A couple of thoughts in follow-up to the “Asking Favors of Established Writers” piece:
* Some people are concluding based on the piece that I think a) one should never ask favors of writers and b) writers should never say yes to favors when asked for them. In fact, neither is true. Writers get asked for favors all the time, and from time to time we do say yes — if we have the time, interest and inclination. The problem isn’t really asking of favors, it’s people being offended when, after asking for a favor, they are told “no.”
That said, I do think it’s useful for people to think about the appropriateness of the favor they are asking for, particularly if the person being asked is a stranger to them. I mean, think how you would respond if a stranger came up to you, claimed some random commonality between you and then asked for a significant imposition on your time or professional standing, an imposition designed to benefit them greatly and you not at all, save for a bit of karma. Chances are good you’d pass. Same thing with writers.
* As for me in particular, sure, I occasionally have done favors for writers, both newer and established, and probably will do in the future. But it’s my call which favors to consider, and I have categories of things that I don’t do, or do only under specific conditions. One of the reasons I write about them in detail here is so when people ask, I can point them to the document, which shows that I have a policy of long standing regarding what they’re asking, and it’s not personal when I turn them down.
Of course, even then it sometimes backfires. I have a policy of not accepting blurb requests directly from authors, because it’s awkward to say to a fellow writer “dude, I don’t like your book enough to have my name on your cover.” Occasionally a writer will still ask, and I forward them the link above. Most understand; a couple have been madly offended. My response to that is also uniform: Oh, well.
Be that as it may, again, the point is not in the asking; the point is how people respond to being told “no.” Most people do not have a problem with “no,” but some really do. Those people need to get over themselves.
* To the people who have responded that I could have just said “no,” rather than writing 2,000 words on why I say “no,” well, no. First: duh, I’m a writer, writing to length is what I do. Second: it’s worth taking a bit of time to help people understand that the “no” they get is rooted in something other than writerly arrogance, and that the people angry at being told “no” are usually a bit jackassed. Context is important.
* Bear in mind that the sort of person who will get angry at being told “no” is often unreachable; the entry is addressed to them but I’m not under the impression they will understand it, even if they read it. But other novice writers who are not dicks but are wondering about the etiquette of asking for a favor from an established author might read it and learn there are often reasons behind the “no,” so that if they ask, they will understand if the favor is turned down.
* People from other fields have noted that they could swap out the word “writer” with the name of their profession and have the screed work for them as well. I say: of course. Any profession or trade has the same basic dynamic going on. And in every situation, the real issue once again isn’t whether the favor is asked; it’s how people respond to not having that favor granted.
* Some people still think I’m a dick, regardless. See the point two asterisks up. Beyond that, you know what, I’ll live.