The Mail I Get

People seem to think I'm available for hire, and at a moment's notice, too. I get a lot of emails like this one, which I received this morning:

could you please call me ref writing a book…I need help. here is my number: XXX-XXX-XXXX

Then, an hour later:

ok its early. my number is XXX-XXX-XXXX. Dont know if i could afford u but i would gladly pay to have this story portrayed as fiction..and it may save someones life thanks truth IS stranger than fiction

I'm not calling her. Ever. Or responding to her emails (I expect to get more as she awaits the call that will never come).

I also get a lot of variations on the following email:

My Dad is a big, big Monk fan and has read all of your books. Please send him an autographed book or a personalized, signed, chatty note by regular mail, preferably hand-written (NOT a form letter! It must be personal!). He would appreciate it very much. His name is Dave XYZ. Here is his mailing address. Thank you.

What always gets me about these kinds of emails are the very specific demands. My reflex is to ignore bossy emails like this one, particularly ones that want free books (they do know I make my living SELLING books, right??). But I do appreciate Dave's long readership, and don't want to penalize him for his son's "you-work-for-me" attitude. So I sent Dave a handwritten postcard:


Mr. Monk says "never eat mixed nuts." Hope you follow his advice and continue to enjoy the books.


PS – This card makes a handy bookmark or coaster. Never fold page corners or leave rings on tables.

14 thoughts on “The Mail I Get”

  1. I really appreciate that you do maintain a relationship with your readership. I began with Diagnosis Murder and and read your books since. There’s a warm feeling looking for an author who has allowed himself to be a real person with his fans.
    Thanks for that, Lee. It builds loyalty too!
    Ruth in Texas

  2. As a writing teacher at a small university I fully commiserate with your written woes. For some reason people think that writing a reference, letter or a letter of recommendation is as easy as finding yourself drunk at noon on Friday. We both know that this is not the case.
    I do love my students and, like you, try to comply as much as possible, but there are times you get a request for a letter the night before it’s needed. As if we sit around waiting to write something for someone. This frustration is compounded when they give you the “I need it today,” to the point that you want to throw a baseball at their favorite pet-like friend.
    In any case, at least these interactions are funny stories to tell at the pub on Friday. Often at noon.

  3. Are you sure you’re thinking this problem through? Again, I see your point, emails like this are a bother and an annoyance, and I see your humor, which is very funny. But isn’t there a way to make lemonade out of these lemons? And refresh everybody, including you?
    For instance, you could have a service handle your email. The service could respond nicely to the sender, and explain you have a full schedule of projects going at the moment, and ask to add the sender’s email address to your list (supposing you start creating a list of fan emails). You could write a Monk short story available nowhere else, and give the sender the code for downloading it as a reward for contacting you. This way, you respond nicely, build a fan email list, and do something extra special for the sender by giving them a new story. As well, when a new book comes out, you could send an email to all the fans on the list, asking them to post a review on Amazon if they read the book. You`d be targeting fans who already feel so good about you, they contacted you. And everybody would feel good about the situation and how it was handled.
    Anyway, there`s a reason the universe is sending you all these emails. The day might come when they stop, and you might miss them. But a lot of fans will remain fans forever, and you`ll remain in touch with them via the magic of email! And the cost for the service would not be out of sight.

  4. This one is for “Dan Williams”…
    Dear Dan:
    Your suggestions will not work for a number of reasons, but here is the primary one that I have discovered through personal experience–although thankfully, not as much as Lee.
    People are too often, to use the words of Harlan Ellison, “Crazier than a soup sandwich.”
    What this means, Dan, is that not only will most people fail to appreciate the service you suggest, or the fact that it costs the author money (and your assertion, by the way, that the cost for what you describe won’t be “out of sight” is a tad naïve), they will also become even more resentful.
    Why? Because the type of person that would write a demanding message like the one Lee received believes they are entitled–usually in every sense that the word suggests and quite a few more you haven’t even thought of.
    It was good of Lee to send the card, but I wouldn’t even do that. Because I’m not as optimistic as Lee; the “entitled” child most likely did not fall far from the tree and I suspect (although I’m always happy to discover otherwise in these situations) that Dad is very likely to be a selfish dick, too.
    That, sadly, is often the reality of such situations. In my experience. Your mileage may vary.

  5. You’ll be relieved to know I’m not going to ask you for any books or autographs. I could use a couple hundred bucks, however. Thanks in advance.

  6. Hey, you should rejoice in that kind of email. Being best known for true crime, I get emails such as “Everyone in my family is a sociopath or a psychopath, including murderers. My family would make a great true crime book, but I don’t think they will be happy having the truth told, and if my name was on the book, they might kill me. I’ll give you all the information; you can have complete credit for the book and we will split the money.”
    At least with fiction, your villeins can’t come looking for you.

  7. Randy is right… I don’t own the character. I would be violating copyright if I did that. Even beyond the copyright issues, why would I quit writing the MONK book series (for which I was paid) to now spend time writing MONK short novels for fans (for which I am NOT paid)?

  8. Randy and Lee, you guys are being too literal. It doesn’t have to be a Monk story, that was just an example. It could be a stand alone detective short story. The idea is to do something special for persons who feel so good about Lee they’ll write to him. It’s a gesture of gratitude.
    Richard Dean Starr, it seems to me you make an awful lot of good points, and that you have a valid view, and I’m glad it works for you. You don’t want to make a mistake with a demanding person who has a sense of entitlement. My view is not to make a mistake with the good ones, and to accept that sometimes I’ll run into situations you describe. But that’s the fun of life, making a move and seeing how it works out. And doing good, even if the email sender does not. This way, Lee, for example, would weed out the types you see, yet collect a file of email addresses of the types I see, and, when informed of a future new book, they would write nice reviews, in my opinion.
    Cap’n Bob, I can’t spare a couple of hundred, but yesterday I gave $10 bucks to a guy on the street who approached as he was down on his luck. What amazes me is how instantly such persons change for the better when they receive some kindness. It redeems them. That’s how I feel about persons sending emails who need some kind of help. I’ll do what I can.
    Burl, it would throw me too if David Westerfield, a child murderer, called me and asked me to ghost his autobiography. And I wouldn’t take up the offer. But I hope I would encourage him to go ahead on his own or contact another person. I guess the idea is to give something to somebody in need even if there’s no place in my life for any further contact with them. This way, I think I’m helping the universe get better even if it’s in a very tiny way.
    Anyway, isn’t there anybody on this blog that agrees with me even partly? Don’t TV stars have services that handle their mail and email? It’s not a difficult concept, right?


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