer, I've got lists from book signings. Very disorganized.

    Morgan Mandel

  3. Never quite been a fan of the Spamburger Hamburger...I keep most of my info in Outlook, but MS Excel is also an excellent tool.

  4. Holy cow! Can't believe I hadn't thought of this. And I was even a secretary in a former life! Thank you so much. I'll get one started ASAP.

    Karen Walker

  5. My today's to do list just grew longer! I use an excel program but I have been pretty lax lately. Thanks for the reminder to update.

    Jane Kennedy Sutton

  6. I've never really gotten the hang of Excel or Outlook, but I know my husband uses Outlook for his contact list. If I didn't have the Palm, I'd probably be using that.

    If I got a iPhone, Morgan, I'd want to make sure all my Palm stuff could transfer. I'd like to keep the contact list in one place, wherever that is!

  7. Marybeth, I keep going to your blog, but stop at the block that's up which says I have to be a member in order to visit. I don't remember encountering that on any other blogs.

  8. I use a MacBook and iPhone. My iPhone allows me to create a new contact by tapping on the email address. Mac mail allows me to create a new contact or add information to an existing contact by clicking on the email address and/or mailing adress. Once the contact is created I can drag the card to whatever group I want. The best part I'd that MobileMe syncs everything automatically. Any changes made on my iphone are made on my computer and vice versa.

    I think there's also a program called Bento that is pretty good.

  9. I use my email address book for my contact list and have a TikiWiki tracker for my submissions database.

    My memories of Spam (the meat) are not fond. Just thinking about it makes me queasy.

    My dog Max is mad that he doesn't have palms (the hand type).

    That about covers it from me. ;)

  10. Great idea!

    I have folders on my computer for various contacts, but I don't send anything to anyone who did not specifically opt into my mailing list or sign up for my birthday club--and those two lists are kept mutually exclusive. I'm always afraid spam karma will get me, and my box is full enough! ;)


  11. Good advice. Btw, I had Spam for lunch today. :)

  12. Brooke, I love the idea of your MobileMe. I may look into that if I ever break down and get a fancy phone.

    I tell ya, there are some high tech people commenting here. Whew. I am so low tech....

  13. I have a folder in my email address book for readers, but so many of them are also friends. I need to make it more convenient to update. Thanks for all the good ideas.

  14. Some great ideas here for tracking details on a database. I need to combine mine. Great, another entry on the to-do list, sigh.


  15. Oh, Nancy, I so know how you feel!

  16. I use the contact in my email software. How should I treat people who have refused my book for review? Should I still approach them when I next have a new book coming out?

    Sexy romance by Enid Wilson

  17. Enid- refused your book for review? I say banish them to some dark lonely place like an 8 track tape player. :)

    I really don't like these electronic devices for storage. How many computer crashes must I have before I learn they are not handy for storing information?
    Great advice though Helen


  18. I do keep files on my computer and labeled as you say Helen. Any business cards I receive I put in a holder and when I get home I have a business card file I put them in—the old way I know—then I enter them into my files on the computer.

    One thing I am very careful of, after years in the business world, is confidentiality. I don’t share email address or personal phone numbers with others. I also don't send cutesy emails or stupid chain emails to them. I treat all my business contacts in a friendly but professional manner. I do periodically send out “how are you doing?” emails. If I know they have a book coming out I ask about that, or if they have shared something with me, I’ll ask about that. I‘ve always kept track of spouse, kids, and pet names. Simple and friendly.

    I have to tell you, I have learned much from your blog, Helen. I appreciate the efforts and thought you put into your articles. There have been times when I’m stumped on something and I will check your archives and usually find my answer. Thank you.

  19. Excellent idea, Helen!

    I used to use Outlook because it's quite powerful, and made for exactly this purpose, but it was frustrating to access from multiple places or sync between devices, so I was constantly writing down or asking people to e-mail me their contact info.

    Now I use the Contacts section in GMail. www.gmail.com It makes my contacts easily accessable from work, home, or any internet connected device. It integrates into my e-mailing, and you can import/export contacts.

    I'm also using the Calendar and Task functions in GMail which makes it a complete replacement for Outlook, and its free.

    Something else you can use is your cell phone, since it is (usually) with you...

    And you may want to keep in mind, if you are mailing more than 100 people at a time, (ex: Newsletter or Press Release) I'd highly recommend a third-party mail list software like Constant Contact or others. You don't want to end up with YOUR e-mail being listed as a spammer!

    -Conrad Zero

  20. Lauri, what I like about my Palm is that the Palm itself is a backup for what's on my computer - and vice versa. Even when I lose a hard drive, the Palm is still intact.

    Hi Conrad. Very good advice. I haven't used my gmail functions at all. Haven't even looked into them!


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