In the Handbasket: Michael Palmer

At Thrillerfest this past summer I was thoroughly charmed by the devilishly handsome author/physician Michael Palmer. By the time a writer has published fourteen bestselling novels that have been translated into some thirty-five languages, one would think he might be a little, well, inaccessible. Not so, Michael Palmer. You can find out what he’s up to nearly every day by writing him at his website, friending him on Myspace or Twitter, or even sending him a letter by way of the publisher of his latest medical thriller The Second Opinion. You’ll want to check out this terrific interview that novelist Karen Harper did with him at The Big Thrill as well.

Michael has been publishing novels since 1982, and as his books have gotten more and more popular, so has he. He’s dropped by the Handbasket today to tell us how he has (almost!) conquered contemporary technology so he can keep in touch with all of his friends and fans.

Welcome, Michael!

I just can’t keep up……

Greetings, everyone from the coast just north of boston….. for your entertainment, here’s the latest tweet I intend to post:

Look for my guest blog on wonderful laura benedict’s notes from the handbasket. It’s about how lost I am keeping up with communication tech

There it is—exactly 140 characters – that’s all that is allowed in a tweet…..

The words in red are those I couldn’t have defined for you a year or two ago….there are other such words—many others, actually…..i am a communications/Internet dinosaur….

My writing career began in the late 70s, and in 1982 my first book (of 14), the sisterhood, was published by bantam…..a few weeks later, by way of the bantam mailroom (talk about dinosaurs!) I received my first “fan letter” from a kindly reader from Kansas… seems like a large proportion of those who write me and other authors (I checked) are from states with 2-4 right-angles……draw your own conclusions about why Kansans and wyomans and coloradans and Nebraskans read more and send fan mail more than other places…..anyhow, I still have that first note (think diners with their first 1, 2, 5, 10, and 20 dollar bills above the cash register)…… and of course, I ANSWERED IT right away……I even answered the note I got from the lady in return (of course putting my return address on the letter gave her that opening)…..

Over the years (and increasing sales) that followed, the volume of reader mail (not all were friendly, so I won’t call them fans) increased……I still answered every one… parents were sticklers for social graces, although my close friends might dispute the results in areas other than returning fan mail…..the point is, I kept up… editor told me it was crucial – each person who went to the trouble to write was likely to buy my succeeding books provided I wrote them back…..i still think that’s true….

Of course, there were what I came to call “yellow pagers”…..those were the “fans” who wrote me usually in pencil on yellow lined legal-sized paper, rambling through two or more pages dealing with…..well, don’t ask, because I never finished any of them when I sent a response…..some, though by no means all, came from prisons…..i guess those had something to do with “free time”

Anyhow, after years of scrambling to keep up with correspondence in the interest of social grace and my career…..along came the internet….i don’t think I really noticed it for the first few years and I didn’t understand exactly what it was for a few years after that… fact, I remember being sort of mystified with the drop off in written fan-letters, especially when my sales seemed to be on the rise….. then Daniel, the middle of my three sons changed my life forever with these words: “You gotta have a web site.” … along with some artistic, savvy friends of his, he built me one… no time at all, I found out why I hadn’t been receiving much in the way of written notes…..let the flood gates be open….

The site has a “Contact Me” section, and I am astounded at how many readers do……still, I have committed myself to personally answering every note (I’m 250 behind right now)… parents are tough people to go up against when it comes to social grace… longer are senders limited to the square-corner states……try south Africa…..or the Philippines …..or Pitcairn island (how many of you know what/where that is….think mutiny on the bounty)…… anyhow, last week my site got 78,000 hits…..i have no idea what percentage of those write, but I’m answering a lot of mail, in addition to requests for signed bookplates (also daniel’s idea, I think)….

But the rascal wasn’t done……face it, dad, you have no cyber presence, he told me not so long ago…..that’s where it’s at now… need to be on my space…..then, you need to be on facebook….. and most recently you need to begin tweeting every day on twitter……forget about fixster and these other social networks for the time being…..we’ll do them later……so I hired a publicist (sisters and their mom, actually) and they began to create a cyberpresence, as in 1500 my space “friends” and 1500 or so facebook “friends” and 400 (and rising) twitter followers…..goodness!!

Not long ago, I called Daniel amazed because one of the book sites that reviewed the second opinion boasted that it had been chosen by some survey as one of the 100 most influential book review sites on the internet……A HUNDRED!!!!! I exclaimed……I can’t believe there are more than a hundred such sites all together……dad, Daniel said with the patience of a third grade teacher, the number is closer to a HUNDRED THOUSAND……

So now I have e-mails from my site, wall-to-walls (I still don’t know exactly what they are, but I answer them nonetheless) and other messages from ms, f, and t , and even an occasional paper letter via my publishers…..and of course there are amazon and barnes and noble “reviews” to stay busy checking……I CAN’T STOP BECAUSE OF MY PARENTS (now long deceased) AND MY FIRST EDITOR who has me fearful that every e-mail unanswered is a future sale lost…..

You know what I think I’ll try and do as soon as I’ve finished this guest blog and answering today’s quota of e-mails (I just got 2 from the Seychelles!!)…..

I think I’ll try writing a book!


5 thoughts on “In the Handbasket: Michael Palmer”

  1. Mary-Frances says:

    Hi Michael,
    Thank you for this hilarious look at having an internet presence. It sounds like your son keeps you well informed of all the trends.

    I just followed you on twitter. I would hate to email you and add to the pile you’re currently plowing through:D.

    Thanks again!

  2. Pinckney says:

    Wow! What a progression. I’m amazed at your fortitude, in the face of all that correspondence.

  3. I, for one, am glad for your internet presence. I copied your last tweet in my notebook.

  4. JT Ellison says:

    Hi Michael – smart move hiring it out. As much fun as it is, for writers and fans, to have instantaneous access – through blogs, tweets, Facebook and MySpace – it also takes a great deal of time to maintain. Time better spent writing the next book for our reader’s enjoyment…

  5. Great post, Michael!! Don’t worry, you’ll eventually get the hang of it. And you always have me, Jocelyn, Gloria and Daniel to help you when you need it!!

    Congrats on all the success of THE SECOND OPINION. You deserve it!

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