The Modern Ambivalence of The Gift

This is an odd experience — maybe it's typical of our (publishing) time, maybe it's just a culture that doesn't know what to do with itself.


I had a few Twitter chats with a kind person at UQP, because I wanted to send them a *free* copy of my book. You know the one. They wrote back saying Sure, but don't expect anything in return (read: consideration for publishing). I said, no, I know you don't publish much of this kind of writing anyway. Sure, I just want to send it in the spirit of a gift. If you know someone who's into music writing, make them a gift of it.

And so I typed a nice cover letter with the above sentiment repeated, and posted it along to the publisher. They have a good rep and list; I thought: they might enjoy quality writing.

And then, about 6 weeks later, I get the book back in the mail. With a note:
While we appreciate the spirit in which this gift was given, we would like to return it to you so that others may have the same opportunity to enjoy it.
Now, isn't that a) not the spirit of receiving a gift (which I had clearly er, laboured over), b) slightly rude as well, and c) just a bit lame?

Yes, I know, they're in publishing and probably receive a massive pile of slush in the mail and can't possibly afford the effort of reading it all. But to send a gift back to the sender (unread too), in contradiction of the spirit of it, that just galls me a little bit. They could've quietly recycled it and not bother with the return postage.

This odd little episode confirms a few prejudices which I've been forming about the publishing industry, mostly along the lines of PR and perception. But mostly it confirms how incredibly hard it is to get anyone to read anything at all.

How does a piece of shit like Mx (free local street press / gossip rag / Facebook-in-tabloid form) manage to get so much attention and eyeball interaction? Oh, yes, it's a piece of shit, that's why. Gossip and web trash and fashion police make the media go round.

It's perhaps a far-fetched analogy, but I'll let it dangle.