What to do with vague email inquiries

Today’s Art Marketing Action newsletter is about getting real with your email without allowing it to take over your life. I mentioned that you should always respond with kindness even to emails that are seeminlgy rude.

Deborah Ridgley wrote last week with this question: “What would you do it you receive the message which I have just received?  It is so vague. I just wanted your opinion, or was wondering if this has happen to you.” The email she received said only this:

Let me know your artworks that are available for sale.

It was also addressed to “Undisclosed Recipients,” which means that Edward was probably mailing his brief message to a number of people simultaneously.

I’ve written a number of times about artists who email me asking me for something without addressing me by name or signing their full names. I think this is terribly rude and feel I have every right not to respond to such queries. After all, I wouldn’t give out the same information over the phone without knowing who the person is. Why should I do it through email? Here's what I know.

  • It’s times like these when that page on your Web site of AVAILABLE WORKS comes in handy. This is something that Clint Watson recommends. If you have such a page, you can just respond with a link.
  • There is no need to be as briefly rude as the originator of the message was. He at least used his first name and you can respond “Dear Edward.” After all, you never know who Edward might be. Or who is friends are.*

So, here is what I would do. I would develop a standard form and letter to use in these situations. How about . . . (Always begin with a thank you!)

Dear Edward,

Thank you for your email and interest in my work. I hope you understand that I prefer doing business on an even playing field. As you have access to my Web site and much information about my art, I would appreciate knowing more about you before I respond to your questions. Below is a standard form I use for such inquiries.

I look forward to hearing back from you at your convenience.

Most sincerely,



Your full name:
Phone number:
Email address:
The nature of your interest in my art:

There's more about using email for your art business in Cultivating Collectors (and my upcoming book, I'd Rather Be in the Studio!)

*A quick Google check of Edward’s full name, which was in his URL brought up an ophthalmologist, a Revolutionary War figure, and other possible leads. You won’t always have the full name, but a little detective work might be revealing.

Image (c) Deborah Ridgley, Mr. Warren Hitner.

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22 thoughts on “What to do with vague email inquiries”

  1. Good suggestion. I use an add-on for Apple’s Mail program called MailTemplate that allows me to do quick responses to such vague inquiries. I have several templates set for different questions, then just use the ‘reply with template’ command to send the right one.

  2. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Oh, boy, Dan! A new toy! I use Apple Mail and don’t know anything about templates. This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

  3. While I agree that responding to vague emails needs to be handled with tact, this email example reeks of scam. As a working artist, and one who does a fair amount of business online, we painters especially are constantly targeted by scams which ask for available works. These emails are then typically followed by promises of payment through a third party or some other unusual means of purchase. So although you’ve answered the question as to how to handle vague emails, I think you missed a cue to address a larger issue.

  4. I received that exact same email. No kidding. I Googled his complete email address, not just the name. I remember part of it. It was something like “edwsomething@edwsomething.us”. This brought up a site listing known scams with a huge list of email addresses, which included his, of scammers. I immediately clicked Spam and deleted his email. Two things made me wary of this email. One: the “.us” and Two: the wording in his sentence was not quite right. Patrice Erickson http://patriceerickson.blogspot.com

  5. I also received the exact same email. I’ve sold a lot online and real buyers always ask about a specific painting and usually tell me where they saw it. These vague emails are always scams. I don’t even respond. I just delete them.

  6. I would say that an email from someone I don’t know to “undisclosed recipients” doesn’t warrent any kind of reply – and I don’t think I want him to refer his friends to me. I agree that a serious collector would send me a personal email, usually referring to a specific work, or at least to a specific body of work. I would delete without a thought, just like the emails I get to the faux addresses under my domain name, trying to sell me male enhancements…

  7. I got the email as well and immediately dismissed it as scam. Genuine buyers, unless you sell wholesale to designers or the like, will have particular works they are interested in. As it wasn’t from an anonymous emailer (Yahoo, Hotmail, etc) I also googled the domain name of his email address to find it didn’t exist – that put the case to rest for me.

  8. I have a question on email etiquette and recognizing receipt of a message. I contacted several people about an ebook I just released, asking for endorsements. I received a couple of replies that said, “Give me a few days. I’ll look it over and get back to you.” Do I write back and say, “Thank you. I look forward to your reply,” or just wait for the second email. These are busy people who have email boxes stuffed with requests and do their business online. I don’t want to add another unneccessary email to the inbox, but don’t want to seem unappreciative, either. We face this situation frequently as we send marketing material to galleries and art consultants, and I’m never sure what to do. To send or not to send??

  9. I also received the “Edward” email. I treated it as legitimate, asking for more information about himself and what he wants. This is because I have had very brief one line inquiries come through my website. The first contact is often tentative, until they know the email works. Thanks Alyson for a good way to move the conversation along. And thanks also for those who talked about the spammer. Hejust asked me for images of recent work. Not sending him any.

  10. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Boy, Edward has been busy, hasn’t he?! I agree that it smells like a scam or spam. But if you’re diligent, you’ll be fine. Carla: I’m curious as to what kind of response you received after you treated it as legitimate. Shelley: I agree with Laura. “Thank yous” are always appreciated.

  11. I haven’t received such a vague email (yet) but have had to deal with vague phone calls from gallery owners. These are the calls from galleries interested in my work or who wish to place an order but don’t introduce themselves in their salutation. The typical “greeting” is “Hi, Is this Moonroom Crafts? I’d like to place an order.” It is then up to me to be pleasant, ask who is calling (“May I have your name/business name?”) and proceed from there. I guess I just find it rather unprofessional for a gallery or store owner/manager/assistant to present themselves this way on the phone. Fortunately all of these inquiries have been legitimate and all have paid in a timely manner.

  12. Alyson B. Stanfield

    This is hilarious! I just got an email from Helen at the same URL (edwcrouch.us) who wants to know which of my works are for sale. As IF there are any artworks for sale at all on my Web site.

  13. Well, Edward contacted me too. I had seen this post so I was courteous but wary. I heard back which paintings he wanted to buy but no more info about him. He said he would be having someone pick them up – and wanted to know prices. I had checked out his website listed and it was a list of links, but it was there. So I sent him to my website (as suggested) to the page with the list of prices of different size prints I offer. He came back with sized – that I don’t offer. Then I told him that if he were interested, I could make those prints available through my Imagekind Shop. I haven’t heard back yet … but I figured that was a good solution … if he is legit, he will be glad to buy through Imagekind. Great that we can share here and help each other!! ~ Diane Clancy http://www.dianeclancy.com/blog

  14. I had a strange & annoying experience when someone contacted me via Skype with an image of my art copied from my blog. The sender was trying to raise my ire. He said *Nice painting, I want to by it.* I replied OK, put the amount into my PayPal account and be sure to give me your mailing address so I can send it to you. He then returned to my blog, copied more images and showed them to me on Skype. I did not reply. Of course he did not send any money via PayPal either. I never heard from him again. I did not get upset or outraged, or I would have felt like I’d taken the bait..

  15. Alyson Stanfield

    Marie: Isn’t that weird?! It’s amazing how much free time people have on their hands. Good for you for not taking the bait.

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