The Mail I Get – Write With Me Edition

I got this email from a total stranger this morning. She said, in part:

“Okay, here goes. I’m a teen therapist for 20 years… I’ve been writing for a long, long time. Just putting it out there. I’d love an opportunity to write a script with you. I’ve no idea where one finds a writing partner.  I’m a novice at format not content or ideas. I am a sponge when it comes to learning. I admire you and sometimes you just gotta go for it. I teach people to ask for what they want, so I’m asking. Take a minute and feel how awesome my request is… I’m super creative and I like to write about real life events..with a twist. I’m a Gemini. If that helps, great..if not, I have many life experiences worth writing about and letting others go on that journey…I hope you want to know more!” 

I wrote back…

Sorry, I’m not interested in co-writing a script with you. I’m glad you teach teens to go after what they want… but you should also advise them to be realistic, to do research, and to learn about the best way to achieve their goals. Reaching out to professional writers to collaborate is not a successful strategy for breaking into the entertainment industry. Everyone has ideas and life experience…and an astrological sign. Instead, you should hone your screenwriting skill by taking classes or reading books… and write a spec script. Often the best contacts you can make are in those classes… the student next to you could sell her script and become your contact in the industry. If you want to learn more about breaking into TV writing, you might check out my book SUCCESSFUL TELEVISION WRITING.

Naturally, declining to appreciate “how awesome my request is” and jump at the rare opportunity to work with someone who has life experiences, is super creative, and a Gemini, didn’t go over well. She replied:

There are kinder ways to say things Lee.. but hey, You crossed my fb path, making yourself accessible so I went for it. I will continue to do so as I teach my kids. If you only wanted to be approached and praised and a book purchased, got it! I would never discourage anyone from trying. Opportunity lies everywhere. Please do not advise me on my skill set with my teens. You responded In a condescending manner. After many have reviewed your responses…people think your are rude and acted horribly!. I no longer admire someone who reprimands another like that…you take care sir.

Apparently, my posts showing up in her FB feed gives her permission to make stupid proposals to me. I didn’t say this, of course. Instead, I replied:

Your response to a polite rejection is telling. You clearly don’t appreciate the outrageousness, and presumptuousness (is that even a word? I really should know) of contacting a professional and asking to collaborate. It’s a huge, absurd and frankly insulting ask. Would you contact Diane Warren & Taylor Swift and ask to collaborate on writing songs, although you don’t have song song writing skills, but have coached teens, are really creative, have lived life, and are a Gemini? Would you reach out to Michael Giacchino about co-scoring a movie, or James Patterson about co-authoring a novel, or Ray Romano about co-writing jokes, or Amanda Gordon about co-writing a poem? I’m not in their league, of course, but your ask is essentially as ridiculous. They’ve worked hard to get where they are… and you want to partner with them? What are you thinking? I spend a LOT of time teaching, mentoring and helping aspiring writers…and have for decades. The difference between you, and all the aspiring screenwriters and authors I have worked with over the years, is that they take the time to understand the field they want to enter, to reseach how they work, and to learn the skills necessary to succeed. They don’t cold call professionals and ask to be their partner. You need to get real…and get over yourself. Or you are in for a lot of disappointment.

I knew where this response would lead, of course, and she replied exactly as I knew, and now you know, she would:

We do not agree. Thank you for your time. It was a mistake to approach you. Be well sir.
You need to stop. Your behavior is not constructive its destructive. Im done needing to hear from you. Not everyone fits your mold of thinking. You have been abusive. I’ll be sure to pass this experience on.

And then she blocked me. I don’t know what makes some people think they are entitled to make dumb requests like this…and then get deeply offended when their offer is rejected. I shudder to think what bad advice she’s giving to teens.

23 thoughts on “The Mail I Get – Write With Me Edition”

  1. Hmmm. Next time, Lee, maybe just say, “No thanks”? What are people thinking? It’s like the time I called The Pope and asked him if we could co-write church canon. See, I had prayed often, so I was very experienced
    Keep well , Lee. I’m enjoying your stories and that’s enough. Not-A-Crazy-Fan, Melanie

  2. I got one of those in my direct messages on Facebook. She left a batch of 1-minute voice messages (I have disabled that option) demanding I teach her how to write.

    At least she had the decency to be drunk out of her gourd at the time. 😉

  3. Thanks for sharing this! It was highly entertaining. It is amazing that inexperienced people would actually think that they could collaborate with successful individuals and expect a response other than what you provided. It just shows that many people have a very unrealistic perspective. I’m also sorry that she blocked you, as this would’ve been a very funny story to keep reading – the ongoing back-and-forth between the two of you.

  4. For my two cents worth, I think that there are a lot of people who think that they are “entitled” to anything that they want. Sad for them.

  5. I have the talent, experience, craft and contacts to be a big time famous writer, but I won’t do it because I don’t want to deal these people. 🙂

  6. Every one in the business worked hard to get where they are at. Steve Spielberg started directing episodes of Night Gallery. So would she ask Spielberg to co direct a project together? She had ridiculous expectations and I am also worried what she is teaching these teens. Hard work and even rejections is part of life. Apparently, she never learned that.

  7. Her opening paragraph is no more than a collection of trite catch-all phrases: I’m just putting it out there/ Ok here goes!/I’m super whatever; AND it’s written in the tone of a
    teen cheerleader. At the mention of her star sign, I’d run away fast from this expectant child.
    You were a gentleman and talked to her like an adult.
    The entitlement REEKS.

  8. Jeez, just when I was going to pitch my own offer to co-write the next thrilling adventure of whatever Lee wants to write and let me read before publication with my added by-line. It was a brilliant pitch implying my own involvement would be the secret sauce towards Lee writing yet another best-selling book. My cogent thoughts in the pre-publication phase would have taken his writing up a notch. Just having me as a muse would guarantee Lee’s choice of leading man and leading actress when it hit the Big Screen. Guaranteed due to my total lack of connections and willingness to bother the actors enough to make the movie adaptation just to shut me up.

    What’s that? The position is called a Beta Reader? No by-line but a mention by first name only, somewhere in the book (at the back)?

    Never mind. (Muttering … dumb as dirt idjits mudding up the pond … more muttering … presumption … last muttering)

  9. Gosh Lee, you missed a golden opportunity.
    You: Successful writer
    She: Unknown quantity with nerve and a Gemini
    Who knows what your collaboration could have been? And you really need to watch out for those Geminis. They’re the twins, often like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But she blocked you so you’re probably safe.

  10. Part of “putting it out there” means you get turned down. She honestly sounds like she thought there was a chance.
    Why not just write something and submit to the same agent’s company and see what they think if she thinks she’s ready.
    She wants to skip so many steps here. This isn’t powerball.

  11. If you had said, “Thanks, but no thanks,” they would have just asked why. Sometimes you need to lay it out honestly or people will read into something that’s too “nice” and won’t leave you alone. Definitely feeling some stalker, holed up in a remote cabin, broken ankle vibes. And the spelling/grammar made me cry. If nothing else, maybe an inspiration for a bit character/group later on, the entitlement gang. What a fun fan group! Ha.

    Unsure why that person couldn’t use their “therapy” training to be respectful of feelings and boundaries. Also unsure what this life experience is, mining from those poor kids’ hard lives/therapy sessions?

    • Your first couple of sentences remind me of a writer who submitted a story to an amateur vampire fiction zine I used to edit, many years ago (mostly pre-internet). I always included a brief explanation of the reason for rejection, figuring it was the least I could do considering the zine paid only a token sum plus free contributor’s copy. Well, this one person answered my rejection note with a long letter stating that he sensed I “wanted to be talked into” accepting his story and advancing exhaustive (and exhausting) arguments for why I should do so. That was his response to my avoiding a form rejection? Sheesh.

  12. I think your responses to this presumptious writer were very generous Lee Goldberg. Any response is more than she is owed, even auto-generated as it was an unsolicited request. You were polite and honest. You offered constructive ideas. I didn´t see you making fun of her, the obvious one is being a “teen therapist” for 20 plus years – well that is a very long time to be a teenager.

  13. “Condescending” and “abusive” used as adjectives to describe someone who I (and countless others) consider to be the kindest, sweetest author in the book biz…? Just goes to show that Wildly Creative Gemini should study up on correct word usage in addition to the basics of writing before she goes looking for a collaborator.

  14. Anything less than “Yes I will!” would have received a withering, insulted response from her. The unspoken thing here too is: what’s in it for you? What does she bring to it that would enhance your writing and your career? Being awesome and a Gemini doesn’t carry a lot of weight.

  15. Maybe a “cut and paste” reply to email contacts like hers would save time. I’m sure you can come up with one better than this, but I might respond with a prepared canned response somewhat like:

    “I received your email. I am unable to consider such writing-partner ideas or proposals and must respond with this automatic reply. Good luck with your writing and I hope you find fulfillment.”

  16. As a horticulturist, I am very aware of people’s tendency to dismiss others’ professions as simple. Have you had people ask “what should I write about?” I imagine you would feel the same way I feel when someone asks “what should I plant?”. Gah!

    • Hallucinogens. Definitely. Or, perhaps something to alleviate their bowel troubles.

      A parent was angry with me this morning because her seven-year-old can’t read. I just started helping her last Friday. I could hear the TV blaring in the background during her message. To me, horticulture sounds lovely, green, and quiet. I am sure it’s not really so ideal, but it does seem that way.

  17. Thank you for sharing. I am simply smh at this so-called professional therapist writing to you in the manner of one of her patients. I for one am quite entertained by your storytelling and look forward to the October release of the next Eve Ronin book.

  18. You shared much more advice than the note deserved. Heck, I am now encouraged to end my own foolish questions about the profitability of my work. Um, actually, what percent of the gross sales on a book series would be normal? Including any advances or other cash the author receives? We had a family project that I chose to self-publish, and I always wonder if I made the right decision for everyone who relied on me to make the choice. Many thanks in advance for any thoughts you might want to share.

    And your description of the mortgage fraud pitches in the Fox and O’Hare series were awesome. They were more helpful than any math for educating the public.

    • You asked: “what percent of the gross sales on a book series would be normal? Including any advances or other cash the author receives?”

      Your earnings are negotiable. But, in general, an author receives 25% of ebook sales and 10-12% of hardcover or paperback after earning out their advance (and any percentage held back against returns). Sometimes there are escalators based on number of units sold, leading to a cap. Ancilliary licensing rights (foreign sales, audiobook sales, etc) can be as high as 50%.


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