My friend and superlative bookseller/bookshop owner, Maryelizabeth Hart, owner of The Mysterious Galaxy–with two locations now!–posted a link to this article on Facebook, and I just had to share! The article discusses what things an author who visits for an event or signing should do while there, and after leaving. Some of the points I’ve already made, others are interesting and not thought of by me, probably because I can’t imagine any author doing them, lol. The article’s author, Emma Straub, writes that she’s made a list in her head of how authors can get golden stars, or ‘go down in (sorry, sorry) flames.’
I’ve had my own list about signings and events–but most of my experiences dealt with drop-in signings, which require very little of the author, other than sitting for however long it takes to scribble their name on the title page, or inscribe it there. I brought the books, took the books away, and had them all opened to the proper page. The proper page is very important. If signed on the endpapers–not as valuable, same for the half title page, and as for those pre-signed pages later bound in, tsk tsk, can’t fool the serious collector with those. The events this article speaks about are those that have been advertised by the store ahead of time, heralding the next best thing in literature, with promises of a reading, and a question and answer period. I love her point about reading aloud from their printed word. No one enjoys lengthy monotone renderings of the written word. Time limits really should be enforced during this part of the event. Maybe a cow’s bell rung after exactly 15 minutes would help the author enthralled with his own brilliance to realize the audience is restless. Or use a gadget like the Jeopardy tune coming from my Samsung Galaxy S3 KFZ Halterung or ones W. Heath Robinson made, a kind of Mouse Trap game for overindulgent authors. A little steel ball is dropped onto a roller that tips over into a cup that then flips the ball out and onto a mini ferris wheel which then drops the ball out so that it rolls over to a see-saw platform that goes down under the steel ball’s weight lowering a hand with index finger extended to tap the offending author on the shoulder. Not only would the author stop, but for the time it takes the steel ball to do its work, the audience will actually have something entertaining to pay attention to.
I’ve found the few readings I’ve been to have been tedious, boring, and uncomfortable. Uncomfortable, because you want the author to do well, you want the books to sell, but reading from it, unless skilled, can kill all interest in it. If the author themselves are personable and witty, well, that’s a different mouse trap altogether. No need for any elaborate mechanism. Presumably the funny writer will be a funny reader too. Can’t tell you how many times that was true, but I can tell you there have been large exceptions, where the hilarious author in person is the biggest deadbeat you’ve met since the last sad sack.
The major point Ms. Straub makes is about the bookseller themselves. She says, ‘the people who work at the bookstore the night of your event also sell books all day long, which means they are very, very powerful people. If you are rude to them, guess what?! Your book will not be the first one they try to handsell to customers. If you are nice to them, they will always think of you fondly, and your book is more likely to be one they recommend.’
LOL. I hate to admit to this being true. Human nature. If a published author like, say, Alan Beechey, a witty friendly, accommodating fellow is having an event–and I’ve had one for him–selling his work is easy peasy. If for example, a big blowhard bestseller is having an event and is rude to the people around him or her, chances are the book will be relegated behind the bathroom stall. Unfortunately in this case, a bookseller’s dislike and unwillingness to push a book will have little or no affect upon sales. So, power is relative, as in all things! (I know you’d like me to name a name here–but honestly, there have been very few obnoxious signings–especially with bestsellers. James Patterson, Stuart Woods, Nelson DeMille, Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly, Laura Lippman, Elmore Leonard, all were extremely lovely people who did everything they could to help. However–a very famous writer whose initials are PC, has been known for obnoxiousness–rumors, naturally, ha)
I’ve found that the most irritating egoists are fairly new to the publishing world and are clueless as to how things work. They expect things that even bestsellers don’t get. I remember a St. Martin’s Press publicist telling me that an little print run author of a rather silly series once asked him when was he going to be booked on to the Today Show. I was flabbergasted! The gall, the nerve, the rather huge idiocy of the individual was jaw dropping.
If an author is a genuinely nice person whose signings are done swift and neatly with no complaints or demands, well hell yes, when asked for a good recommendation, I’ll bring up that author’s newest title. If I read and liked it. Maybe even if I hadn’t –depends if other sellers have read it and liked it–we would push each others recommendations all the time, we trusted our fellow booksellers taste. The few times an author really rubbed me the wrong way–by not following directions, or demanding more time, or allowing friends and family to crowd into a working space that wasn’t made for crowds when told explicitly they were not allowed to, these authors books went to the bottom of the bin–if I’d not read them, they remained unread. If someone asked, what’s new out there, their title would be the last cited. In a mid list author’s world, the difference between 5 and 10 books selling at an indie, can mean the difference of securing that contract for future books. And authors should realize this. If they treat the people who sweat selling their opus or dreck, with rudeness, some miasma will suddenly appear and steal their book away into the shadows from whence it will not be seen again.
Here’s the part of her article I hadn’t thought of–thank you notes. From authors, to the bookseller. I personally stink at this kind of follow-up and have always believed that my sincere, heartfelt, gratitude at the time of a dinner or gathering was enough, no other action on my part was necessary. But since becoming a suburbanite, I’ve found, this is not the case. One needs to go Emily Postal and send out little cards expressing the same thing you said the night of the bash Ms. Straub feels authors have an obligation send a thank you note after an event. And, maybe that’s the right polite thing to do–I would never hold it against an author if that little doodad never came my way, lol.
She also feels that the author shouldn’t pack up their traveling bags and when home never think or or refer to the store they spent 2 hours at, again. They should communicate–on Facebook, twitter, keep the bookshops’ name alive. Those activities didn’t exist when I was active, so I hesitate to weigh in–but from the seller’s point of view, mentioning the bookstore online can’t hurt, and really could help–but from the author’s point of view, this would be just one of many many stores that expect him to keep up contact with, and that is asking just a bit too much over the top of someone who came in, read, eat a few cookies, and you sold an extra 20 books for.
Please check out The Mysterious Galaxy’s website–both mysteries and science fiction are brimming over in their stores, many signed, lol.
And to read the humorous article–