Ever wonder why it's so hard to get people to read your unpublished proof?
Back in November, I received a proof copy of a first time novelist's book, with the usual ecstatic letter. I liked the first chapter, and agreed to read the whole novel. Here's what I emailed in response:
From: Meg Rosoff Sent: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 3:15 AM Hi XXXXX Thanks for sending XXXX book -- I read half of it this afternoon and skimmed the rest. I think XXXX is a really interesting and original writer but the book doesn't quite work for me. First person present can feel a bit claustrophobic -- maybe that's my problem with XXXX. In any case, I really appreciate you sending it, and please tell XXXX for me that I think she's a very talented writer. xMeg
Having spent the better part of a day reading an author's work and responding to an editor, neither of whom I'd ever met or had any investment in, I kind of assumed I might get a short 'thank you' in response.
Weeks passed, and I would have forgotten all about it, but then I noticed the proof again. And it pissed me off. So I wrote back to the editor.
From: Meg Rosoff Date: 3 December 2011 19:30:37 GMT
Hi XXX I have a bit of a thing about publishers who send books that take serious time out of my schedule to read and then never bother to write back to say thank you. Just saying. Meg
And this is what I got in response.
Meg – I’m very sorry I didn’t respond to you. I guess in reading your response, in which you didn’t offer a quote, I assumed it was saying what needed to be said on your part and didn’t require a response. I do understand it took you time – thank you for that.
Well, she assumed wrong. And she also assumed her way out of a genuine interest I had for her author. (If I were her author, and I got to hear about this, I'd be mightily annoyed.)
Now, it's worth saying that I used to try to read at least a few pages of most books sent to me (I probably get ten a week). Partly because someone did it for me once (thank you, Mark Haddon). And partly because it seems like a nice and supportive thing to do for new writers.
Mostly, I no longer bother.
As I write this, I've just received a request from someone I know slightly, asking if I'll read a "wonderful" first novel they're publishing.
What would you do?