Authors Behaving Badly: #2, RWA Literacy Episode
I have only been to one Literacy Signing. I lugged a suitcase full of books from my house to the signing much to the chagrin of Ned who was forced to carry it everywhere (at least when there was no porter in sight). I was excited about finally getting to meet some of my favorite authors. This was before I understood that authors are human beings, not some magical creatures whose books spill forth from on high. I now understand that in order for my favorite authors to remain my favorite authors, the less contact I have with them, the better.
If you have never been to a Literacy Signing, this is what it is like. They place a couple hundred authors in a large ballroom with conference tables set up next to each other in one long row. It’s hot and there is not enough circuation. Each author has a placard with their name in front of them and they are placed alphabetically. Some authors, like Jennifer Crusie, Suzanne Brockmann, Nora Roberts, and the like have special places in the corners of the ballroom because their lines are so long.
A line to get into the ballroom begins to form well before the LS doors open. I think that I waited a good half hour to 45 minutes to actually get into the ballroom. What did I find when I arrived inside the ballroom? Some pretty crappy behavior, so my words of advice to authors who are attending the Literary Signing, please avoid these following bad behaviors:
- If you say you are coming, show up.
- If you say you are coming, try to stay in your chair for more than 10 minutes
- If you do come and you run out of books, don’t leave to gossip with a fellow author across the room. There is plenty of time for you to gossip with fellow authors.
- If you do come, be nice to the reader who stops by your station. If you can’t be nice, even after a long period of sitting there, answering the same questions, don’t participate.
Readers come from all over the world to this event (when I was there I met fans from Germany and Australia) and the fact that you don’t show enough common courtesy to remain seated throughout the event shows a singular lack of respect for your readership. I cannot even begin to count the number of authors who did not stay beyond the first hour. By the time the last of the readers got into the ballroom, I would say that at least 1/4 – 1/3 of the authors had abandoned their chairs and had either left the room or were off gossiping with a fellow author.
- So you are bored? Why don’t you read a book?
- Don’t like your seatmates? Read a book?
- Run out of books? Talk to your fans.
- Don’t like these events? DON’T FUCKING SIGN UP.
Is it possible that women like Nora Roberts, Jennifer Crusie, Suzanne Brockmann, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Christine Feehan have built up a devoted and rabid readership because they care enough to sit for hours to meet each one of their fans and graciously sign their books? Maybe the rest of the authors who aspire to bestselling status should take a little marketing cue from the aforementioned ladies.
I, personally, developed a girl crush on Meg Cabot during this event. This was before she had really become the publishing phenom she is now. She was sitting a bit forlornly at her table. She was chagrined that her publisher had not provided any of her young adult books when I asked if she had any. Despite the lack of books and that I didn’t buy the ones she was offering, she was cheerful, gracious and engaging. I always remember this event when I pick up a Meg Cabot book – her smiling face and her gracious attitude.
When I met with other readers after the LS, we all talked about what we liked and didn’t like, the authors who frustrated us, the authors we thought were rude. I remember those conversations even though it has been years since the event. I am sure the other readers remember too.