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Friday, May 2, 2008

Apparently, My Price Is $20

posted by on May 2 at 16:28 PM

I got this letter in the mail today, along with a self-published cookbook:


Nobody here at the office can recall anything like this happening before. I guess that I must give off that “My reviews can be bought for twenty bucks” vibe. Should I just return the money, or should I do something more creative with it? Someone suggested using the money to buy groceries to make some of the recipes. Or there’s always booze.

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Maybe you are supposed to use the money to buy food to cook one of the recipes.

Posted by Lawrence Molloy | May 2, 2008 4:34 PM

"I'm not sure how this works, and by that, I mean I'm not sure how much money I need to give you in order to ensure a positive review of my book, which probably sucks, seeing how I've enclosed five $1's, a $5, and a $10--instead of a fucking $20 bill, which would still be a laugh riot, but I just wanted to make sure I appear as pathetic as possible."

No, really, did you leave out the change and add a dollar or two? Be honest.

Posted by Mr. Poe | May 2, 2008 4:35 PM

you wanna go half on a sack?

Posted by someone | May 2, 2008 4:41 PM

Hey, it got the guy a little attention? I mean, except for name of author and book.

My guess is he's been having trouble getting reviews -- I know, a first for a struggling author -- and it's come to this. Would you have checked it out sans bribe?

Posted by Jason Josephes | May 2, 2008 4:44 PM

Mr Poe: There was no change. All the cash is as it was in the envelope. One of the one dollar bills is taped in half with scotch tape. If you're curious.

Posted by Paul Constant | May 2, 2008 4:45 PM

@ Jason Josephes: Probably not. It doesn't look like a real book, and it seems to have a narrative that doesn't make any sense either. I get a lot of books every day.

Posted by paul Constant | May 2, 2008 4:50 PM

The change would have literally made me shit my pants in laughter, but the $1 with scotch tape is sufficient.

What a fucking loser.

Posted by Mr. Poe | May 2, 2008 4:51 PM

Well, I'd pocket the money and review the book. Isn't that how it's supposed to work?

Posted by It's Mark Mitchell | May 2, 2008 4:51 PM

Take it to the nearest food bank.

Posted by Fnarf | May 2, 2008 4:53 PM

I'd pocket the money and *not* review the book. Can't review everything, you know.

Posted by w7ngman | May 2, 2008 4:55 PM

I think you should keep the money, write a 20 word review (positive or not, with full disclosure). That sets your rate at $1.00 a word. Use that to negotiate your salary with Mr. Savage and Mr. Keck.

Then, write 100,000 words next year. Presto! A writer making six figures. It's foolproof. It can't go wrong.

Posted by MonkeyNose | May 2, 2008 4:55 PM

Or make a cocky bet.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | May 2, 2008 4:56 PM

#9, the $20 or the cookbook?

Are you going to be on my Slog trivia team?

Posted by w7ngman | May 2, 2008 4:57 PM

Fnarf, seriously, just ignore Will in Seattle. You can't use him as an excuse anymore, because we all put up with it. Show up. Fuck.

Posted by Mr. Poe | May 2, 2008 4:59 PM

I think you should flip through the cookbook, find something interesting and making using groceries purchased with the bribe money then tell us what you thought. This way you can feel free to write a bad review and consider the money a marketing expense.

Posted by monkey | May 2, 2008 5:04 PM

@monkey: (and may I just say how much I enjoy typing @monkey? @monkey @monkey @monkey!) The problem with that, and it's something that I thought about doing, is that I almost feel like the cookbook shouldn't get any attention at all since he tried to bribe his way up in the metaphorical queue. Even negative attention is something that a lot of self-published authors would give a body part for, and there are ways to get attention that don't involve breaches of ethics. You know? But maybe I'm too easily offended.

Posted by Paul Constant | May 2, 2008 5:14 PM

You are in a perilous legal position if you neither return the money nor write the positive review. Mr. Cookbook has made you a unilateral offer: if you write a positive review, you can have this money. Anticipating the objection "But he already delivered the money! This is just an unconditional, nonrefundable, gratuitous inducement for Paul to be nice in return," I rely on the language "'s twenty bucks to write a positive review..." He did not say "Here's $20. See how nice I am? Please write me a positive review." I implore you to take the opportunity while you have it to avoid years of expensive, soul-sucking and aggravating litigation.

You're welcome. No charge.

Posted by your lawyer | May 2, 2008 5:14 PM

Thanks, lawyer. I was wondering about the legal angle. Fnarf had the best idea with the soup kitchen, but I also don't want to get sued.

Posted by Paul Constant | May 2, 2008 5:17 PM

I think you should donate the $$ to a food kitchen or some other food-related charitable org. Short of returning the $$ (my real first option), it's the only way to really de-sleazify this whole sordid transaction.

Posted by a.m. | May 2, 2008 5:17 PM

I take it back. I agree with what the lawyer said.

Posted by a.m. | May 2, 2008 5:20 PM

I'm pretty sure your obligation is nil. It's an unsolicited gift and carries no obligation. You might ask a lawyer, but that'll cost you more than $20.

Posted by Fnarf | May 2, 2008 5:25 PM

You're fine, Paul. Pocket it.

Posted by Mr. Poe | May 2, 2008 5:32 PM

Buy me Fish Fry!

Posted by Ari Spool | May 2, 2008 5:43 PM

$20 fucking dollars for a review??? fucking cheap. i would've given ya at least $150 in cash for a review and maybe a $100 gift card to whole paycheck to buy some of the ingredients listed.

Posted by apres_moi | May 2, 2008 5:52 PM

@17. "lawyer" my a**. Just a bunch of sock puppetry from a scaredy-cat. (Or maybe "lawyer" was just attempting to be funny, in the way some lawyers do). That advice is wrong wrong wrong. It IS an unconditional, nonrefundable, gratuitous inducement. A criminal lawyer can tell us if it's an attempted bribe. Keep the money. Give it away. Let him (or her?) try to sue you. FNARF is right.

Posted by fixo | May 2, 2008 5:53 PM

I think that apres_moi totally found my price.

Posted by Paul Constant | May 2, 2008 5:54 PM

@24, Jeez, thanks a lot for raising the bidding on Paul, I just got my $50 together to offer and now he's up to at least $250 because of you. Well, fine $500 but it better last all night.

What? It's for a book review? Oh, never mind.

Posted by PopTart | May 2, 2008 6:05 PM

You should definitely write a positive review. Not only was this author creative and funny, but if you disclose that he gave you $20 and you actually did write a positive review, think of how many more envelopes full of money you'll get!!

Posted by poppy | May 2, 2008 6:33 PM

@Your lawyer: How would it be a legal problem to just pocket the money? The weirdo sent it willingly with no agreement whatsoever on Paul's part.

As a journalist, I cringe at the ethical implications of even thinking of keeping the money or of writing the review at all. I personally would send it back, but I like the idea of giving it to a soup kitchen.

Posted by Jo | May 2, 2008 6:35 PM

you are under no legal obligation to even write a review.

furthermore, it is highly unethical to bribe someone in such a manner.

you must give the money to those that need it (homeless, soup kitchen, myself) and are obligated to write a scahthing review, including a commentary on how said person tried to buy you off.

Posted by holz | May 2, 2008 7:16 PM

Can we see an excerpt of the narrative? What does the stranger legal rep. say? The Ethics are one part (return it sans postage or donate it to a mental health clinic in the area where the cookbook guy lives), the tax question is another. Wait, how about framing it and hanging it over your desk?

Posted by LMSW | May 2, 2008 7:22 PM

IF you feel guilty about it ... just buy his cookbook with the 20 dollars and he'll get at least some of the profit back.

Posted by OR Matt | May 2, 2008 7:42 PM

Why not tuck the letter, sans your name and address, into the book along with the cash and sell the book to Twice Sold or some other used book store? maybe the new owner will blog a good review

Posted by why not | May 2, 2008 8:10 PM

If you were worried about legal issues, why did you scan money? That's a federal offense.

Posted by tabletop_joe | May 2, 2008 8:19 PM

Ethics, legal issues? You work for the Stranger. Pool it with 6 other people and get an 8-ball.

Posted by Just the Facts | May 2, 2008 8:52 PM

Domate it to a non-profit food bank or soup kitchen, get a receipt, send the receipt back to the author. Problem solved.

If it was me, I'd buy weed, get the munchies, and cook something out of the book. Since it would not matter what it tastes like in that state, it would then be unethical to write a rewiew. Again, problem solved.

Posted by Gabe | May 2, 2008 10:23 PM

@36....sorry my typing sucks, I'm too sober for this.

Posted by Gabe | May 2, 2008 10:25 PM

This is one of the only times in which it would be appropriate to burn a book. After pocketing the money. Try not to notice the title of the book before you douse it in lighter fluid and flick the match toward it. Take pictures.

Posted by idaho | May 2, 2008 11:48 PM

Is the cookbook any good? That's separate from the money. The money means dick. The money is yours to keep, no questions asked and no obligation on your part whatever.

But I repeat: Is the cookbook any good?

Posted by ivan | May 3, 2008 4:45 AM

Just read the fucking book and review it. Maybe it's good. I've never read a review of a cookbook before (not in the Stranger anyway).

Posted by elswinger | May 3, 2008 1:09 PM

This reminds me of when I wanted to run an excerpt of a new book on a web site I co-own which is directly involved with the book's subject.

The book was from a MAJOR publishing house (I won't name them, but you'd most certainly know the name)

The nice publicity lady told me I could run the excerpt with proper attribution so long as it was less than 1500 words and that my payment in the amount of $350 (by check) cleared the bank.

I wrote back and said "I know I'm an old journalism dog, but since when did reviewers PAY publishers to excerpt or review their work?" The publisher removed the payment demand, we got our excerpt, and I didn't have to either push the matter further or run a statement on our site telling the world what a douchebag said publisher was.

Posted by Wolf | May 3, 2008 1:30 PM

use the money to get drunk, then read and review the cookbook.

Posted by konstantconsumer | May 3, 2008 6:14 PM

Oh, just keep the fucking money. But don't forget to declare it as income, because, you know, we wouldn't want you to become the next Wesley Snipes.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | May 3, 2008 7:05 PM

the barter system is way underrated.

take the money and write a good review like you were asked or else you mess up the system. see?

Posted by cochise. | May 3, 2008 7:53 PM

You people make me sick. Give it to a soup kitchen? Christ. For fuck's sake, buy booze with it.

If the book's any good, write back to the author and tell them you found the book orgasmically fantastic, and that you would have loved to have given it a glowing, throbbing review, but it would have been unethical given the bribe. If the book's bad, use some of the aforementioned booze to start it on fire, and mail the ashes back, along with a few coins for change.

Posted by Andy | May 3, 2008 9:17 PM

I smell an art project/hoax. I bet there are other reviewers getting the same letter and that the responses will be exhibeted somehow.

Posted by inkweary | May 5, 2008 11:32 AM

I'm actually pretty sure they're making fun of you. No way on Earth it's serious.

Posted by Craig | May 5, 2008 1:14 PM

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