Sunday, May 25, 2014

Biting the Hand that Feeds You

For years, my dream has been to publish a book and have an author event at my amazing local mystery bookstore, Once Upon a Crime.
Now, that dream is coming true.
My goal is to hang with my family and friends and drink wine and eat good food as a way to stop and celebrate my publishing journey. Selling and signing books at the store is a bonus—it’s the gravy.
Because I’ve thought long and hard about this and book signings aren’t really held for authors to sell and sign books. That’s not the point. And any really smart book publicist will tell you that unless you are a household name like Stephen King, you don't do author events to make money.
What you do, however, is give readers a chance to connect with you on a personal level.
That's why I go to author events. I want to meet the author in person, maybe get a sense of their personality, get to feel like I know them a little.
And yet some authors don’t quite get that.
Or maybe they just forget. Or maybe, they are so uncomfortable around people they find it torture. Any of those reasons could be why I’ve had some bad experiences with authors at these events.
For instance, I’ve attended one signing where the famous mystery author berated and scolded the crowd, even going so far as to dismiss a question my friend asked, saying “Does anyone else have a REAL question?”
In another case, an author I interact with frequently on Twitter acted like signing his book was a big pain in the butt. He was either so stressed or harried, he hurriedly scribbled his signature, and turned to the next person in line like it was an assembly line he couldn't get through fast enough.
I don't get it. Readers have made time in their day and spent good money to buy the author's book and in return are treated like ... well, like they are a bother.
Compare that to another local author I interacted with on Facebook a few times. When I saw her at a table at a local book conference, I made a beeline to meet her in person.
Before I even got to her table, she had greeted me by name.
In all three cases, I bought the author’s books. But when it comes to buying their next book, I might hesitate based on the impression the first two made.
And don’t get me wrong, I don't expect every author to remember faces and names of everyone they interact with on social media. That's not realistic.
But I think the two authors above who gave the impression (whether they intended to or not) that they could care less about their readers, are losing track of just what an author appearance/event is about.
Would you stop buying a favorite author’s books if they were not as “personable” as you would have hoped?


Thomas Pluck said...

I don't tolerate rudeness, but I also don't expect artists to kiss my ass. Expecting simple courtesy is not asking for much. Most authors I've met have been very polite, even folks who are very shy.
I can understand an author having a bad day, but there's no reason to behave childishly like this.

Kristi said...

I felt more sorry for all the little old ladies from Minnesota Nice who were cowering in their seats afraid to ask a question and be sneered at. I don't get it. Maybe she was heavily medicated.
The other guy, well he just showed his true colors. I've heard other people mention he's sort of a jackhole like that in person.

Unknown said...

What I think people fail to remember on both sides of the equation is that, while there is an amount of talent involved, the people across the table are human peoples. Nothing more. Nothing less. If somebody is rude then yes I would stop buying their book. In some cases I just won't follow an author on social media if I know what kind of person they are, regardless if I like their stories. I just don't want to see that side of them and taint my view of their stories (which in many cases I've already read) any more.

I mean people get to write stories and then are fortunate enough to have a signing. Even more so have one and have people attend it looking for their autograph. I'd say life was pretty damn good. If it's too much of a bother I think it's far better for everyone to just stay home.

I feel the same way about comic creators, movie stars, and whoever else I've met. They're just people. The good ones just want to be treated like one.

Unknown said...

It's unfortunate you've had those negative experiences. My author contacts have been 100% positive.

William Kent Krueger, Ellen Hart, Marcus Sakey, Michael Sears and Stanlet Trollip(aka Michael Stanley) and Deon Meyer all stand out as being incredibly nice. I'm sure attendees at your events will feel likewise about you. Have fun!

Gerald So said...

I'm pretty good at separating author from work. If I really liked an author's writing, I'd still buy the book AND hold a poor opinion of the author's manner. By the same token, if the author is an engaging personality but I don't enjoy his or her writing, I wouldn't buy the book.

This said, I think it is important to present oneself positively to others. I don't see how it could hurt. Personally, I find it easy because, writing being a solitary activity, I welcome the chance to interact with people. If they want to complain to me about my work, I just smile and shrug. Whaddya gonna do? :)

Kristi said...

Well said, Anthony.
Tom, you're right, the Minnesota authors have been great. and Michael Sears is especially supportive and approachable. I am very excited, but also still in disbelief that anyone will ever want to meet me because of my books. Crazy, exciting stuff.
Gerald, I have continued to buy and read the crabby female mystery writers books because honestly, she is THAT talented. And you're right, smiling and shrugging (at least inside) is the way to go. I read something recently that said flat out people will not like your books so get used to it!
: )

Rick Robinson said...

Like Gerald, I'm pretty good at separating person from work. But then there is reputation, from whatever source, and personal contact. I don't try to meet many authors, but at a mystery or SF-F con I will do so, and think I have a right to expect a courteous interaction. In my face rudeness would turn me off to the author and the work, whereas most of the time reputation (barring puppy killers and such) doesn't affect my decision to buy.

Alex Segura said...

Great post, Kristi. I like to think I can separate work from persona, but it's a challenge. Luckily, most - if not all - authors I've interacted with in real life (who write books I admire) have been exceedingly kind.

I agree with Thomas about not tolerating rudeness. Like he said, I also try my best to give people a pass if it can be filed under "having a bad day." If someone is short, frazzled and not "on," I try to be understanding.

I don't think the instances you mention fall under that and are downright rude, which is a shame.

Kristi said...

Richard and Alex,
Yeah, it's a tough call.
You want to give them a pass but ...