April 24, 2008

My Dear, Inflated Sir

Ah, my first hate mail. This means that I've made it, right? Clearly the next step is to get fired.

A few days ago I received the an email from an author wishing me to review his book. The subject line was "FW: Query Letter" and the email began "Dear Editor," and went on in a rather confusing manner from there. The author has written a short story collection, and mentioned that one of those stories was published in a 1974 anthology. The author also talked fairly extensively about his previous novel, and a fair bit about what other reviewers had said about his work. It was a bit hard to follow; he seemed to switch p.o.v. on occasion.

As an opening issue, I was more than a little surprised to receive an email from someone who hadn't bothered to put my name on the top of it. Granted, my friends do that all the time -- but this was from a stranger, someone ostensibly writing a professional query letter. And this also was clearly a forwarded message, a copy of something sent out to who knows how many other editiors and/or reviewers. It just seems flabbergastingly unprofessional. He does want people to review his book, right?

Actually, Miss Snark talks about much the same thing.

At any rate, here's what I wrote back, after puzzling over this very odd email for a day or two. I will leave it unedited, except for our names, so that you may feel free to judge me as well:
Dear Mr. [So-and-so],

If you would please take a moment to read over the text of the email you sent me (appended below) you may be able to understand my surprise and consternation at receiving it. I can only hope that this is an extremely unusual example of your query letters -- otherwise, I am very surprised that you've managed to become published at all!

Consider your opening phrase: "Dear Editor." It is a shame that you couldn't be bothered to use either my name or my title. I am not an editor; I am a reviewer. You should have known that and your query should have reflected that. I also have a name, which is given in several spots on my website (from which I assume you got my email address). Like most, I tend to respond better to people who know and use my name.

I am not adverse to reviewing your short story collection as such, but I wouldn't do it on the strength of this query. If you can write back to me with a more professional effort, I will give you an address to which you can send a copy for me to review. I will not buy my own copy, as you seem to imply I should. In my experience, most reviewers won't do that.

Perhaps I am being too blunt, and I apologize for my rudeness. But you're doing yourself no favours by sending things like this out. You're selling yourself short, and aggravating the people you want to impress. That's just silly.

Try again, if you'd like, and we'll move from there.


Christine [Surname]

I got a response this afternoon:
oh, dear, the anal-retentiveness has been awakened; the narcissism and the pomposity is too much. I have been reviewed all over the world by better and more expoxied reviewers than yourself. As a practicing psychotherapist you have more than issues, my dear, inflated sir.
Do not respond as I will delete your email; that you would spend so much time crafting a response like yours reveals how little is going on in your life. You are not only an aberration but a self-important prig, a remnant of the 19th century.

The first reading of this stung a little, but since then I've mostly been chortling. It just rolls off the tongue. He gets bonus points, of course, for using the word "expoxied." I've checked three dictionaries and none of them recognize the word; I suspect that he meant "experienced" although I obviously can't write back and ask for clarification. And I don't think I spent more than ten minutes on the email I sent to him; next time I will take longer and see if the vitriol flows exponentially. I'm not sure why you would send a query in the first place to such a poor and un-expoxied reviewer as myself.

Neither am I a practising psychotherapist. I just thought that I should make that clear.

Still, at least the important thing got sorted out:

I am an anal-retentive, narcissistic, pompous, issue-ridden, inflated, male[!], self-important, nineteenth-century prig of an aberration.

I wonder if any of that is marketable?


Devourer of Books said...

That is absolutely hilarious. I don't think your response to him was at all out of line. I would run away from any of his books based on the quality of writing in his response.

Mrs S | 50 Book Challenge said...

Oh my! I think your response was just a great example of constructive feedback - the fact that he then flew off the handle and became insulting is just so wrong. I think you actually do him too much credit by not revealing his name - as I certainly wouldn't wish to spend my hard earned cash on his book!

Mrs. Micah said...

What a loser! That's hilarious!!!!

You're right, he was going about it all wrong to begin with. And if he can't write a good cover letter or even a decent e-mail response...then I'm sure the rest of his writing is worthless as well.

Plus, he can't tell gender from a clearly gendered name.

Well done, of 19th century prig of an aberration. We must quaff some beer down at the pub over this. Perhaps we should wear trousers. ;)

Christine said...

Mrs. M -- Oh, yes, let's. We shall wear trousers and smoke cigars and whistle at tarts. Then I shall be a prig and get slapped, and you can roll me on home. It's a date.

I've read this guy's blog. It's hilariously bad; half of what he says fully makes no sense.

Mrs. S -- I thought revealing his name . . . but it seemed a bit mean-spirited, at least in terms of a public revelation.

J.C. Montgomery said...

I got this email some time ago. Deleted it as I thought it was a bad, bad, joke.

Seems it wasn't. Glad I didn't respond as it would have never done justice to what you have posted here.


Christine said...

Ha! Nice to know that I wasn't the only one. Or, not nice, maybe -- because that means he's annoying other people.

Andrew Stevens said...

His grammar is atrocious, but I'm pretty sure he meant to say that he is a practicing psychotherapist, not that you are.

Christine said...

Oh, I know that's what he meant. It's still really poor phrasing.

What really galls me is that according to his website, he has been teaching English for more than thirty years!

unfinishedperson said...

This was absolutely hilarious as Devourer of Books said in the first comment. The last sentence in his response is classic.

Melanie said...

Ha! I got this one too; but my response was just "no thanks". Yours was much more eloquent.

LisaLynne said...

Now I wish I would get the email so I could craft a response of my own! Besides, I am dying to know his name.

BTW, the only time I have seen "expoxied" used, it was a misspelling of "epoxied" - apparently, you aren't glued together very well!

The Grreat Beast said...

Perhaps it was missing a space, and he meant 'ex poxied'. This, of course is the latin for 'from the pox-house', so one can assume he was speaking from a position of authority.

Chris said...

LOL! That's funny.

I've gotten several "Dear Editor" queries. I felt confused too. I'll only reply to messages that use my name or the name of my blog. I also like to get the impression that they've actually read my blog. Otherwise, I treat these messages as spam and hit 'delete'. Dear So-and-So should pay more attention. I have the feeling he'd have more success with bloggers if he used, oh I don't know, a name or something.

bybee said...

Is this guy's first language English?

Christine said...

As far as I know, it is.