Beware of Gifts Bearing Grease--by Reb MacRath
You've gotta give it to the ancient Greeks. They pulled a sweetheart of a trick thousands of years ago, so sweet we still remember it. In fact, we have a phrase for it: Beware of Greeks bearing gifts. Gifts like a giant wooden horse given to a city...and rolled in with armed troops inside it. Troy fell because of that but the horse will live forever along with our awe of Greek cunning.
What might happen, you might wonder, if the gift could be reversed--and a well-meant, beautifully wrapped gift arrived...and was received as bearing grease? Grease in the sense that the gift is seen as smeared with ambition, deceit, and base pride.
This actually happens too often. Because of the volume of spam and links meant to hack us not give us a thing, we've all grown jaded and suspicious. And few things set our teeth on edge like a slick trick from a half-witted writer. It could be someone you've just befriended on Facebook. Within minutes, you receive a gushing, greasy email:
I'd like to thank you for friending me by sending you a gift, one I'm certain you'll enjoy: a FREE copy of my first, self-published mystery about chess in ancient Babylon.
Does that sound at all familiar? You may have even received one like this:
My condolences on the death of your mother. Although I never met her, I'm sure she loved to read. And what better way to console you than by sending you a copy of my cozy horror mystery I'm sure she would have loved: Cozy Cuddles in Count Dracula.
So your daughter's getting married! In just two weeks they'll be on their honeymoon. And I'd love to send a gift since I can't be there with them. My erotic cozy mystery Lust in Monticello will be just the thing for them if they have nothing else to do.
These are extreme examples, sure. But I reacted much the same to a real life message sent to me on my birthday--offering me on this special day a self-pubbed book I was sure to enjoy and might want to review.
This whole post has me wondering about fan scams some dear AE friends might receive:
Dear Bill Kirton,
I was thrilled to learn that you live only a hop, skip and jump from Chris Longmuir, Sandra Horn, John A A Logan, and Eden Baylee! Wouldn't it be funderful if the five of you could meet for Sunday walks like the great Lake poets--Byron, Shelley, Keats and Longfellow--and read the FREE copies I want to send you of my Scottish bloodsucker romance?
Dear Eden Baylee,
Though this may be only a rumor, I hope that it is true--that you've been married seven times. If so, you're my heroine and I'd love the chance to send you a FREE copies of my erotic serial killer thriller: 'I don't kill men--I FIX them!'
Dear Sandra Horn,
You're my favorite poet. And so I'm thrilled to tell you that you're the first foreigner to be made an honorary citizen of our country Roofania. To commemorate this honor, I want to send a FREE copy of my epic poem about the the creation of the Roofanian Code: In all matters of honor and business, be as clean and smell as sweet as a baby's bottom. With that in mind, I know I can ask you to send me a a few hundred pounds to cover the cost of shipping your gift and having mom's dentures relined. She cries all night when they fall in her soup.
Next summer, I hope to learn from these examples when I send out promotional cards for a small indie book intended for lovers of Ancient Roman lit. I've chosen my target audience carefully: department heads, teachers, and students. But, every bit as important, I ask myself daily now what I can do and say to establish a free copy as a desirable gift? Why am I addressing them specifically? Why am I convinced that this belongs on their bookshelves? Why might they like extra copies to give to their students or colleagues? No strings attached. Nothing wanted in return except their open-mindedness to something that's totally different...yet very much up their alley.