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 Are we in a new era of social interactions when the please-and-thank-you admonitions of our childhood are no longer valid?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!
I do not think you are wrong to expect a simple thank you for any engagement you accept. It is simply courtesy. I sure hope we are not entering an era where simple courtesies are thrown to the wayside.
While not a writer, I do have an opinion on the topic.
I work with social media and etiquette is still important.
Given the new social mechanisms available to us, a thank you can still be sent easily and affordably. (Have you checked the price of a first class stamp lately?)
Only the medium has changed.
Something else that has changed is the environment where writers are invited.
Book stores are understaffed with underpaid part timers while under enormous competitive pressures.
Public libraries are under continual budgetary pressures to justify their existence.
In a world like this, sadly, social niceties go out the window.
Cash that check before it bounces!
I was going to say that it is hard to believe you did not get a thank you from either place, but looking around and listening to social media and tv, I should not be surprised. I find it sad that we are losing the little things that smooth the way through life. So I will say it here – thank you to you and all the authors that make our lives better. A book is a wondrous thing.
Here! Here! I fight this battle continuously with co-workers who do not understand that Please and Thank You are not optional or interchangeable with No Problem…is it a problem to help someone or to thank someone who has done you the favor of traveling a fair distance at their own expense and talked to your patrons about their book? I think not! And as for hand written thank you notes. They are an absolute must in my book! An email if you don’t have a mailing address will suffice, but only after you have made a good faith effort to search for a mailing address. And yes, I am of the older generation when good manners were expected in all situations. Like smiling at a stranger on the street, a simple two or three sentence thank you note will make someone’s day just a little brighter.
Courtesy is, or should be a renewable resource.
I’m casting a note on the other side, I’m afraid. I always send a thank you note to the organization where I’ve spoken — school, store, library, organization, wherever –thanking them for inviting me, hosting me, sharing my work with others. Often I get a “thank you” back, thanking me for coming — but not always. I think courtesy works both ways. .
I love getting those notes, and confess that I don’t always remember to send the note to libraries, thanking them for having me. Perhaps, William, you can set the good example by sending notes of your own, and hope that in future it will inspire others to do the same. And I’m with Charlene…no problem is not the same as “you’re welcome.” I find, as a curmudgeon myself, that when people say things like, If you could move…or similar, I always smile and say, you mean, “Please…” etc. because we have to keep up standards, don’t we. Still…I am glad to be invited to speak at libraries and schools…I just wish they understood that it costs us money and that not all authors are rich.
I think a thank you note is best, an email thank you second. I wonder if those two entities who didn’t send anything thanked you in person. If so, they may think that was sufficient. Also, do you know for sure that everyone has your snail mail address?