There’s something almost as bad as the complete strangers who want you to read their unpublished manuscripts, read their scripts, and listen to their pitches. It’s the people who expect you to be at their beck-and-call for discussion, whether you want to talk with them or not, simply because you are in the public eye. Here’s an example.
I got an email from a stranger on Facebook who wanted to share with me a bad experience she had with a vanity press. She wrote, in part:
My name is X and I had a book published with XYZ. Please tell me more of what you know. Having my story published didn’t feel like a skam. I had to do all the editing, which I knew nothing about. It was a long process only because I was learning as I went along. […] Yes they try to get you to buy alot of thier gimmicks. Afraid I fell for a couple because we want to believe it will help sell our books. Have any good advice for me?
I replied, in part:
My advice is NEVER pay to be published. You are throwing your money away. As far as XYZ goes, they are a vanity press and they prey on the desperation and gullibility of aspiring authors. They will tell you whatever lie you want to hear as long as your credit card is valid
She took issue with that and wrote me another email. Here’s an excerpt:
You made a remark that has really bothered me. It came across as degrading talented authors, saying we were being taken for a ride. That we were desperate and our desperation was making us gullible, really sounding like we are all stupid. I see you have accomplished a great deal with your writing. I am sure a lot of self pub. authors are doing as well. I’m working on that my self with my book. I’ve had great responses and reviews. I was not desperate. I just wanted a fast way to get my book out.
I ignored it because I had nothing more I wanted to say. So, she started nagging me for a response by posting comments on my Facebook wall every few days, like this one:
Still waiting Lee.
Please tell me you’re a nice guy.
So, in other words, by not responding to her email and her constant nagging, I am, by default, not a nice guy. Josh Olson was right in his essay when he says you really can’t win with these people. You are damned if you respond and damned if you don’t. So here is what I wrote:
That last line — “I just wanted a fast way to get my book out” pretty much explains why you got taken by a vanity press. The truth is, that very few self-pub authors are doing well…99.9% of them never even come close to making back their investment. The only ones who make money going to vanity presses are the vanity presses. I’m sorry if you were offended by my remark but the fact is, regardless of how talented you are, you were gullible and naive…and, by your own admission, desperate (“I justed wanted a fast way to get my book out”). XYZ counts on people like you.
One other thing, a bit of advice on dealing with authors and people you don’t know: I don’t work for you. I am not your child, your teacher, or your shrink. I am responding to this email as a courtesy. Chiding me repeatedly on my Facebook page as if I am your employee, or as if I have nothing better to do than talk with you, is NOT a way to win friends or influence people.
Believe it or not, I have other priorities in my life …all of which are more important than responding to a complete stranger who didn’t hear what she wanted to hear about her self-publishing mistake…and instead of leaving it at that, decided that nagging me was a bright idea.
I fully expect to get an email back where she tells me her tale of woe and then informs me that I am an insensitive prick who doesn’t want to help others.
UPDATE 10/11/2009: I don’t know whether she read this post or not, but I heard back from her. She did end up telling me her tale of woe, and about all the hard work she put into the book…but instead of calling me I’m a jerk, she apologized very politely:
Please accept my apology. I am not the person you have perceived me to be. I would like to be a friend. If you don’t I will understand. I am no one special, not looking for fame. I do admire anyone that writes for a living. It’s not easy. I feel really bad for the way I went about trying to interact with a stranger. We both felt like we were being disrespected.
UPDATE 10/13/2009:I didn’t reply to her apology. So I got this email from her today:
Alot of my facebook friends that are alot more famous than you, did not like what you said. You could have posted an apology as I did.
Some people never learn. She doesn’t realize it, but she is exactly the person I perceived her to be.