A few days ago, I got this email asking me to write a story. It was cleverly done, and although I was ridiculously busy at the time (still am, in fact) I was halfway to agreeing because the person making the request had clearly put some thought into it and because the scavenger hunt thing did sound like fun. Then I changed my mind. Because, as I continued reading, it became clear that the person hadn’t actually put half as much thought into the basic manners of their request as they had into making it sound clever. In other words: sounds clever but lacks courtesy. Here’s the email:
To write a story for a complete stranger
This is going to sound awfully weird. I do hope this email doesn’t end up in your spam- I have no idea how to get past the spam filter. I am no Nigerian Prince nor am I able to increase sexual potency in any form.
What I am here for is to ask for a short story written free of charge for me. You see, I am in gishwhes. (https://www.gishwhes.com/) If you have clicked the link, you will see it’s a scavenger hunt in which proceeds (from the entrance fee and whatnot) goes to charity.
There’s 180 plus things to do with points to get. Some are downright insane. Snorkelling gear and get past the checkpoint. Get a skyscraper to spell Gishwhes from its lighting. Skyscraper must span at least 30 stories.
This one I am doing though, is item 78.
Get a previously published Sci-Fi author to write an original story (140 words max) about Misha, the Queen of England and an Elopus. -Annie Houston.
So while I am able to crank up a story, I am certainly not a published sci-fi author.
Which is why I ask now, out of goodness in your heart, or curiosity in creating such a story, to help my team achieve Objective 78.
If you don’t really mind helping us, there is deadline set by the organiser of gishwhes. I have 5 days left as of this email.
Thank you for your attention.
Yours truly, [redacted]
PS: I am actually nerve-racked at writing a published author. Also, as you can see, I am bad with emails.
What amused/annoyed me was that, while eagerly trying to hook me by explaining who they weren’t, the writer had then completely forgotten to explain who they actually are, let alone provide any proof of it. I did eventually run an identity check on the person (I was attending a seminar and had rather limited Internet access) but I rather think that if you’re asking someone for a favour, the burden is on YOU to prove who you are.
On top of that, the person apparently had done enough research to (a) find out that I have a few published stories in the genre they’re looking for, and (b) find my email (not that difficult) but somehow, neglected to find out what my name is. I’ve started emails with “Hello” before – when I was directing my request to a generic email address and didn’t know who would be picking it up, or when I had no idea who the contact person for the organisation was. In this case, however, I think that if you know I’m a published writer and you know my email, you ought to know my name as well.
Long story short: between the above two points, for all the person’s pains to try and make the request sound genuine, it actually still sounded like a scam.
AND THEN I found out this person had sent the exact same email to goodness knows how many other writers.
I did try to be kind. I guessed from the tone of the email that the writer was not too experienced in professional dealings. So I replied:
Dear [redacted],While I appreciate the effort you have taken to compose your email in an attention-getting manner, I am sorry to say that I am during these two months very preoccupied with work – the kind of work that pays the bills and gets me published with my byline intact.
I would also like to point out that for published writers who make a living from their work, a short story, even a brief one, represents actual money, and we are far more likely to respond to a request like yours if you actually identify yourself rather than relying on an event description and “proceeds to charity” as a hook. This is not to say that people will turn you down; I’m sure that you will find someone happy to help out; but please take this into consideration as you contact other writers.I wish you good luck in finding a writer to assist with the story.
If my tone came across as short-tempered, I have to attribute it to lack of sleep, a painfully tight schedule and a lot of looming deadlines at the time. In any case, I never heard back from them. Presumably they found a writer willing to help. I hope they get better at cold calling, though. Some people could take offense at their approach and respond in worse ways than I did.