Operator: Publishing 911, what's your emergency?
Reader: Yes, this book I've been reading has, you know, something really bad in it.
Operator: What is the bad thing, ma'am?
Reader: I can't say that over the phone. But it's really, really bad.
Operator: I need to know what the bad thing is, ma'am, or I can't help you.
Reader: Can't you just take my word for it and send the police to arrest the author?
Operator: No, ma'am, I can't do that.
Reader: Well, that's not fair.
Operator: You're free to destroy the book at your convenience, ma'am.
Reader: I can't, I need to turn in the book at the used book store to get credit for it.
Operator: Then do what everyone else does and post an anonymous review on Amazon.com. (switches lines) Publishing 911, what's your emergency?
Author: (sniffling) A reader just sent me a hateful e-mail and I read it and now I'm so upset that I can't write.
Operator: Was the e-mail accurate, sir?
Author: No, of course not. My book is wonderful. I'm a genius. This reader is a jealous idiot who's trying to make a name for himself by destroying my career.
Operator: Then why can't you write, sir?
Author: (lowers voice) What if I'm wrong? What if my book sucks? What if everyone in publishing is laughing at me right now?
Operator: I'm not laughing at you, sir.
Author: (eagerly) Did you read my book?
Operator: Sir, you need to delete the e-mail, block the reader from your mail account, and recite your writing mantra.
Author: But I don't have a writing mantra.
Operator: Repeat after me: "I am powerful. I am purposeful. I am published."
Author: I'm pathetic, aren't I?
Operator: That's not part of the writing mantra, sir. Please recite what I told you fifty times and stop reading e-mail for the rest of the day. (switches lines) Publishing 911, what's your emergency?
Reviewer: (whining) There's this writer who hates me. I read his blog every day. He says terrible things and I know he's talking about me.
Operator: Does the writer name you in his blog, ma'am?
Reviewer: Not exactly.
Operator: Has he ever mentioned your name once in his blog, ma'am?
Reviewer: You don't understand. He won't name me because then I'd have proof of what he does.
Operator: Does the writer ever link to you, or quote you?
Reviewer: No. Okay, look, he pretends like I don't exist. But I know he hates me. I can feel it.
Operator: Have you ever had any direct contact with the writer?
Reviewer: Well, I've read and reviewed every book he's ever written.
Operator: He doesn't hate you, ma'am. He doesn't know you. Stop reading his blog and read someone else. (switches lines) Publishing 911, what's your emergency?
Author: I've just seen my new cover art and it's horrible.
Operator: How horrible is it, ma'am?
Author: Do you remember that book that came out in January with bright metallic glow-in-the-dark pink albino Robin Hood on the cover?
Operator: (winces) Yes, ma'am.
Author: Worse than that.
Operator: I'm sorry, ma'am, but that's highly unlikely.
Author: (furiously) Don't you dare tell me it's not as bad as I think, because I swear to God I will come down there and kick your ass.
Operator: Calm down, ma'am. What color is the cover art?
Author: Green. Lurid Green.
Operator: Everyone is going green these days, you know. (flips through calendar) And St. Patrick's Day is coming up. You could do some clever tie-in promo and turn this tragedy to your advantage.
Author: Can't you just send the police to arrest my editor?
Operator: No, ma'am, I can't do that.
Operator: (tentatively) I can transfer your call over to the That Can't Be My Cover support and recovery group for cover-traumatized authors. The writer with the albino Robin Hood cover runs it, and she has complimentary chocolate-covered Valium at every meeting.
Author: Really? I thought she killed herself. Okay, transfer me over.
Operator: Thank you, please hold. (transfers call, switches lines.) Publishing 911, what's your emergency?
Reader: Hi, it's me again. I'm ready to tell you what the bad thing in the book was.
Operator: Go ahead, ma'am.
Reader: (whispers) Gee. Ay. Why. Es. Eee. Ex.
Operator: I don't understand you, ma'am.
Reader: (dismayed) I can't actually say it. I'm spelling it for you. Can't you spell?
Operator: No, ma'am, that's not part of my job requirement. (switches lines) Publishing 911, what's your emergency?
Reader: (angrily) I wrote a letter of complaint to this terrible author about his lousy book and he didn't answer and then he blocked me from his mail account.
Operator: (sighs) Have you recited your reader mantra today, sir?
Reader: Authors write for me. Authors must please me. Authors tremble in fear before me.
Operator: I think you'll be fine, sir.
Reader: But I have to tell this author much, much more about how much his book sucks.
Operator: Then do what everyone else does and post an anonymous review on Amazon.com, and get all your friends to vote that it was helpful and it will end up as the first review on the page.
Reader: That's not good enough. Can't you send the police to arrest the author?
Operator: No, sir, I can't do that. Have a nice day.
(Originally posted on 3/5/09)