At the risk of sounding like the curmudgeon that I no doubt am, I want to raise an issue of etiquette. Etiquette? Yep. But I don’t mean complicated Emily Post stuff like distinguishing between the salad fork and the fish fork or about the right direction to dip the soup bowl. I’m talking real simple here: saying thank you. What could be more basic to interpersonal relationships than that? Here’s my story:
Like most writers, I’ve had the honor and fun of promoting my mystery novels by talking to groups—libraries, historical societies (because my novels are set in one), churches, reading groups. I’ve occasionally been paid (modestly), but in most cases I’ve done it to enlarge the audience for my work and to sell and sign copies. In the dozen years I’ve been doing talks and signings, I’ve always received a kind thank-you afterwards, by post or usually by email. Email might not meet the strictest standards of etiquette, but, curmudgeon though I am, I’m perfectly happy with that medium.
I say always, but that changed in the last few months. In June I was invited to do a talk and signing (with books on sale) at a public library in one of Maine’s scenic cities that for obvious reasons will go unnamed. I was told in advance that the library didn’t pay a fee or expenses, which I readily consented to since the trip of several hours offered the chance for my wife and me to take a mini-vacation in a beautiful part of the state. We had a lovely time. Afterwards, I expected a simple thank-you from the person who arranged the event. Three months later I’m still waiting.
Then a few weeks ago I did a talk at an historical society in an also unnamed city. To my surprise, I was presented a check for a small sum meant to cover expenses. I’m still waiting for a thank-you from the organizer. I intended to tear up the check in recognition of the small group’s obviously limited finances, but in the absence of a follow-up I’ve decided to cash it.
One explanation for the lack of thank-yous may be that I bombed, that the talks that I thought went well and inspired good questions and lively discussions were received differently. Possible, of course, but in candor I don’t think that was the case. In both instances I did sign and sell some books, and it could be that the organizers felt that was thanks enough. But I’m still troubled by the lack of a simple thank-you. Are we in a new era of social interactions when the please-and-thank-you admonitions of our childhood are no longer valid? Are the mere invitations (and subsequent sales) considered enough? Am I an old fart for even raising the question? I’d love to hear from other writers about their experiences. Thank you for your response!