A successful screenwriter I know recently shared with me an experience he had with a stranger that's becoming more and more common these days among my writer friends who have any kind of online presence…
A complete stranger sent me an email informing me of the glorious news that he's coming to LA to try to sell his book as a TV series, and that he wants me to have lunch with him to tell him how the business works. He presents this as something of a treat for me.
I want to be polite, so I told him that I will be out of town that weekend, but good luck.
He writes back and asks for an agent recommendation.
I told him the only agent I know is my own, and he is not even considering taking on new clients, but good luck.
So he writes back and asks me to read his spec pilot.
Now I feel like the Terminator, running down that list of appropriate responses, from "No, but thanks for asking" to "Which part of fuck off and die did you fail to understand?"
I have had this experience so many times myself that I now believe that being polite to these presumptuous strangers is a mistake, that it's seen as an invitation to intrude even further. So now I am very blunt. I tell strangers the obvious — that I don't know them at all, that I am very busy, and that I have have no interest in meeting them or reading their work. I get one of three responses: 1) a polite "thank you," 2) a nasty diatribe about how I'm an ungrateful, self-centered, selfish, insecure prick or 3) no response at all.
But I do wonder what is going through the minds of these strangers. Do they really expect me to drop everything to meet someone I have never met before, online or otherwise? It would be different if we were "pen pals" and had established a relationship of some kind… but these are complete strangers I am talking about. Do they think just because we have websites, or blogs, or Facebook and Twitter accounts, that we are at their beck-and-call?