Sunday, January 27, 2013

When Readers Don't Respond: Social Etiquette for Loaning Manuscripts


As writers, we require the daunting task of being read.  We are a host upon which we invite people to feed.  Without readers, our task is meaningless, unless you have either the modesty (or patience) of Emily Dickinson and can live with the idea of post mortem fame.  But, if you are of the publishing-seeking sort—alas!  We must needs be read!

Writers quickly grow accustomed to lack of response:  Query letters to agents and publishers, tweeting, blogging, comments on others blogs, are at times met with a deafening silence and we learn to roll with it. But, there is one instance for which I lack the social graces and the acumen to respond.  Perhaps you can help.

Scenario:
A friend/family member/blogmate/etc. inquires about a MS you’re currently marketing.  You give them your elevator pitch, without going deep, and they press on:  “Sounds interesting!”  “Ooh—I love the premise!” 

“Mind if I read it?”

You tell them…"Perhaps," unwilling to commit.

You go home and think about it.  Wonder if you’re being lily-livered and aren’t you supposed to let people read your work and you didn’t spend three months editing it for nothing and they actually asked to read it for cryin’ out loud!  When was the last time someone actually wanted to read something you wrote? 

What’s the worst that could happen? They might even like it.  They might even think it’s the best thing they ever read.

So, you do it.  You actually go to the library and spend seven dollars photo-copying the whole damn thing because reading on the computer gives them a head-ache, and you put the whole kit-n-kaboodle in a three-ring-binder like some English 101 writing project and send it first class (for another $4.00) and then…nothing.

(Insert crickets chirping here.)

Absolutely nothing.  Being the creative type, you ponder your lost manuscript’s fate as weeks tick by.  You imagine it stuffed into a book-shelf-- forgotten, or worse.
 
or...
 
 
or...
 
or...
 
 
What’s a gal to do?
This is where I need you. 

1.) Someone please tell me you have experienced this phenomena and it is not just the tell-tale results of my crappy writing.

2.) What is the accepted social etiquette here?  Do I inquire?  Do I let it go?  Do I send them a postage-paid envelope for the return of the manuscript?  Do I let it just hang out there like a huge matza-ball?  Do I offer my MS with a time-limit like I'm the Bookmobile?  Or do I add it to my list of “thick-skin” inducers.

Thrice this has happened to me.  I would greatly appreciate any guidance from those of you who have gone before. Hopefully there will be no crickets chirping in the comment section of this blog.

~Just Jill

 

 

12 comments:

  1. I'm sorry! And sorry, but it's never happened. (I have two test readers and three critique partners who are reliable.)
    You went to a lot of trouble and expense. I'd inquire.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Alex. I shall try and summon the Ninja Warrior spirit and see if I can muster up an inquiry. What's the worst thing that could happen?
      ~JJ

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  2. When we send our novels out i.e agents/publishers its understood it will not be returned unless that was negotiated with agent/publisher and writer provides suffient stamp/envelope sent with query to get manuscript back.

    Your situation: since no decision was finalized I would ask that person if they finished reading the story, and also its up to you if you want to know if they enjoyed the story or not. I agree you went out of your way and should have your manuscript returned, whether or not you query the story you will have the accomplishment in physical form, that is inspiring good luck and perhaps next time send few chapters at a time, so your not going through a lot of time and expense.

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    Replies
    1. Good advice! Thanks for the comments!

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  3. Wow, I don't know if I've turned over a physical hard copy of a story to anyone in years. That would make me mad if I spent that kind of time and money to prepare something for someone and they never got back to me. Usually I just e-mail an attachment. I've never had anyone not get back to me. Sometimes it takes a couple of months to hear a response on a lot of pages, but if the person didn't get back to me at all, I think I would send an email to ask them what's up and what they thought of it.

    Also, this is just me, but I don't send full manuscripts out to people to read (except agents) unless I trust them implicitly and have a long standing relationship with them. Just because stuff happens. I had a friend whose free story was stolen off of Smashwords and was being sold on Amazon as a Kindle download by someone. So you have to be a little careful. ;)

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    1. First response: Yoiks!
      Second response: Amazon? Me? Did any sell?
      Ha.

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  4. Since you'd invested the time and money into preparing this MS for someone to review, it should be fine for you to follow up. If the recipient responds that they hadn't had a chance to look at your MS yet, perhaps you can ask if they can return it to you. Then you can send it out to someone else who can give your work the attention it deserves.

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  5. Hi Cynthia,
    Thanks for stopping by and adding your comments to the pot. I shall consider the matter most carefully...next time. What intrigues me the most is my hesitancy to inquire. Hmmm. What we learn about ourselves.
    ~Jill

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  6. I would certainly send an email and say that when friends ask to read a work-in-progress, you need to have feedback in the way of questions and comments. Don't be shy. I actually let people read my work often, but always tell them that part of the deal is that I get feedback. When I don't hear anything in a resonable time, I ask. Good luck with this one.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the advice Rosi. I feel silly now that I haven't had the gumption to do before this.

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  7. I just stumbled across this post, howled with laughter at the photos, and shook my head. Having had a wonderful time kicking back and grinning at the humor and the humorous way you have of expressing a real and (sometimes) hurtful annoyance, I am going to give a serious answer:

    I take a deep breath and say, through a smile, "Have you finished that manuscript I sent you? Do you have any feedback? It would come in handy and I'd appreciate it, certainly!"

    If there is hemming and hawing, I would then say, "Well, I understand you're busy. But I need it back quickly. Just put it in a padded mailer and send it back to me."

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  8. Thanks for the camaraderie, Diana. I'm so codependent I feel I'm putting them out asking them to pay for postage!!! Geesh.
    I shall do as prescribed though.
    ~Just Jill

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Please use your words and comment freely! We really should meet!