Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Author Mail Question for You

OK, here's the thing. Brooke and I are having a debate about author mail. I'd like to hear what you have to say on this topic. Our policy has always been that we pass along any mail that comes in to our authors (positive or negative). If we receive a letter, often directed to Seal Press, sometimes to the name of the book, and rarely to the name of the author, (even though that makes the most sense), we open the mail, determine who it's for, and we forward it to the author. We don't aim to dress it up or make it other than what it is; we all know there are some eccentric (generous for unpredictable and off) people out there. We put the mail in an envelope and forward it. Today, we received an especially intriguing piece of mail--a fan letter to be sure--but with it, the sender included a pamphlet from a particular religious organization. My line here: We stick to our policy, and we forward the whole thing, the envelope, the letter, and the pamphlet (referenced in the letter, of course). Brooke feels we should spare our author from this experience. (At least we've established she's nicer than I am.) What do you think?

Let it be known that I get what Brooke is saying. She is the best advocate for her authors (this mail happens to be for one of her authors). Would I feel similarly if this mail were for an author I had worked with closely? Maybe. But I don't think so.

One of the most fascinating parts of this job is reviewing unsolicited submissions, which we still do here. We're so old fashioned. You wouldn't believe some of the stuff that comes through the door. We've bought very few projects this way, but you never know, and really, looking at what the "eccentric" people send to us to be published is highly intriguing and even, OK, I'll say it, entertaining. I mean, we've seen some crazy stuff. My experience is that author mail or just mail from the public in general is also, if not entertaining, at least interesting. It's a study in humanity. I love that someone took the time to sit down and write a letter about one of our books. Even if it's a WHOA kind of letter, (not threatening or anything, just WHOA, like somebody really was thinking about this?) it was someone's real experience after reading the book. I don't want to deprive the author of having the look I had on my face when I read that letter. And that brings me back to WHOA.

So . . . tell me. What do you think?



Krista Lyons-Gould and Brooke Warner said...

First of all, going public with this debate requires a response from me, obviously. If it were ANYTHING other than Watch Tower that would be one thing. But my rationale is that I know the author isn't going to appreciate it. If it were a different author I would be all for sending it, but it would be as a joke. I see sending a fan letter disguised as some sort of missionary tool is the same as showing up at the front door. And I know this author would politely turn that person away. I wouldn't want to subject anyone I know to Watch Tower zealots, but I've admittedly had negative personal experiences. And I think it's a waste of postage. But Krista has much stronger principles than I do. It's not that she's nicer than I am.


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Hmm. Reading Brooke's comment changes things.

If it were me on your end, I'd send it on with a note, "Let me know if this is the sort of propaganda you'd like me to recycle for you."

If I were the receiving author, my first thought was "Hey! Fodder for my fiction!" -- except that frankly, I wouldn't want it.

If Brooke's that uncomfortable, why not call the author and ask if s/he wnts it sent on?

Krista Lyons-Gould and Brooke Warner said...


Thanks for your comment. Brooke's comment changes things? I knew it. Was it because she named the publication or because she was so passionate in her response?

I like your suggestion about including the note, which in this specific case, Brooke did do. I wish we could do that for every piece of mail, but unfortunately, we simply can't.



Rachel said...

I say unless it's a death threat or something of that nature, send it on. I mean, I would think that any author publishing something with Seal (or any author, really) should be able to take criticism or flak or propaganda and deal with it in their own way (even if that's just trashing it). I don't really see the harm in passing it along unless the author really is mentally unstable somehow. Just my two cents (though I hope I don't get any crazy mail, but if I do, feel free to forward it on!).

Andie East said...

I agree w/ Rachel, Unless it's actually a death threat or something threatening, I don't see how bad it can be to send it on. I mean think of the legions of junk mail we recycle everyday from religious organizations, charity donations, safeway discounts, what's one watchtower pamphlet? Besides which, no matter the affiliation, it means that someone was inspired enough by your book to look for the publisher's address and send a letter. That has to say something.

helen_boyd said...

um, I'd want to know about a death threat, so I could talk to my local police about it.