An Odd Request

I got this email the other day. I found it to be quite an odd approach to requesting a book. While it wasn’t offering any criticism, it certainly seems like it’s waiting in the wings. Even so, I’m not that concerned about a critique, but more so, just curious about the odd form in which this request has come. I would love your thoughts. In all seriousness, how would you handle this?:

I came across an excerpt from your book Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture and was impressed by what little I read.  Could it be that in this commerce driven, fame orientated, country club christian culture, there is someone who is attempting to embrace the response to the question, asked so long ago, ”What do I still lack?” (Matt 19:20).  I have been praying and searching ardently to know God and his path for me.  I would like to read your book.  Would you please send me a copy?

I am asking you to send it to me w/o charge.  I am not asking for a free book, after reading it, I will pay you what I think it is worth.  In my search to understand the bible and contemporary christian life I have quickly exhausted current christian literature.  For the most part it is poorly written, repetitive, poorly researched and parochial.

I warn you that my library consists of books by men like St Augustine, Blaise Pascal, John Donne, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Thomas Merton, C. S. Lewis.  If it cannot sit with these other books and be a source of continued inspiration, I will return it.  If it is not worth the postage to return it, I will throw it in the trash.  If, however, on the other hand — Matt 13:45

As an author, you have to come to grips that not everyone will like your work. That’s just part of the game. But, what do you think is going on in the brain of this person? How would you respond? Or would you?

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About Brandon Hatmaker

Church Planter, Missional Strategist, Non-Profit Collaborator, and Author of "Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture". View all posts by Brandon Hatmaker

19 responses to “An Odd Request

  • allaboutjustice

    If he’s willing to send me a written critique of his favorite 3 Christian works and how these works have influenced his life and growth as a believer, then I would send him one.

  • Marla Taviano

    That makes me want to throw up in my mouth. So presumptious and condescending.

    Sounds to me like a form e-mail that he’s sending to every single (Christian) author he can get his hands on. He gets hundreds of free books and resells them on Amazon. Easy money.

    Either that or he’s just a creep. Please don’t send him a copy. Tell him to read his Bible first. The answer to “what do I still lack?” comes right after the question.

  • Andrew

    I’d go all Deuteronomy 25:4 on him.

  • Colt Melrose

    I would send them the book. It seems to me that this individual has intellectualized the faith necessary to trust in God to work through the redeemed Church. They were prompted to inquire about your book which means that the Holy Spirit is trying to work through you words in this person’s life. Trust that God is sovereign and will use your book to accomplish His purposes whatever that may be.

    I can understand though the struggle to feel criticized but the Brandon Hatmaker I know cares more about being obedient to Christ than to worry too much about what someone else thinks.

    Hoping to make it up to see you guys soon.
    Colt

  • Ingrid Schneider

    Send it to him… totally entertaining.

  • Shawna Benedict

    You might remind him that a lot of school children also read C.S. Lewis. Me thinks he is a bit delusional.

  • Kevin Benedict

    Perhaps you should first ask him to validate his expertise, mental capabilities and spiritual readiness to ensure he is qualified to read your book. You may also run a credit check to ensure he is capable of paying when he has completed it. Hummm…what if the book is life changing for him and it is worth millions of dollars? Have fun!

  • Donna

    I do like allaboutjustice suggestion on asking him for an essay first. 🙂

    I’m not sure if you can do this, but can you send him a link to download the book, like the Kindle edition? As long as that isn’t costing you anything, that is. He is completely wrong to ask you to give him the book and if you choose to do something, it should definitely not cost you a penny.

    Or you could tell him to buy and read the book and if he thinks it’s worthy of being returned, you’ll give him his money back after he submits his paper on what he thinks it’s worth and why.

    Whatever you do, he is a creep. He’s going to warn you of the authors he has in his library? Marla’s right – presumptuous and condensing creep.

  • Gibby Espinoza

    I’ll pay for you to send this person a copy. It would be an interesting experiment. Besides, like you said, “not everyone will like your work.” Whether this person likes it or not should not be an issue. That is up to that person. I’ve bought and read books that I wanted to return directly to the author and ask what he/she was thinking.

    Seriously, I’ll pay just to get the experiment going. Send me an address and I’ll send you a check. In the end it either makes an impact, or it was just an academic exercise on that person’s part to get a free book.

    grace and peace…

  • Michelle Barreto

    How about ME sending my copy since I know I will have to turn around and buy another since reading it once is NOT enough. :):) There is so much to digest that even after the first read, you have already challenged me to re-read a chapter. Let me know, I SERIOUSLY will give you my copy to mail him…you never know what this is leading to!

  • erin beth

    A few thoughts come to mind.
    One being, if he was all that “impressed” at “what little he read” why wouldn’t he just purchase the book? But, that is neither here nor there. My vote is to GIVE him a copy as a GIFT. Meaning, you aren’t expecting to be paid for it (no matter what he thinks) and he’s welcome to throw it in the trash (since it’s his).

    But, I certainly wouldn’t do so without some response in the form of a handwritten note in the book (perhaps humorous- about how thankful you are that Jesus died for you and God does the judging and loves you regardless of how “well written” you are because if this guy was in charge- you’d surely live in fear!)

  • TraffickStop

    What an interesting passive-aggressive approach to manipulate you! He really is trying to evoke and “non-Christian” response that would be emotive and prove his approach profitable to manipulate you.

    If I were responding I think I’d say something along the lines of – Based on what you have said, you don’t need to seek answers in the books of others. IF you are truly searching for God’s plan for your life and who He is . . . read the Bible and nothing else until He reveals Himself to you. His word is living and active and does not return void or “unworthy” to those that are truly seeking HIM. My writings will never compare to the Book, or the Living Words of Christ Jesus. Seek Him and you will find Him to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The Bible has withstood the likes of many a skeptic and survived for generations.

    When you know that you know that you know – then, find out what others have learned on their journey remembering theirs is a personal journey of discovery of the One about whom they write. It doesn’t work to critique another’s story for something that you don’t possess within yourself.

    The cost of the book is not the issue. His ultimate salvation and addressing his sinful, manipulative approach is. . .

  • Ben

    No way I’d do it. As a musician I make a living from people purchasing my music. I’ve *already* put in the work; so saying they’ll decide what to pay me after experiencing the work (liking or disliking aside) is like telling Pei Wei I’ll decide what to pay them only after I’ve finished eating the Spicy Chicken. “You know Pei Wei, I’ve eaten some amazing Chinese food, so you’ll really want my opinion on your take on this dish; and I’ll decide what it’s worth to me after I’ve eaten it.” The fact that you (or I) have a published piece of work means we are professionals at what we do (someone at some point has paid us for something we’ve created) and in that sense we’ve earned our “paycheck”, so-to-speak, just as much as Bonhoeffer, or Lewis, or Bono, or…. you get my point.

    The email [to me] reeks of manipulation. The dude’s just a cheapskate.

    ..my two cents.

  • David Daniels

    I appreciate that you open this interesting letter up to dialogue. I’d turn the tables: Invite him to send you the cost of the book. If, when he’s done, he doesn’t find it compelling, he should write a brief summary as to why he thinks it doesn’t live up to it’s claim. If his review is fair and reasonable, you’ll REFUND his money.

  • peter

    That second paragraph is such an honest statement of the way we value things and, often, people. Maybe it’s frustrating (and it is quite frustrating to me) because this person doesn’t have the proper Christian embarrassment about it. I operate this way, but I just wouldn’t tell it to anyone without blushing a little.

    How would I respond? That’s tough. Seems like agreeing to the wager implies agreeing to the validity of the person’s judgment. Maybe give the book but with a clear statement of disagreement with the wager? But then, why would this person even need to know that I disagree? I would still be trying to justify myself in their eyes.

    Just reread Henri Nouwen’s _In the Name of Jesus_ this week. “The Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. …The leaders of the future will be those who dare to claim their irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation that allows them to enter into a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitter of success, and to bring the light of Jesus there” (pp. 30, 35).

    I say send him the book. What better way to identify with those whom the world has thrown away?

  • Brandon Hatmaker

    I think sometimes we take people too seriously… had she simply requested a book I’d love to send one, I do that all the time… but it seems pretty certain her criteria might be a little unrealistic. I thanked her for the request and declined the offer.

  • Carly

    I’ll buy her a copy!

    Secular response: she’s a jerk. Christ-like response: throw the seed on the ground and let God do with it what He will.

    Plus, if she’s relying on the pride boost of owning all those stuffy theologians, she needs to read Barefoot Church and starting putting some miles on her faith! (I happen to love Merton and Lewis, but faith needs hands and heart, not just head).

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