Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Remedy for Infatuations with Famous Authors

Hmmm, gotta be careful with this post. I recently returned from a national literary event. Down South. Lots of well-known authors. Terrific hotel, tasty meals, tons of readers, etc. Loved the conference. Very well done, probably one of the best in the country. Everytime I go somewhere I want to return home making sure I learned something. And boy did I learn. Some lessons are hard ones. They are painful, difficult to digest, nevertheless those lessons turn out to be needed, and good for me.

No more being overly impressed with famous authors. I came across some of the country's finest writers. And that is always a thrill, right? But no matter what you hear about someone, once you encounter him or her personally, and you have a not-so-thrilling experience, from that point on, you will remember him for what he did to you, how he treated you, what he said, and certainly not from what everyone else says. So,with this particular author, I've learned this -- if you are at a literary event, and a reader comes up to you with their book asking you to sign it, lay off the excuses, don't make those 'i'm busy right now' faces, and take the 10 seconds it requires to sign your name and be on about your business. Now, I am new at this stuff (author stuff, that is), and from what I understand, if you go to a literary event, you should expect to see readers, and if readers are there, guess what? They are probably going to request a photo, or autograph, or something. And unfortunately, even if you ain't in the mood, you have to acquiese. You gotta. When people encounter famous folk, whether or not the experience is good or bad, folks gonna tell others about it. If you mess up, you've MESSED UP. And that reader will never buy your books, read your books, endorse your books, recommend your books ever ever ever again. Prevent this vicious cycle by smiling for a photo, signing your name, promoting good will. I am 100 percent unimpressed by authors who go out of their way to do something nice for other famous people. That means nada. Impress me by doing something nice for someone that doesn't have a name. Do something for someone that isn't in a position to do something for you. Do something nice, and don't tell anyone you've done it. Keep it a secret. Otherwise the motives will be questioned and that ruins everything.

I also learned that fame is something people have only in very small circles. So they might seem huge in the black literary world, but send their butts to China and see if anyone cares or knows who they are. If you are unable to walk through an airport because EVERYONE you encounter is trying to stop you, then you are famous. If you can walk through an airport and some people don't recognize you, then you ain't that famous. Get over yourself. Stop tripping just coz you demand that your publisher get you a limo so you can go to the airport and get dropped back off at your crib. We gotta stop thinking we're soooo important because we wrote a book. LOL.

I enjoyed Terry McMillan this weekend because as famous as she is, she said she doesn't go around thinking, "I'm a bestselling author" blah, blah, blah. I love that she thinks that way. That she learns to balance things. Not that she's perfect, but she understands life is more than just how many books are being sold, and how many bestseller lists you've managed to crack.

I also learned that putting authors on a pedestal is a mistake, because once you have a bad encounter with one of them, you never look at that person the same. The bright light you used to see becomes a little bit dim. You put their books on the bottom of your reading pile, or you sell those suckers on half.com for 50 cents, just to unload them. Maybe we shouldn't be in awe of people the way we do; if we didn't the lessons we end up learning wouldn't be so hard, painful, difficult to digest, even if the lessons are needed.

ALSO, for the record, I am referring to a guy author that I encountered...

17 comments:

Cashana Seals said...

Ah, I understand your sentiments on this one. I was at the NBCC (I am sorry I didn't make myself known to ya) and I was impressed by the authors in attendance because of their down to earth way of dealing with folks. Here I was in awe of Terry McMillan and when it was time for her to sign my book she chastised me (I was too busy trying to get the picture) in a humorous way and made me feel special for that small moment and I realized then and there that she is just like we are -- everyday people. Thank goodness she didn't disappoint me because that has happen before with a male author too. Even now I cannot forget how he "acted" like a star. The event always gets better and I can't wait until next year.

Randy Bandit said...

I was unable to attend the NBCC event, but I found your entry on the experience very interesting. You made some very valid points about how people can "over-feel" themselves when they start to believe their own hype. When my book comes out, I want to be as accessible as I can to those who thought enough of me to actually purchase my book. Keep being real in your blog. Putting things out there for discussion is how we make things better the next go round.

CydneyR said...

Usually when authors are new on the scene, they are able to feel that sincere appreciation; it's once you've gained a measure of success that you can become complacent, and take supporters for granted. Some are excellent at appreciating the readers; others plain ole suck. It's all about them, their books, their everything. So you gotta feel out the writer, and hope that the one you support is also the one that supports you!! That's the way it should be. I've had to learn that the hard way.

Angela Henry said...

Great post, Cydney! I wish I had been there. Sounds like you had lots of fun. It is amazing to me that there are authors who act so badly toward their readers. Why go to an event, where you know people are going to approach you, if you don't want to be bothered?

CydneyR said...

Angela, I wonder the same thing -- why attend an event with hundreds of readers if you don't want to interact or sign books, etc. I can see it if you are feeling sick; that's understandable. Or maybe signing books gets old after a while. That could be it too. :-)
But the time it takes to frown and make up excuses, shoot you can make a fan for life by being gracious and just signing, smiling, and saying thank you. Isn't being nice a radical thought?

Angela Henry said...

Cydney, you are so right. Plus, reading is time consuming and books are expensive. So, anyone who spends money and takes time(that they will never get back) to read an author's book, deserves to be treated kindly. AND you never know what being nice can accomplish. I've heard a lot of people say that they bought a book because they met the author and were impressed by how nice they were.

Frederick Smith said...

Great post Cydney... my thoughts exactly. It's an author's job, or any public person/celebrity in general, to be "on" while they're working.

CydneyR said...

Hey Fred,
Ok, are there any other legitimate reasons for authors to refuse signing their books? Like:

1-They have 3 minutes to make their flight and they're racing thru the airport.
2-They are having a private dinner with family members.
3-They are in the men's room and find a fan following them around waving a piece of paper and asking for a pen.
4-They are at the gym working out on the treadmill with their sweat and funk spraying left and right.
5-They are at church getting their praise on, praying, etc. We might want to leave them alone at that moment. Or if we do take a photo, it's to prove that they do go to church. :) (smirk)

Okay, these are just jokes here, but I guess there will be circumstances where signing isn't necessary -- but yes, if your butt is at a literary function, a SIGNING, hello, SIGN!!!

Anonymous said...

Well, at least this author showed up, with enlarged ego in tow, which is better than the no shows. Now, for that, there is no excuse and I have lost a lot of respect for such - not showing and not calling to say, I will not be showing up.

LaEquis said...

Thanks for telling it like it is. I stopped being in awe of famous authors when Gwendolyn Brooks died. I had the pleasure of meeting her a few years before her death. I asked her if she would mind reviewing some of my work and she gave me her address(!) I was amazed that someone like her, Poet Laureate of Illinois, had given me her address -- AND she wrote back. She told me to "Never, never surrender." Her words have been with me ever since. I've came across two authors so far who I felt "dissed" me & they are definitely on my never-buy-another-of-their-books list. As a new author, these experiences taught me to always, always treat every reader with dignity.

CydneyR said...

I am so shocked at the amount of attention this particular subject is getting. Shoot, I could go on and on about encounters with famous authors but I could get sued. Seriously. But thanks ya'll for posting comments.

Wow, Xenia, THE Gwendolyn Brooks wrote you?

:::Shaking my head in amazement:::

And, about the no-shows -- I believe the majority of the authors were there, or called in to state they couldn't make it.

Unfortunately, things do happen, many times beyond your control. And it is disappointing for those fans that really wanted to see their favorite writer(s). So what can ya do? :) Raincheck?? I've had to miss one event so far and believe me, it's an awful feeling. You really get down on yourself. You wonder why certain things happen the way they did. And you hope that fate and destiny somehow intertwines - and maybe that event just wasn't meant to be.

Ladylee said...

I attended the NBCC and loved the event. In addition to meeting and snapping photos of a lot of great authors, I also attended the Novel Writing short session. It was good to see so many sisters out there with good original ideas for stories. I will definitely attend next year, with all my books in tow. .
I didn't encounter any crazy authors who refused to take a photo with me or stop and sign a book. But one very recognizable author in particular didn't show up for the event, and from what I understand, this author didn't even call and have an announcement made as to why they were absent. (If there was an announcement made, I sure as hell didn't hear about it. Come on now, call and least come up with a good lie as to why you didn't show up). A couple of other authors didn't make it to the NBCC, but at least an announcement was made as to why they didn't make it. And people who had waited around for this particular author just in case he or she decided to materialize out of thin air were HOT and mad as hell about being blown off like that. Talking to a couple of attendees familiar with that author, they said that this author has pulled this trick before and they knew it would happen again. They didn't even bother to even think about attending the session after being blown off before, and had completely crossed this author off of their session list. This particular author probably lost a couple of readers. Even though I did not attend the session, this author definitely lost me as a reader. I didn't appreciate having to lug a couple of his/her heavy books around looking for a signature.

But on a good note: I went to several sessions with authors who I didn't know much about or hadn't paid much attention to. I wasn't even looking for a signature or a picture. But just hearing them read from their works made me make a mental note to pick up some of their work real, real soon. And I agree with what Cydney says. One bad encounter with an author, especially after throwing them up on a pedestal, will leave a bad taste in your mouth, and make you pretty much blow them off.

Because let's face it. Selling your books is a hustle game. Gotta get out there, meet the people that take time out of their LIFE to read your precious novel, and ACT like you have some sense (or at least fake it). It only takes a few seconds to put on a smile and sign a book!

With that said, Cydney I hope you remain as down to earth as you are now, even after that 5th or 10th novel!!! (HA!)

CydneyR said...

LadyLee thanks! LOL, but guess what I did regarding the NBCC? I ended up bringing the book of an author that wasn't even on the schedule. DUH! I was like, how did this happen? I guess I'm getting these events mixed up or something. :)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Ladylee, that's exactly who I was talking about. I was one of those, waiting in the room, for the author, to show. Granted not a favroite of mines, but I wanted to hear the author speak, since I hadn't been to any of their prior booksignings. I was more put off about the not calling to say I can't or won't make it, so the organizer wouldn't be so put out, and could make other arrangements. There were other local authors, who I am sure, would have loved to have that hour to talk with readers, and wouldn't have minded being a last replacement or fill-in.

For sure, we all have unexpected things that come up in all of our lives, but a quick 30 second phone call would have been the polite and right thing to do. This is more about manners and professionalism, than last minute things popping up that's beyond one's control.

BTW, I enjoyed the conference. And, no one, whom I approached, declined to talk with me, sign my books or have their photo taken.

Margaret Johnson-Hodge said...

Hey Cuz.

I usually don't chime in message boards, but I couldn't stop reading the whole thread and wanted to add my two cents.

My philosophy is this -- if someone takes the time to come out to see you, buy a book, or has ever read your book, the least you can do, as an author, is acknowledge them with a smile, a hug, a photo, an autograph or even a simple thank you. I'm big on all of those, even when I'm not feeling it. Because without readers, we are just folks telling stories for our own benefit.

Love you girl,
Margaret : )

Shelley Halima said...

Cydney, you know you're going to have to email me offloop about who the author was, LOL. I bet I know though.

There is an author I met who I lost a great deal of respect because of the way they treated people. But karma lives so that'll come back on them I'm sure.

I didn't realize I was an actress in training until I started doing booksignings. There have been times when it was not a good day for me. But you know what? You just have to make it a good day and show appreciation for the people buying your book. And even the ones who say they can't buy it right now. Just the fact that they're stopping by to look at the book is good enough for me.

CydneyR said...

Hey Shelley,

I guess it's called professionalism. Unless you're really wore out and in a mood (those things can rarely be disguised), but I'd be happy if author just plain says I'm sick, not feeling good, hard day, something. :)