Both Sides of the Table (Reader/Writer Courtesy)

November 3rd, 2008

If you’re a big fan of books, there’s a good chance you’ve attended an author event at some point. You got off work early, skipped dinner, rushed through traffic and pocketed a speeding ticket, all for the chance to see your favorite author at the local bookstore.

If you’re a writer, you’ve surely been on the other end. You coordinated schedules, took time off from your day job, sent out emails and facebook invitations, drove halfway across the state with no reimbursement from your publisher, and showed up in an unfamiliar city to promote your newest title.

You’d think this would be an exhilarating experience for both reader and writer. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always turn out that way.

As an author and an avid reader, I’ve had some bad moments on both sides of the signing table. Two of my favorite authors have been cold as frozen turkeys after I made great efforts to go see them. One of them didn’t even look me in the eye as he signed the book and shoved it across the table. I’ve also showed up to a signing at which no one else appeared–save the disgruntled browsers in the cafe area, who stared at me as I took the small stage as though I’d announced I would be doing the polka in the buff.

In my day, I’m sure I’ve offended more than a few people inadvertently too, but here are a few thoughts about courtesy in the book business. Nothing to write Emily Post about. Just comments from my own observations.

Authors:

Do look your fans in the eye and greet them individually (they aren’t just sales figures).

Do take a moment to ask what they liked about the book, or some other question to create brief dialogue.

Do thank them for coming and acknowledge their support of your work (without them, you’re sunk).

Don’t rattle on without any interaction from the audience.

Don’t forget to thank the store staff for their help (they are priceless).

Don’t expect each person to buy a book (sometimes my biggest fans have been the poorest, and the fact they drove to see me was a major sacrifice).

**A side note to authors about online interaction: It’s very easy to comment or at least give a helpful vote to those who take the time to review your books online. It shows you appreciate their investment in your work.

Readers:

Do take a moment to meet the author (they’re just as shy about it all as you are).

Do take a moment to tell the author one thing you like about their books.

Do write reviews and tell friends (without you, the word won’t get out).

Don’t tell the author about the idea you have that they need to do for their next book (they have ideas of their own).

Don’t hog the author’s time if there are others around (look back over your shoulder, if necessary).

Don’t offer the author advice about getting on Oprah (they’ve heard it a thousand times already, and it only shows your ignorance of the industry).

**A side note to readers about online interaction: Most authors get relatively little feedback from fans. Take a few minutes to send a thankful email or to write an online review. It can change an author’s entire week.

I’m sure there are numerous additions to these lists, based on your own experiences as a reader and/or writer. This is such a great industry, in general, with lots of die-hard fans and hardworking authors. Let’s keep the oil of courtesy flowing so that the machinery will run smoothly.

  1. November 3rd, 2008 at 12:48 | #1

    “Let’s keep the oil of courtesy flowing….”
    Really like that. –Janet

  2. November 3rd, 2008 at 16:00 | #2

    Thanks, Janet. I think this will be my last post on this blog, so it’s nice to end on a “courtesy flowing” note.

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