I was approached by a publisher at the New England Authors Expo. As I’m not looking for a publisher, I wasn’t a very receptive audience, but I listened to their pitch and thanked them for their time.

To be clear, this wasn’t a big name publisher offering to “advance” (loan) me a small amount of money against the future sale of my books. This was a local press pitching their editing and printing services in exchange for my money. Given that, I was surprised by their presentation, which came across as unpleasant and condescending without offering anything I don’t already do myself.

In fact, this person’s main selling point seemed to be that they were “a pain in the ass” (actual description they gave of themselves) and that this facet of their personality would make my work better. (I didn’t tell them I have plenty of people willing to give me a hard time already, and I have no current plans to pay someone to make my life more difficult.)

Thus I assumed their pitch was aimed at a different audience, probably people who like “tough talk” and think it builds character, and I appreciated the insight into the world of small press and publishing. Until I got their followup email a week later: it was both more polite and less critical than any direct interaction we had, though it included a personal note that demonstrated they remembered who they were talking to.

It also included poor grammar, irregular paragraphs, and a misspelling of both my first and last names. (An inexplicably careless error on their part, given that they clearly spelled my email address correctly.) I was astonished.

Though some of the things they said when they spoke to me in person raised red flags in terms of their skill and capability, nothing gave me more insight into the quality of their services than seeing an email that they themselves had written.

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