On one of my email lists, we’re having a great conversation, kicked off by a blog post by Joan Stewart called Find the name of a blogger’s dog, cat, kid in 60 seconds. (I have subscribed to Joan’s free Publicity Hound newsletter for years – highly recommended, by the way.)
The conversation we’ve been having is about whether personal details in a pitch are appropriate, when they’re appropriate, and what level of detail is appropriate. It’s an area full of grays… and authors, illustrators, and anyone who approaches bloggers should give the issues some thought.
To start with, no amount of Googling for detail beats reading a blogger’s policies, if they have them. If a review policy states how to approach a blogger, then knowing the name of their dog isn’t going to help if the approach doesn’t follow the rules. Everyone is in agreement on that. Details, too, make the most sense when they’re tied into a pitch, not just extraneous.
Beyond that, however, there are areas of murkiness. It is hard to make an approach stand out, and it’s certainly nice if you can do it. I see the instinct to add a personal touch. And when the information is very easily available – the specific information in the article was something that’s in the blogger’s profile – it doesn’t raise a red flag.
Yet with found knowledge comes responsibility.
What if you’ve mentioned, say, your kids in a post or two on your blog. Do references to them in a pitch for a book review come across as a little too personal? What if you’ve mentioned your kids on Google+ but not your blog… yet in Googling you, someone finds the information?
Replace kids with something else. Say you’ve talked about your favorite sport. An approach that says “Hey, I see you love football. Cool. I wrote a football book!” doesn’t seem like a bad thing. But what if in Googling, someone hasn’t gotten the full context – and your love of football is actually sarcastic.
As I noted at the original post, mentioning a pet in a pitch can be great, but what if you don’t read a blogger’s blog enough and you don’t realize that the pet in question died recently (and that death was blogged). In other words, doing your homework involves many steps.
To add to the grays… while my own policy is never to mention things on the net that I’m not okay with the whole world knowing, I also can’t control what others mention about me. So, I don’t know what a thorough Google search could turn up. I do know, however, details that I think of as “private” showing up in pitches to me guarantee a one way ticket to the trash bin.
I think that with common sense, adding details to your pitch can work well. As long as you KNOW the blogger/blog you’re approaching, you’re not likely to put yourself in trouble. But if you’re Googling for those details, make sure you act responsibly with what you find. And I think if you’re in doubt, just follow the blogger’s rules.
These are, as they say, interesting times. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Should you find the name of a blogger’s pet or kid and use that in your approach to them? And when you’ve been approached that way… what’s your reaction?