In January, I was contacted by Ex Libris, a vanity press that uses extremely aggressive marketing techniques to bilk writers out of their hard-earned income. I have asked repeatedly to be taken off of their contact lists, to no avial. When they contacted me in January 2014, I began a lengthy correspondence with my contact there, called Nathan. The links below will take you to those first three posts. In early March, I received another telephone call and email, but this time from someone called Jan. I sent these emails (one to Nathan and one to Jan)at the time, but didn’t post it because I was working on regular posts for Women’s History Month.
I am frightened.
Something has changed.
Nathan, I don’t know where you’ve gone. When you first got in touch with me and told me you wanted to publish my manifesto, I was really excited. I wrote you a letter about how I needed some pointers about how to get started, and then gave you some suggestions about who should be my editor, and then I didn’t hear from you for a while. But you called me back to tell me there was some REALLY IMPORTANT INFORMATION for my book, but you were talking like you had a mouthful of marbles and thank God you also emailed me because Helen Keller herself couldn’t have understood you even with a flow chart and a nature guide. I was waiting for my advance so I could start writing my manifesto, but then I didn’t hear from you and there was all that talk about your being kidnapped or man-napped or whatever, and that was A WHOLE MONTH AGO and now I get an email from someobody called JAN?
What did Jan do to you, Nathan? Are you all right? Are you trapped somewhere, trying to get in touch with me to call for help? I know we hardly know each other but in times of extreme duress we all band together, don’t we? I mean, that’s what makes us HUMAN. Although technically I suspect what makes us human is some kind of DNA whatever-whatever. But I mean FIGURATIVELY it’s what makes us human. And nobody left a message with the word “artichoke”, so I don’t know if it’s you trying to contact me because you’re being held captive somewhere, or maybe it’s because “Jan” is an alien who’s taken over your consciousness but didn’t know about the artichoke thing, or maybe it’s because you had to take a sick day because of cough-due-to-cold and you forgot to tell “Jan” about artichoke or what. Really, though, you shouldn’t be sharing our private conversations with Jan, Nathan. That’s a betrayal of trust.
If there’s one thing an author needs to have with her publisher, it’s trust. And if you’re just going to go around and tell everyone you know about artichoke then maybe Ex Libris isn’t a good fit for me. I mean, it’s not like you’ve sent my advance like we agreed you would. I was getting a little nervous about that, but then my mother reassured me that you’d come through. I BELIEVED IN YOU, NATHAN. And you went and told Jan about us? HOW COULD YOU?
Oh wait. We changed our safe word to olestra, didn’t we? Well Jan didn’t say that EITHER so you STILL betrayed me. Just like that dude in the Scarlet Letter. I can’t believe you.
Anyway, this “Jan” person, if indeed s/he is a real person, contacted me in early March, but I was in the middle of a thing at work – oh, yeah. I know I told you I was going to quit my job, and I did actually give them two weeks’ notice, even though I don’t think you really have to give two weeks’ notice in the rat-catching profession, but it’s a professional courtesy, don’t you think? I did give them my two weeks’ notice, but then Laurel’s brother got into a car accident and she couldn’t do her route, and that’s taken me out of the office and back into the field. Honestly, it hasn’t left me a lot of time to work on my manifesto. I hope you understand.
So “Jan” called me in March, but like I said, I was up to my ears in rats, and I didn’t get around to writing until now. I mean, I sent her a letter and everything. Well, an email. Actually I sent it from my phone. It’s a funny thing, you know – you can actually get pretty good reception in a sewer.
I don’t know who you think you are, stepping in on the well-established relationship I had with Nathan, but I’ll have you know I don’t much appreciate forward women. Or men, for that matter. “Jan” is a pretty gender-neutral name, I guess, but in the end it doesn’t matter if you’re a chick or a dude, because Nathan is the only person I want to work with. Nathan is the one who offered me a publishing deal, and we’ve already talked about my advance and who’s going to edit my book. We’ve talked about a lot of things, actually, Jan. Nathan and I have a kind of relationship you just won’t ever understand.
Look, I’m sure there’s an author out there for you, too. There’s a perfect match for everyone under the stars. I read that somewhere. Maybe Herman Hesse? Kalil Gibran? Oh wait, no, it was Jiminy Cricket. Anyway, the point is you need to back the hell off because Nathan and I have a good thing going. You can’t just up and leave your publisher. It’s a RELATIONSHIP, Jan. Just like every relationship. You don’t just walk into someone’s kitchen, drop your trousers, and pull a ring out of your…well. You just don’t do that. That’s my point.
And this is the same. FIGURATIVELY the same. Because if it was literally the same, you’d be in my kitchen and I’d be hitting you with a frying pan.
How did you even find me, Jan? Have you been reading Nathan’s emails? Are you in the business of poaching his authors? HAVE YOU NO SHAME? You must have some kind of loose morals to think you can just go into a man’s emails and send messages to anybody you find in there. There ought to be a law about this kind of behaviour.
Did you ever see that movie with Glenn Close where she boiled that rabbit? Or maybe it was the crotch woman who boiled the rabbit in Glenn Close’s stock pot. I don’t remember. Anyway, the point of that movie is that you can’t get what you want just by stealing it. Or, you can, but then your rabbit dies. Or rabbits are good in stew. You know, it’s been a long time since I saw that movie, so let’s just move on.
Anyway Jan, I don’t think it’s going to work out between us. It’s not that you’ve done anything *wrong* per se…well…except rifle through Nathan’s personal contacts, steal from Nathan, and then try to offer a new contract behind Nathan’s back. You really are a piece of work. So yeah, actually, it IS that you’ve done something wrong. So it’s not me, it’s you. You’re the reason Nathan and I can’t have nice things, Jan. It’s all your fault.
Listen, just between you and me, I’m actually a little worried about Nathan. I haven’t heard from him in a long time and I’m worried that maybe he hasn’t contacted my editors and the list of movie stars we’re going to get to act in the movie that’s based on my manifesto. If you could, you know, help him with that, that’d be great.
Okay thanks Jan.
So that’s what I wrote to Jan. I think I probably could have been a little more clear about our relationship – yours and mine, I mean – but it’s sent so it’ll have to do. I hope you’re okay, Nathan. You’re the only one who really understands me.
Can you look in to my advance again please? I think it must have got lost in the mail. Probably, what with Valentine’s Day and all that, it just got delayed. But if you can find out for me, that’d be great. Uncle Bruce still has three fingers!
All the best,