My “Friend” Keeps Sending Me Their Writing and I Need It To Stop: Am I the Literary Asshole?

Hello again! Welcome back to another installment of Am I the Literary Asshole?, the biweekly advice column that (incoherently) wonders as it (drunkenly) wanders. Speaking philosophically, if a tree falls in the woods after too many cans of Miller Lite and there’s no one around to hear it, is it cool if the tree grabs another drink or should the tree just go to bed and sleep it off?

Much to consider.

I’m your host, Kristen Arnett, and I’ve got a wide variety of questions queued up that are guaranteed to pique your readerly and writerly interest. I’ve also got quite a few tequila shots lined up on the bar, and those have definitely piqued my interest!

Salt, shot, lime—let’s jump right in and get this party started, shall we?


1) I’m friendly with another writer online, loved their writing, connected them to a publisher I thought might like their work, the publisher did! They’re now going to publish this writer’s work. Amazing, exciting! But this writer sends me their new writing (unrelated to the book) CONSTANTLY. Sometimes I get a respite and they don’t send it for a few days. I think they’ve gotten the message. But then there they are again in my inbox with four new passages.

I do not have time or interest to read this much of someone else’s writing. I have told them I’m too busy to read it several times, have ignored the messages, they still send it. I do want to maintain a writerly friendship with this person and am excited for them. But I CANNOT TAKE THIS. I already did them a massive favor connecting them to their future publisher. I’d be happy to blurb their book. But sending me everything new they write multiple times a week?! Please help me navigate this!

The thing that’s great about the internet is the same thing that sometimes makes it terrible: we’re all so completely connected! From the moment we wake up until our eyes finally close for the night, most of us are terminally OnlineTM.

In one sense, it allows us to keep and maintain friendship in ways that previous generations simply could not. We can talk to people we’re close to any time of the day! Email, text messages, group chats, slack notifications, sliding into each other’s DMs (hello to my wife, this is how we met). Our loved ones are closer than ever before. It’s a real blessing and a curse.

I’m going to start off by acknowledging the drunken elephant in the room. Though you don’t use that exact word here, this is a person who you’ve previously considered a friend. You’ve been “friendly,” you’ve enjoyed their work and told them so, you’ve done things for them because you like this person as a writer and you have championed said writing. This is friend behavior.

In fact, this isn’t really an “Am I the Literary Asshole” question, because you’ve done nothing wrong. However, it is a question of boundaries—because this person is absolutely violating yours. They’re being a shitty friend. They are the literary asshole (it’s the titular role!).

That’s where we get into the second part of your question. This writer keeps sending you their work, unsolicited! In your letter, you say that you’ve already told them that you’re too busy to read what they send over, you have told them this multiple times, yet they keep sending you more work regardless of your feelings!

It’s rude, for one thing, but it’s also just plain annoying. And what makes it especially tedious is the previously stated fact: they were supposed to be your friend. Friends listen to each other. They take each other’s boundaries into consideration. They respect each other’s time.

This writer isn’t being respectful of you or your time, because their work has become (or always was, let’s be honest) more important than you.

There’s a very simple way to deal with this predicament: stop responding to their emails. If you’d like, you can reiterate your stance one final time when they inevitably send you the next unsolicited excerpt: I’m sorry, I can’t read this. I’m swamped for the foreseeable future—but please make sure to send me a copy when the book is done! is a fine response (and a nice one, too).

You’ve already told them point blank that you don’t have time to read what they send over now, and if they choose not to listen to you, then that’s on them.

Honestly, I think they’ll get the message soon enough. And then they’ll probably start sending those passages to someone else! Pity that poor person.

Shot, chaser—let’s dive into our next question.


2) I get so annoyed by reviews that include a big chunk of summary of the book (especially on Instagram). I can always google the book if I want a summary; I’m going to your page to hear your unique thoughts. Am I the asshole to not include that in my reviews? To hate it in others?

I don’t think this makes you an asshole, friend. It’s simply your preference!

As a practice, I understand why people might place a large chunk of the summary in a review. There are so many books available nowadays that if someone doesn’t include any kind of content regarding the premise, then people might have no clue what the book is even about. This is especially hard on debut authors or small independent presses who might not have an established readership. A small but concise summary of the material might help garner new fans, which can be crucial in the overwhelming tidal wave of new books that are unleashed every publishing season.

But I think a little summary can go a long way. Occasionally I find that a review isn’t even a review at all; it simply devolves into a point-by-point plot description of the book in question. That’s not why people are (generally) looking at reviews. Most want to see a fresh and interesting view on what the reviewer thinks was successful when it comes to the writing (or what didn’t work out so well). In the film world, people have this same complaint when it comes to movie reviews. You aren’t alone in your plight!

However, I do think you’re going to continue to jut up against this particular pet peeve of yours. We can’t control how other people choose to review material! What you can do, however, is learn which reviewers are going to critique work in the way that you prefer; summary-free. And then you’ll know that you can always go to them for reviews in the future. And hey, people will likely come to you for that same reason!

Happy reviewing! No spoilers!

We’ve got time to throw back one more shot (and one more question) before we call it a night. Cheers!


3) Do you pay someone to write a blurb?

Under no circumstances should you ever pay for a blurb. If someone says they require money in order to write you a blurb, simply go get a blurb from someone else. If you have an agent or an editor that asks you to pay someone for a blurb, please get yourself a new agent and/or editor.

Do not pay for blurbs.

Also, while we’re here, let me go ahead and say that once someone very nicely provides a blurb, please feel free to simply thank them for those kind words and move right along. There is no need to provide compensation for this nice favor. And by that, I mean please don’t provide a gift.

Blurbing has become a kind of cottage industry monster; one that requires gift cards and presents and flowers and maybe even a firstborn child. It’s a snowball effect: one person gives a gift for blurbs, so the next person feels like they should do it, too, and then suddenly everyone has to hand out presents or it’ll seem like they’re not being thankful enough. Let’s all agree that it’s not necessary at this point. Your presence is the present.

We’ve finished all the booze and answered all the questions, so it’s time to close the bar. Join me next time when we probably answer even more questions about blurbs (because y’all have a lot of them). And remember, send me your anonymous quandaries!!! I await them with bated breath.

Next round is on me,



Are you worried you’re the literary asshole? Ask Kristen via email at, or anonymously here.


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