Sunday, February 20, 2011

How to Give a Gift

My question is about etiquette. I don't know how often it comes up, but you're the only person I can think of to ask.
I've known Editor X since I was very young. He was a long-time friend of one of my parents before my parent passed away, a few years back. He is absolutely enormous in the New York publishing world.
I've wanted to be a fiction author professionally since I was a child, and it has nothing to do with the connection. I didn't even register how well-known Editor X is until recently, when I Googled his name to find contact info. I've been grieving quite badly over my parent and have been keeping myself to myself, but it was time to reach out. As a result of my Googling, Editor X and I have re-kindled our friendship.
To my good fortune, I signed a contract with an independent publisher last year and the novel will be released in a small run some time in the 3rd quarter of this year.
I know I am extremely lucky in both regards and wouldn't change any of it for any amount of money.
Is it appropriate to send Editor X an advance copy of my novel as a gesture of friendship? How do I make it clear that I sent it because he loves books, not because he has connections? My friendship with him is very important to me, and I want to make it on my own, so perhaps I shouldn't send it at all. But maybe he'll be offended that I didn't think of him when gifting copies...! What do I do?
You're probably over-thinking this. Editor X will not expect you to send him a free copy of your book; if you decide not to, he won't be offended. All editors know how many friends authors have, and know you can't possibly give all your friends free copies.  (Also, would it kill them to support their friend and BUY the book?)

If you do want to send him a copy of the book, I would suggest carefully wording the note you send with it to communicate that you don't expect him to read the book; that you understand how many books and manuscripts are always waiting in line for attention from people in the book business.  (Both books we need to read for our jobs, and ones we just want to read, when we get the chance. My when-I-get-the-chance pile must be around 30 books high right now.)  Reference your friendship as the motivation for sending it, and that will be enough.

Then: be a good gift-giver and never ask him if he got around to reading it. I know, some people have a tremendously difficult time giving gifts without also giving the obligation to enjoy the gift and report back on that enjoyment. As well-meaning as those people are, and as much as I love them, I don't want another "gift" from them ever again. These are alligator presents.  True generosity comes without obligation.

14 comments:

Jenny Schwartz said...

I loved the final sentence, "True generosity comes without obligation."

Anonymous said...

I'm the email writer. Thank you so much for your answer.

I've decided not to send him a copy out of the blue. Even if I don't ask him what he thought of it, there's always a kind of pressure in the giving, isn't there? I don't even want that.

I will of course offer to gift him one if my writing career comes up in conversation and he mentions he'd like to read the book, but that's just polite.

Thank you again for reading my email. I'm grateful for the advice.

Anonymous said...

"be a good gift-giver and never ask him if he got around to reading it."

This struck me as hilarious. I NEVER ask people if they've read my book, and I can't imagine why any author ever would. What if they hated it? I figure if they've read it and liked it, they'll volunteer the information.

Anonymous said...

I have a relative who's had several books hit the NYT Bestseller list. For many years I was uncomfortable approaching her or even telling her I wrote. When I finally swallowed my pride recently and asked her for a cover blurb, she not only provided one -- something she hasn't agreed to do for anyone in years -- but offered to refer me to her big-name agent when my next manuscript is ready. She's not doing this out of a sense of obligation but because she really believes in my talent.

The moral: Don't discount any of your contacts. Selling is a relationship game. Don't be obnoxious but also don't be (like I was) a shrinking violet. THIS book for you is a done deal; next book, though, consult him -- and trust in your talent to wow him.

Anonymous said...

I have a step-mom who's prodigious at giving gifts with expectations. A couple of weeks ago she gave me a 2011 art calendar and said, "You'll have to find a place to hang this up." I already had a calendar, and the new one's still sitting on a pile on my desk. And once on Christmas, while other gifts were being exchanged and opened, she gave my kids and their cousins puppets, then told them to gather around (right that moment) and put on a puppet show for her. My then-six-year-old gave all the rest of the adults secret delight when he announced, "I'm outta here."

Even just as the author of a blog, I do relate to the poster's question, because while on the one hand I want everyone in the world to read my blog and lavish praise it, I also often refrain from even telling acquaintances that I have a blog, so they won't think I expect them to read it. (But I do link to it from Facebook, since those who see it there will already be online and can click or not click according to their mood.)

To the author who asked the question, good luck with your career. I think you made a good decision. When your next book ends up on the bestseller lists, you can drop your editor-friend a note and share the good news. :)

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