Thursday, March 02, 2006


Here before me sits a typical author dilemma: six unsolicited packages with manuscripts, galleys and books, all from writers looking for quotes, backing from me on the weblog, or campaigning for votes.

After correctly predicting J.R. Ward would make a huge debut, my quotes for vampire fiction have apparently attained a certain cult value. Given last year's quote request flood, though, I need some lag time on quoting. I pick the books I talk about and giveaway here on my own to keep it fair. And God, I could get a tattoo on my forehead that reads Not a member of anything, can't vote for you and people would still send me books.

I can't toss the stuff because I'm a pansy that way, so there's about fifty bucks in return postage to send everything back. Not a big deal. Really. I remember how it feels to be a rookie writer and the pressure to get blurbs, backing and awards. I should send sympathy cards back with the books.

Here's the dilemma: what do you do when you've already politely turned down a book-offering writer via e-mail and the writer's publisher still sends you the book (or, in this case, three copies of the book?) Do you:

a) E-mail the writer and inquire what of your response wasn't understood, the "N" or the "O"

b) Send a copy of your original no-thanks e-mail to the writer's publisher, and then thank them for your three new doorstops

c) Donate the books to Friends of the Library because it's not nice to make other writers' books into doorstops

d) Wonder why the hell you're so nice

e) Ship the books back to the publisher and enclose a note suggesting the writer's editor and the writer start talking to each other more often

f) Write a weblog entry about it because you're a wishy-washy idiot and don't know what to do

g) Any of the above, but for fun draw curly black mustaches on the protagonist depicted in the cover art first

h) Tear out the pages and make chains of origami cranes out of them, pack them in a box and send that back to the publisher, along with a cryptic Asian poem about the path of least resistance

i) Send them to Marjorie because she's nicer than you

j) Give them to Mom for the church thrift store

k) Wonder if your publisher is doing crap like this with your books

l) Brood

m) Write an e-mail to your editor and ask her if she's doing crap like this with your books

n) Read the jacket blurb and rethink the whole church thrift store idea.

o) Take two aspirin and kick the box the books came in a few times.

p) Forge the author's signature and sell them on eBay. Include a very personal message from the author on the title page describing a sexual encounter at a conference in a broom closet and mention an obsession with rubber clothing and/or wearing diapers.

q) Enjoy the thought of p) for a few minutes, then take your black cohosh and remember that you are supposed to be resisting the Dark Side of the Force.

r) Even if you could photoshop the author's bio photo to add a fun-looking sexual partner and some interesting marital aid accessories, print out some copies and stick them in the back pages before you forge the message and sell the books on eBay.

s) You're thirty minutes late posting your blog entry, idiot, make up your mind.

t) Resolve to send the books back to the publisher with a polite no-thanks note and say nothing to the author because you're not really as hostile as your imagination thinks you are

u) Most of the time.


  1. v) use it as an opportunity to write amusing blog entries to be read by by people tripping gaily around the internet instead of doing their work

  2. Anonymous12:57 AM

    w) Send them to Gina Black

  3. X) Take them to the bookstore and try to get your 'money back'.

  4. (Y) Randomly send the each manuscript to one of the OTHER authors and ask them to do the blurb.

  5. Anonymous1:47 AM

    (Z) Run the author's book through the Cut-up Machine, then sell the book as your own, billing it as the latest in experimental fiction, and finding yourself Oprah's new darling.

    Hmm. I guess some folks would find that option, I don't know, wrong. I guess I'll go with your option (c).

  6. v) Shelve them for now and plan to write a blurb 'later' ('Later' is after publication date. ie. never.) Do not contact the writer or the editor about this, just let it slide.
    After publication date, give the books away.
    If they ask when you're going to send a blurb, apologise and tell them you're in danger of missing your own deadline. No time for reading, so sorry. If they say 'but you promised' you can remind them that you didn't, actually.

  7. The churlish side of me says that you shouldn't have to spend money to return these manuscripts!! Unsolicited no less. Aren't authors supposed to supply the return postage. Too me, they screwed up. So,

    x) send thank you notes for the free books because being the smart person you are, you realized they didn't want their manuscripts back because there was no return postage and everyone *knows* you have to put in the SASE.

    CindyS (not an author but, even I know this stuff!)

  8. Anonymous8:53 AM

    You have a schedule for posting blog entries? Now that's what I call organized :)

  9. I really like H, there's a certain rightness about it.

    But I'd probably donate the books to the library. Good from bad and all that.

  10. OK--it's a darn good thing I wasn't drinking coffee while reading this or I would have ruined my trusty laptop.

    A haiku for your (h) option:

    A truck brought them.
    Now your words fly home
    on speckled wings.


  11. I guesss you could contact the person who sent them, explain that, prior to the books being shipped, you had already politely declined to give a quote, and ask if they would like you to return them C.O.D. or donate them to the library or a fund raising book sale.

    (I don't think you're as hostile as your imagination tells you that you are. If you were, those books would already be out of your house and off of your mind.)

  12. Can't you just seal up the package, mark it "Opened in error: RETURN TO SENDER" and pop it back in the post? At the very minimum you should not put a stamp on, so that they have to pay the excess - your author persona is a business, not a ##### charity.

  13. Anonymous11:58 AM

    Zornhau wrote: Can't you just seal up the package, mark it "Opened in error: RETURN TO SENDER" and pop it back in the post?

    I usually do, but this one came from a publisher, and that gets through the return-mail system I have set up with my shipper/mail drop. As a matter of professional courtesy on my part I don't feel I can bounce something back to a publisher. I'll have to start soon, though; writers are using their editors or agents return addresses instead of their own.

  14. That's just wrong. You definitely need to drop a note to the editors. Are you sure your resume doesn't include professional reader? *g*

  15. Write a blurb in fangirl style.

    OMG!!! This book rox!!!33 Teh hottest sex evah!!! Read it1113333!!!!!

  16. Anonymous2:11 PM

    Jordan wrote: Are you sure your resume doesn't include professional reader? *g*

    I'm beginning to wonder. Or maybe it's because they now assume I'll mail it back and they can recycle it to another author....

  17. Anonymous2:14 PM

    Gabriele wrote: Write a blurb in fangirl style.

    Lol. Or copy one out of PW. No, too mean.

  18. Since they were unsolicited from the publisher, I don't think you should send them back. Maybe a polite letter/email to let them know that you will not blurb an unsolicited manuscript, if you are feeling generous.

    As for what to do with them...
    1. Read for fun in all that spare time you have
    2. Donate them somewhere
    3. Blog giveaway with a disclaimer that you have no clue as to the contents
    4. Make book trees for Christmas like we all used to do with Reader's Digest in school.

  19. Anonymous9:29 PM

    Email publisher along the lines of "What part of 'no' didn't you understand?" Give them the opportunity to pay for shipping to the destination of their choice. If they don't respond, donate the books to a worthy cause of your choice. No way you should be on the hook for return postage.

    Speaking of unsolicited books ... Redneck Haiku and friends arrived. Thanks! Must meet deadline so I can have some time to read!

  20. Anonymous9:51 PM

    b & c, though a appeals to me in a perverse sort of way.

    Sort of related, but not quite, I have to say that I'm glad you talked about JR Ward here on your weblog. I think it might have flown beneath my radar and I would never have picked up the book if you hadn't. (Moon Called is on order, as we speak.)

  21. That is a disaster -- does it happen frequently??

  22. Here's another V: assume that the author and publish got the message and understand that no blurb will be forthcoming, but in an effort to curry favor and/or thank you for your polite note declining to write a blurb, they sent the books anyway.

    (Hm. Not sure where the ray of sunshine came from. Normally I'd suggest you check the books for recording devices or something.)

  23. Send them an invoice.


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