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.
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?