05 March 2009

Do Not Feed The National Book Critics Circle

In the field of book reviewing, I am a very small fish in a big pond. While I've been reviewing books professionally for almost six years, I'm not in "the scene." Sam Tanenhaus isn't calling me up to pick up some of Toni Bentley's slack. Hey, that's okay; the money and prestige (ha!) is secondary to my passion for the work. Unfortunately, I let my ego get in the way when I decided to apply for the National Book Critics Circle in December. This organization took my money and gave me nothing in return.

I eagerly awaited my "welcome email letter... contact information for dozens of review editors and their requirements for reviews they seek" and the NBCC e-newsletter. My $40 check for membership dues was cashed on 12/22/08. Since then, I have received no confirmation e-mail, nor any newsletter. On 1/26/09, I sent a polite request through the NBCC's Website asking whether my membership had been processed yet. I did not receive any response. On 2/18/09 I wrote to membership@bookcritics.org, an e-mail address through which someone had contacted me in December when I was applying to join, and asked for confirmation of my membership. Crickets.

Meanwhile, since 12/22 the NBCC's blog has been updated hundreds of times times, including sharing its official stance on Twitter (quote: "Ditto. Twitto.") and a report on the NBCC party Jan. 24 at SoHo's Housing Works, to which I was not invited, but apparently there were free drinks there. How many drinks does $40 buy? I see next week the NBCC is presenting its annual awards, but I had to go to their website to find that out. How many e-mail newsletters does $40 buy?

If I had purchased an item from an online store and not received so much as a confirmation e-mail in over two months, I would consider myself the victim of a scam. I suppose I will have to devote my inferior writing skills into a complaint to the Better Business Bureau about this nonprofit organization which didn't even have the courtesy of sending me a receipt for my donation. I don't expect the National Book Critics Circle to do something as big as apologize to a little fish like me, but hopefully someone else will find this post and not make the same mistake. Seriously? These are the professionals?

ETA 3.7.09 I have been contacted by a member of the NBCC to verify my membership. Stay tuned.


Elizabeth said...

I think you should call them on the telephone. There are some tasks for which email is well-suited, but this is not one of them. You need to talk to a human being, and keep calling that pereson, every day, until the problem gets solved.

Ellen said...

I definitely would, but their Website doesn't list a phone number (and I haven't been able to find one otherwise).

Elizabeth said...

Try 646-746-6400.

Ellen said...

Right building, wrong company. I don't think they're going to respond to me anyway; maybe the BBB will have better luck.