British Business Boneheadedness
“Editors are basically lazy,” said my first mentor, Evelyn Lawson, when I was working as an apprentice at the Ivoryton Playhouse in Connecticut at age 15. “If you give editors something they can use—and save them the effort of creating something new—they will use it and be grateful to you.”
I am an editor. I am lazy. When somebody wants to sell me something or have me review something, I want guidance. I do not want to spend time searching for essential information that should have been provided at the outset and then waiting around for the people to get back to me.
It was with bewilderment that I received a cardboard envelope from Random House—one of the world’s largest publishers—addressed to “Hatch, Denny” at my home-office. Random house spent $2.13 on postage. Inside were two elements:
(1) A dreary, scholarly trade paperback book of 64 pages titled, “Byzantine Infantryman: Eastern Roman Empire c. 900-1204” by Timothy Dawson, illustrated by Angus McBride, published by Osprey Publishing.
(2) A press release that broke all the rules: No address, no contact name, no phone number, no Web site, no pub date.
What is this thing? I asked myself. Why am I receiving it? What list am I on? Where was a personal letter that shows me that the sender knows what I do and that relates these Byzantine soldiers to the Mujahideen our troops are battling in Afghanistan and Iraq—or some other concept that would make the book relevant to my readers?
Being a conscientious reporter and an old publicity hand, I did some sleuthing. I went to the Random House Web site and that of Osprey Publishing, which, it turns out, is a British publisher of military history books.
I wanted to tell somebody—anybody—to save their money and take me off the list. But on both the Random House and Osprey Web sites I clicked on “Contact Us,” and in both cases, not a single name of a real person was there. Rather, I had the choice of info@, copyright@, ecustomerservice@, marketing@ and webmaster@. All the employees and executives are hiding like cockroaches under their electronic rocks.