For the past several years now I have, unfortunately, found it nearly impossible to reply to all the emails various people send my way. I feel a faint sense of guilt when I leave messages unanswered, but there are reasons why I don’t always respond. So, while I always enjoy hearing from people, you’ll up your odds of getting a reply if you get a sense for how I deal with email.
Since folks contact me for slightly different reasons, feel free to skim through this post until you find the category that applies to you.
A bit of background on my email habits
I first set up RolfPotts.com as I was transitioning into full-time travel writing in the late 1990s, and I resolved to reply every time someone made the effort to email me. I was particularly attuned to people looking for travel or travel-writing-related advice, since I could recall what it was like to be a new traveler and a novice writer. My incoming email flow increased exponentially when Vagabonding debuted in 2003, but for the most part I was able to keep up with it.
By the mid-late 2000s, however, the volume and content of incoming emails began to shift, in tandem with the rise of blogging and social media. Moreover, as online media began to replace print media, I became deluged with emails from PR companies who considered me a “travel influencer,” as well as from budding travel bloggers who wanted me to promote their own work. My inbox became overwhelmed, and it became harder and harder to discern friendly, earnest inquiries from calculated, self-interested ones.
Hence, while I really do love to hear from people — and it’s great to be in a position where so many folks are interested in what I do — I no longer reply to every email that comes my way.
What follows is a rundown of the best way to approach me for a variety of common topics.
1) If you want to say hello and/or share your thoughts
Personal messages are the best. I love getting these kinds of emails, and I make a sincere effort to reply to every one. Tell me a little bit about yourself, and why you felt compelled to write me — but to-the-point concision is appreciated, since I don’t always have time amid my other duties to read through essay-length emails. If I’m traveling someplace off the grid or overwhelmed with writing work it might take as much as a couple of months for me to reply, but I usually do reply.
If your personal message is written in tandem with an interview request, a query about travel or travel-writing, or a pitch for your blog/project/product, see items #3-#8 below.
2) If you want to hire me for a writing, speaking, teaching, or TV gig
Writing, teaching, public speaking, consulting, and (occasionally) TV hosting and voice-over are how I make my living — and I’m happy to discuss possibilities if you have paying work to offer. Just use the Contact form; I reply quickly to these types of queries.
3) If you’d like to interview me for your magazine, blog, or podcast
The abundance of entries on my Interviews archive shows how I love to weigh in on all manner of topics, travel-related and otherwise. The only caveat here is that I have to schedule interviews around my work and travel commitments. That means it might be a few weeks (or even months) before I can participate/respond, so please plan well in advance.
If by chance you’re working on a magazine article about travel, please familiarize yourself with my work, since my travel advice doesn’t typically apply to commercially oriented “hot trends” or “next big destination” type stories.
4) If you’d like to interview me for your school project
I occasionally get interview requests from students working on academic or in-class projects — but over the years I’ve found that I’m less and less likely to participate in school-oriented research projects. Why is this case? Bluntly put, students have proven reliably terrible when it comes to preparing, scheduling, and following up on these kinds of interviews.
So if you do contact me for input on a school project, please don’t be a flake. Don’t approach me as an “expert,” yet neglect to familiarize yourself with the most basic aspects of my work. Don’t wait a week to come up with your questions, then insist that you need the answers in less than 24 hours. And, when I take the time to write out 2000 words of thoughtful responses to your questions, it can’t hurt to hit reply and say thanks.
I don’t mean to be persnickety here, but it feels like school-assigned interviews all-too-often end up being less about engaged inquiry than a pretext for me doing someone else’s homework. So please be thoughtful and professional when approaching me about these kinds of projects.
5) If you want travel advice for your upcoming journey
I no longer have the time or bandwidth to dispense detailed, destination-specific travel advice, but I am happy to weigh in on (and lend encouragement to) big-picture vagabonding considerations.
For an overview of more specific travel advice, the archive of my old “Ask Rolf” column is still online at World Hum, and Vagablogging contains twelve years’ worth of travel insights and advice from myself and dozens of other writers.
6) If you want to know more about being a travel writer
Common queries about the travel-writing trade tend to be fairly similar in nature, so over the years I’ve put my most salient advice online — starting with a short rundown called “10 Basic Tips for Travel Writers,” and continuing through the years with a number of posts now archived in the Writing Craft section of this website.
My best travel-writing resource is the series of interviews I’ve been doing with working travel writers since November of 2000. The series now features insights and perspectives from more than 200 travel writers, editors, publishers, filmmakers, bloggers, and novelists — and it’s a great place to start researching the trade.
7) If you’d like a blurb for your upcoming book
Due to the sheer volume of requests I no longer write blurbs for books unless I’ve known the author professionally for a significant period of time.
8) If you have a blog, travel product, or similar project to promote
I’m always game to provide moral support for folks’ travel blogs, Kickstarter projects, vagabonding-gizmo inventions, and so forth. But due to simple time constraints I rarely, if ever, promote these kinds of things on my blog or social media. If you send me information about these projects I’ll definitely give them a look, and I might reply with words of encouragement, but please don’t send me a barrage of unsolicited follow-up emails, and please don’t put me on a mailing list unless I specifically request that you do so.
9) If you work for an optimization company dealing in sponsored posts
I don’t run ads or monetize content at RolfPotts.com, and Vagablogging.net (which rarely, if ever, ran ads) is on hiatus as of late 2016.
I don’t reply to queries about sponsored posts or paid SEO optimization links.
10) If you are a PR representative
Unsolicited mailing lists are the bane of my inbox existence, so if you work in PR please read carefully:
a) I am not interested in any generic promotional announcements. Please don’t add me to your PR email list.
b) I am occasionally interested in receiving newly published books related to travel, culture, history, music, sports, movies, and other topics that interest me. To get a sense for which books I’ve written about in the past, check out my Essays & Criticism archive. But again, please don’t put me on an automated PR list: just contact me directly if you have a book that might interest me.
c) I occasionally field-test travel gear and clothing. I don’t actively review these items, though if I like a given line of gear or clothing I am open to sponsorship arrangements.
d) As for travel destinations, I don’t read press releases, and I rarely do familiarization trips. That said, I’m not entirely opposed to fam-trips — but I have specific and specialized writing interests, so please get a sense for my Travel Stories archive before you send a proposal.
e) If given an “unsubscribe” option for generic promotional announcements, I will always unsubscribe. If given no “unsubscribe” option, I will block the PR email domain in question, in large part because repeated email requests to be removed from these lists tend to go unheeded (I’m looking at you, finnpartners.com).
Just for reference (and to get a sense for how many of these companies don’t provide unsubscribe options), here’s a list of PR-spam domains I blocked in 2016 alone:
louhammond.com; kirvindoak.com; paramountpr.com; cam-pr.com; formulapr.com; finnpartners.com; dqmpr.com; pitchpublicrelations.com; prmediaco.com; mediapruk.com; gorkanadatabase.com; sirencomms.com; verdepr.com; jpcutlermedia.com; prbythebook.com; jampr.co.uk; luxepr.com; cmcommunications.com; heronpr.com; verypcc.com; bigcommunications.co.uk; dkcnews.com; coburnww.com; cohnwolfe.com; fullpic.com; 5wpr.com; golin.com; peteramayer.com; maletzkymedia.com; brazenpr.com; chalkboardcomm.com; anthonybarnum.com; agence-zoi.com; dlh.de; startyourtripplans.com; evins.com; rooster.co.uk; martinlevypr.com; spring-obrien.com; illuminationpr.com; heronagency.com; gestionbyd.com; thebarrygroup.net; 42west.net; apollopublicrelations.com; taylorstrategy.com; lewispr.com; chefsagency.net; asylumpr.com; specialistholidays.com; thecommunicationgroup.co.uk; greenfishcommunications.com; balconymediagroup.com; thecornershoppr.com; em50.com; gallivantpr.com; blueprintcomms.com; smapr.com; cellet.co.uk; nicholaslence.com; clearlyso.com; gabrielleshaw.com; hopeandglorypr.com; deckerroyal.com; itgirlpublicrelations.com; essence-communications.com; dtpublicrelations.com; seyferthpr.com; limelightpr.co.uk; fwdconsulting.co.uk; dssimon.com; lages.com; mytriptopetra.com; mslgroup.com; loewshotels.com; lhammond.com; thevanguardpr.com; buenapark.com; highwirepr.com; domainintegrated.com; debenhams.com; theeventagroup.com; totallycommunications.com; imngroup.co.uk; elementarymarketing.com; whitetigerpr.com; sockeyepr.co.uk; turtle-pr.com; plentific.com; byrdconnections.com; threelittlebirdspr.com; staturepr.com; harrisonsadler.com; somervillepr.com; clarioncomms.co.uk; tuispecialist.com; frankpr.it; lugloc.com; booksinglesholidays.com; bayleafcomm.com; teamlewis.com; purpleorangepr.com; connorpr.com; powerdigitalmarketing.com; goodresults.co.uk; rc-pr.com; wpragency.co.uk; prrevolution.com; excess-energy.co.uk; n6a.com; arthouse-pr.com; perowneinternational.com; mediamaison.com; bendergrouppr.com; eyes2market.co.uk; prsformusic.com; lerpr.net; allisonpr.com; munich-airport.de; mediaworks.co.uk; cloverpr.co.uk; carocommunications.com.