The Mail I Get

I got an email today from a complete stranger that began with lots of praise for me and my Monk books. Then, after buttering me up, she got to the point:

I'm a pre-published author who is destined for success. My latest book is an 80,000 word erotic-suspense-romance-thriller and I would really appreciate it if you would read the manuscript and give me your detailed critique. I would also like a blurb I could use to help sell it (I will give it prominent placement on the book when it is published). I need your comments no later than Feb. 1, 2009.

My first thought was that this was some kind of prank. But assuming for the sake of a blog post that it's not, I am astonished by the writer's chutzpah. It's ballsy enough to ask someone you don't know to read your book…but to actually give them a deadline? Maybe she thinks the possibility of having my blurb published on her book is irresistable. Her arrogance and cluelessness is rather astonishing. I can't imagine anyone responding positively to her request.  That's basically what I told her:

I'm glad that you enjoy my MONK books. While I appreciate your kind words, I'm not interested in reading your manuscript. It takes a lot of time to read and critique a manuscript…something I might do for a student in a class that I'm teaching, or a close friend, or a member of my family. But you are none of those things. You are a total stranger to me. It's already presumptuous of you to ask someone you don't know to read your raw manuscript — but demanding that they do so by some arbitrary deadline crosses the line into offensive arrogance. This may shock you, but I have a life of my own. I don't appreciate it when a stranger assumes, simply because they like my books,  that I am obligated to set my life aside for them. What were you thinking?!

I'll let you know if I hear back from this idiot.

9 thoughts on “The Mail I Get”

  1. Well, now that you have an opening in your schedule, you can read my “pre-published” book! I’m not a total stranger, I’m *almost* friends with Linda and Karen. We all own the same dress! This means we have a deep and abiding bond and all Goldbergs owe me favors as a result….

  2. Dear Lee,
    I’m also am a pre-published author who is destined for success. My latest book is an 790,000 word political-intrigue-deviant-sex-suspense-scifi-romance-werewolf-rape-thriller and I would really appreciate it if you would read the manuscript and give me your detailed critique. I, too, would also like a blurb I could use to help sell it (you may also need to sleep with various reviewers, booksellers, and baristas at B&N). I need your comments and for you to dispense your sexual favors no later than Dec. 15, 2009.
    Warmest regards,

  3. It takes a full day to a full week of attentive reading to critique a book. That’s time lost from earning a living. I do occasionally help a promising author, just as established authors once helped me.
    All my writing life I’ve avoided asking noted authors for blurbs, and have relied on good review quotations on my book covers. A good review is more powerful than a blurb in any case because it rises from a disinterested professional critic.
    Recently my editor asked me to seek a blurb from a distinguished Pulitzer-winning novelist of the West. I did so reluctantly, handwriting a simple letter to him asking whether he might consider the novel for an endorsement. To my delight, he read it and gave it a splendid blurb. I am grateful not only for the blurb, but for the time he took from his busy life to read the novel.

  4. I have nothing against reading a book and giving a blurb if I have the time. I have done it for authors I know and many that I have never met. But in all those cases, the books were being published.
    I have even helped a couple of authors I know by blurbing their manuscripts before they were submitted to publishers. But the person who sent me this email is a total stranger who isn’t asking me for a blurb – she’s asking me to read and critique her manuscript.
    On top of that, the entire tone of her approach pissed me off. It’s clear she already thinks her manuscript is fabulous (calling herself “pre-published” and characterizing herself as “destined for success” is a subtle tip-off) and that my time is not nearly as valuable as her own. Her arrogance is extremely off-putting.

  5. Congratulations, Richard! If you are talking about who I think you’re talking about, WOW!
    If I am fortunate enough to sell my current book proposal, I will definitely seek out blurbs from my friends and authors I admire. But I will do so politely and with respect. I believe the blurbs I received for my DIAGNOSIS MURDER books played a big role in the success of the series. I also think the blurbs I got for THE MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE got it attention from reviewers and booksellers that it might not have received on its own.

  6. I would be offended too by the presumptuous request from your correspondent. I hope she learns something from your response.
    Had she offered you a fee for a critique of her unsold manuscript, say, a thousand dollars for an evaluation and an e-mailed report, that might be different. But she simply wanted to use you. There are a lot of users in the writing field.

  7. Your correspondent certainly was presumptuous, and I hope she profits from the exchange. Occasionally, my defense against aggressive, persistent writers who want a free critique from me is to put a price on my time and experience. When I offer to evaluate a manuscript and send a report for, say, a thousand dollars, the exchange ends abruptly. I am glad you dealt with her sense of entitlement.

  8. Yeah, you’d think a prank a prank but this is the level multitudes of wannabe novelists are at. Stuck there.
    I know one who self-publishes volumes of so-called comic novels even using the same cover for at least two different books. He brags on forums, mostly at how he collects blurbs for his latest creation. The evidence was the story of a Tom Robbins quote in the hall of the building in passing, that had nothing to do with the book.
    At least they’re out of the agent/publisher pipeline.
    Congrats Richard on that. I look forward to reading the novel. Your memoir is great.


Leave a Comment