THIS MORNING I OPENED an email from a guy who said that he emailed me a copy of his story last year.
Lots of people send me stories. If the sender is polite, and if I have time, and if the work seems worth it, I’ll read a chapter or two and send back a constructive, encouraging note.
This was not such a case.
So I was surprised to receive a note from him this morning.
The writer said that he had signed some contracts “and there are a lot of lawyers involved in the US, China, and Hong Kong…”
He continues: “The lawyers asked me for a list of everyone I had shown the book to. For some reason, the Hong Kong one got concerned when I mentioned you and asked me to forward every e-mail I had sent you and the exact date I had sent you the book. He got especially concerned when I said you hadn't replied to me since I sent it to you.”
Most worryingly, he writes: “He asked me to put together a list of everything you had published after you received the book from me.”
He finishes with the note that the lawyers “are very concerned”.
I was taken aback. Even if I had time to assemble a copy of everything I have written in the past 12 months (two books, several anthology pieces and around a 100 columns), I did not feel inclined to send them to him or his law firm.
Surely this could only be a joke? So I sent him a polite email in reply wishing him well with his book and suggesting that the threat from the lawyers was surely someone’s attempt to be amusing.
He has just written back making it clear that this was no joke:
“There is a whole crew of bigshots who seem to think the book is something special and want a series that will be tied to business interests with heavy marketing and lots of tie-ins. They are powerful but much colder than I am.”
So that’s the scenario. Someone emails you a story. You don’t get past the first chapter.
A year later, you get a letter with a threatening tone informing you that lawyers want copies of everything you’ve written.
What would you do? What should I do? Should I send them all the material, or summaries, or none of it?