Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How Not to Win Fans

Last week I told about my time at the Valley Authors Event and mentioned that afterwards, several writer friends and I went to dinner together.

One of the conversations was about authors each of us would never buy another book from because of their actions. Everyone had a story.

One told about hearing an author at a conference, enjoying hearing, buying the book and taking it to her to sign. The woman was in the book room at a signing table talking to the author next to her. She took the book, signed it and handed it back without interrupting her conversation or even acknowledging the person who'd bought the book.

Another told about a rather well-known author who won't even talk to people even those she's met before.

And yet another, bad-mouthed authors from small presses and blamed them for a smaller turnout than anticipated at a large mystery conference. Hello, small press authors buy books too.

And then there are those who can't stop talking about their own books and greatness when on a panel, never giving anyone else an opportunity. This is really bad when that person is the moderator.

I'm sure we've all had those experiences.

On the other side of the coin, some of the most famous and well-known authors are friendly to everyone.

Years ago I met Mary Higgins Clark at a small mystery conference. Nearly twenty years later I saw her at a cocktail party in New York during Edgar week. I spoke to her and told her where we'd met, she insisted she remembered me and introduced me to her at the time new husband. She also asked how my writing was coming.

Any time I run into Jan Burke she's as friendly as can be. We once spent a long afternoon in an airport together with our husbands waiting for weather to clear and had a great discussion.

William Kent Krueger is another author who always remembers everyone he's met, or at least acts like it, and if he really does know you, you'll probably get a big hug.

Our own Susan McBride is another one who is always friendly--a joy to see at any time.

I've also met 1/2 of Evelyn David who is sweet as can be.

I'm heading to San Francisco for Bouchercon tomorrow, I hope I mostly run into friendly authors.

I could name lots more authors who are always charming whenever you have the opportunity to meet them.

Of course I'm not a famous author, but I do hope people perceive me as a friendly one. I honestly love to meet new people and I'm thrilled when they buy one of my books and even more so when they let me know they enjoyed reading it.

Have you got any stories about authors whose books you won't buy any more because of how they acted? Or how about the other side, authors who make you feel like they are your friend.



  1. I can't say there is an author whose work I won't read because of how they've acted when we've met. To be honest I haven't met any author in person. But, I've come to know a lot of great authors through the web and can even claim a few as friends. Susan { McBride } is one of them, she has to be the most sweetest funniest person I've had the pleasure to talk with. Can't wait to meet her... and Tracy Madison. lol.

  2. Mom always said, "If you don't have something good to say..." In that spirit, I'll share a story. I toured the Hachette warehouse at Bouchercon 2009. The staff there who help with author signings (in the warehouse) raved on and on about Michael Connelly and how great of a guy he is. Anyone who impresses the "back office" folks that much has to be a geniunely good guy.

    Not only that, his books are great.


  3. Jessica, Susan McBride is a sweetie. You won't be disappointed when you meet her.

    I've met far more friendly authors than the other kind, unfortunately, the actions of the other kind tend to stand out.


  4. My most-often told story of a persnickety author stars Lawrence Block. I was a huge fan and had read all his books and when I heard he was going to be at Boucherton/Toronto (yes, it was a few years back!) I decided to attend.

    Somehow, I got discombobulated and just missed his time in the signing room. I spotted him strolling across the lobby and scooted after him with my big stack of LB books, caught up with him and asked him to sign.

    "Sorry," he said. "I am with my friends now." And he turned and walked away!

    I have never bought another LB book, and I never miss a chance to tell this tale.

    Robert B. Parker, on the other hand, was friendly and gracious every time I went to an event where he was, very congenial, albeit in his Spenser-like way. BTW, we had a recent post about Parker at our company blog http://otpblog.blogspot.com --some nice comments...check it out!

    Billie Johnson
    Oak Tree Press

  5. Marilyn,

    I'll be at Bouchercon too, and I hope we get to say hello in person. :)


  6. This is such an important point, Marilyn! An author can erase hours of promotion with one nasty or dismissive act.

    One author who is always gracious, no matter what the circumstances is Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of Pay it Forward (yes, she really does live her life according to that concept.) She recently put out a book trailer made up of photos of her readers holding her books--showing that generosity of spirit can make for great marketing, too.

    But so many others, especially those tasting their first success, will treat other writers as "little people" they no longer have to treat as equals. I've met authors who talked to me with complete contempt because my books are out of print at the moment. So many newly published authors assume all other writers are beginners without getting the facts first. Do you think I'll EVER buy one of their books, or recommend them to friend? Right.

    You're so right: writers buy books. Dissing other writers is just shooting yourself in the font!

  7. Rachel, I hope we do get an opportunity to actally meet.

    Anne, sometimes I can't believe what I see and hear authors do--sometimes it's the newbies and unfortunately, some of the famous.

    I promise, I'll never be guilty of that. I love helping new writers and thrilled if someone wants me to autograph a book.


  8. Thanks Marilyn, you were a big help to me on my first panel at Mayhem in the Midlands. Your advice to me was to put away my notes, not to be nervous, to just talk to the people who attended. It was good advice then and now. Just talk to the people who show up to meet you. I've been disappointed with some of the writers that I've met in person, thrilled with others. Unless they're blatantly rude to me, I keep my opinion of their writing separate from whether or not I like them as a person. Some people (including authors) are just better with strangers than others.

    aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David

  9. Great post! On a similar note, I've met and chatted with Kate MacMurray (Fred MacMurray's daughter of MacMurray Ranch wine fame) a couple of times and both times she's gone out of her way to be so gracious - I hope to learn from her. On the contrary, a TV chef almost ran over me at a hotel once and no apologies or anything. Yes, your behavior matters.

  10. Oh, Rhonda, I remember you at Mayhem in the Midlands. I was glad to meet you.

    Kathy, I don't understand why people don't understand how important their actions are.


  11. Marilyn, you are the sweet one! Thanks for the kind words. :-)

    And, Jess, I'm looking forward to meeting you someday, too! You are pretty wonderful yourself. Take care!

    I met a Very Famous Author at the beginning of my career. At a conference where she was keynote, she mulled around with folks, and I took a minute to speak with her. The whole time, she looked over my shoulder, and she made a very strange remark that had me wondering if she was on something. Needless to say, I didn't ever read her books again.

  12. I've been fortunate to have met the 'nice' author crowd at signings and conferences. From my own experience, if you're in a group, and things are slow, it's easy to start chatting, but not to stop when someone approaches? That's ridiculous.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  13. Oops, I meant, she milled around with folks. (My brain is very fried today.)

  14. But, dear writers and readers, this interesting post and discussion makes me ask: is it a mistake for you/me/anyone to so thoroughly tangle together the artist with the art? Why should it matter what the writer or painter or actress or singer looks like, behaves like, or expresses when not writing, painting, acting, or singing? Is ignorance bliss on this one?

    I ask because I know that I often don't care and even avoid meeting some authors, even favorite ones, because I want that reader experience to stay more, well, pure. I don't want the real-world personalities in the mix. Similarly, I've noticed that when I get sort of fed up and disenchanted with the off-screen life of a performer that I enjoy their work less and something about that seems wrong . . . almost petty or even vengeful of me?

    Anyhow, I will agree that there really isn't an excuse for rudeness or arrogance in any setting, whether working a conference or just out running errands. Nice matters.

  15. Just have to say that most of the authors I've met have been gracious and very nice. Yes, Susan McBride is fun. Marilyn is very nice. I've been to a few readings/signings and to Mayhem in the Midlands, Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave, and Bouchercon a couple of times. Haven't hit a really rude person yet, hope that stays the same. I still remember how very nice Charlaine Harris was the first time I met her after her second Sookie book.
    I'd probably still read someone's books if I already liked the books even if the author was rude. If I'd never read a book by that author before, probably not.

  16. Don't take the "hit a really rude person" comment as literal!