Apparently, as an author, I have an obligation to society to be a creative writing instructor and agent at large for anyone who has written a book. Here's an excerpt from an email I got today:
[…]I haven't been able to get my novel published. Several notable editors and agents who have seen it were, in their rejections, very complimentary about the writing quality, the plot, etc., etc. Maybe this was just professional courtesy, though it felt authentic. I think they just didn't see massive commercial potential, or a referral from a big name.
I do think it's a good book and should be published. And I wonder what you think.
XYZ is an off-off-beat detective novel. That is, I think it's off-beat in unusual ways, and "on beat" as well. I hope you'll read it, send me your thoughts on it and, if you really love it or greatly respect it, volunteer an effective connection that could get it published or filmed.
The manuscript of the novel is attached.
Keep in mind, this lady is a complete stranger. Here's how I replied:
Thank you for your note and your kind words. I'm afraid I just don't have time to read your book and give you comments. I have a novel due on Nov. 1, and I just signed a 12-book deal with Amazon that requires me to deliver a book-a-month. Yes, you read right, a book-a-month. I also do not feel comfortable reading books-in-progress by people who a) aren't close friends or family or b) students of mine in a class, so I have deleted your manuscript unread. I hope you understand.
She did not. She fired back a one-line response.
It's not a book in progress. It's complete.
So I wrote her back:
Yes, I understand that. What I mean is, it's not a galley of a book that's about to be published. It's an unsold manuscript…and you want a critique, which I don't have the time to do. Nor is it my practice to read unpublished manuscripts sent to me by strangers.
Again, she still didn't get it. She replied:
That's not really what I was after. I don't need a critique. But never mind. Thanks anyway.
No, that's exactly what she was after. In fact, she wanted that and more. She wanted me to stop what I am doing to read a book from a total stranger, evaluate it, and then pass it along to all the contacts I've made in publishing and film.
I've certainly done that before…the difference is, it's been for family, friends, or students of mine. People that I know, that I have a relationship with, personally or professionally. But who is this woman to me? Nobody.
It just astonishes me how incredibly presumptuous some people can be.
Now, if you will excuse me, I have a manuscript to send to Stephen King that I'd like him read, give me his opinion on, and then send to his editor and his contacts at Dreamworks. We've never met, but that doesn't matter. He owes me. I've read some of his books.