Friday, March 30, 2007

In Lieu of Friday 20

I'm going to be on the road for most of the day today, so no Friday 20 this week.

Some random thoughts on the biz:

It is inaccurate to call winners of any award "the best in the genre" unless every person in the entire genre competes for said award. However, I doubt you'll ever see a genre trophy awarded that reads "the nicest, most popular members of our writing organization who mailed in their entry fee before we reached our cut-off limit" or "the most devoted campaigner, vote-beseecher and ass-smoocher, regardless of writing ability" or "for those who couldn't win an award until they found a way to automatically disqualify those who always beat them."

There was once a writer who wrote more than two million words during his life. Out of all that, he put out a single book (essentially self-published) that sold maybe 200 copies. The poor guy never made a living as a writer and had to do things like make pencils to keep from starving. After his death, more of his work was published and was read and beloved by such trivial lightweight fanboys as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ghandi. As Henry David Thoreau would doubtless tell you, success is nice, but immortality cannot be bought.

Finally, booksignings have really changed since I used to do them. A friend of mine recently called her local bookstore to find out what time an author doing a signing would be there. She was given the time, and then sternly warned of the following:

1) she was not to bring any copies to the store to be signed; the Very Important Author would only sign books bought at that store during the signing, limit one per person;

2) the Very Important Author would not make out the book in my friend's name, but would only sign it, and

3) there was no guarantee that if my friend waited in line for hours (which she should expect to) that she would actually get a signed book before the store ran out of copies.

My friend did not attend the booksigning. However, she did consign all the copies she had of the author's books to the local landfill, and is now telling everyone she knows what a Very Important Jackass this author is. I'm puzzled. The author is about equal to me, fame-wise, so this VIP stuff is pure posturing. That and back when I did signings, we tried not to treat the fans who came out to see us like snot. Guess I'm behind the times again.

Have a good weekend.


  1. Anonymous2:11 AM

    People who are full of themselves annoy me. It always seems to me to be a way of making themselves appear just that little bit more important than they are- and, thank God, it usually backfires. Good on your friend for boycotting the man. Or woman, I don't think you actually specified gender.

  2. Anonymous5:25 AM

    You never know -- it could've been the bookstore person who set those rules in advance of the signing, not the writer. The writer might not have known they'd been put in place.

    I'd hate to think some writer's books were tossed by a genuine fan and reader because of a petty dictator at a bookstore.

  3. I agree with Douglas. My first thoughts on reading that was it sounded like "rules" the bookstore dreamed up.. not the author.

  4. I rode for a day with JA Konrath on his 500+ bookstore tour last summer.

    Joe was the exact opposite. He signed everything with his name on it in the store, found the one staffer who'd most likely enjoy his work and chatted him or her up, and took time to talk to each customer who asked him what he was selling.

    The closest I've heard to these rules is Lawrence Block, who says, "I'll sign three of your private collection to every one you buy at the signing. It's only fair to the bookstore." Of course, he's Lawrence Block, and he does demand a lot for an appearance. His philosophy is he ought to make it worthwhile for both the store and the people who show up. So, you get to bring in your old paperbacks, but the store gets to make a sale.

    Me, I'm probably still in my "Sit and Look Pathetic" phase of my career. We'll see when the next one goes to press.

  5. what Douglas said; my first thought was, "What if the bookstore made up these rules?"

    Yeah, it's hard to say best of genre when so many books aren't eligible. Or their category didn't get enough entries so it was cancelled. Or too many entries so those who didn't enter first can't compete. I don't know that a better system will be forthcoming, though. When something is that big, making changes isn't easy.

  6. Hmmm.Doug has a good point.
    We always automatically blame the author, don't we?

  7. I'm with Doug. Chances are that the bookstore was the one who imposed the rules. I don't necessarily blame the bookstore either - they want people to buy the books in their store not bring books in that were purchased through the competition, and they will only allow one book to be signed to keep the line moving. But it sounds like they're expecting a large crowd, and they're too shortsighted to be prepared with sufficient stock to meet the needs of the crowd. Personally, with that last remark, I'd be more inclined to stop frequenting the bookstore than to stop reading the author's books.

  8. I'm curious. Why don't you do signings?

    I ask because my 4th book is coming out in July and I've pretty much stopped doing signings as well. I did for the first two, but now I spend more time and energy on mailings, drive-by signings and the blog, than I do on formal signings. Formal signings just suck up the time and energy and don't seem, to me, to be all that effective for anybody concerned.

    What's your take?

  9. Anonymous10:28 AM

    Have a nice trip, PBW.

    This is funny to me because I just won a writing award; it's awarded to the graduating senior who demonstrates the most potential in writing. Now, there are about twenty people in my program on a good day, and while the award could go to any senior, it generally comes out of the writing program. I'm honored anyway because I like my profs and they like me. It's not like we had to submit for it or anything. But thanks for your jolt, no egos ballooning over here...

  10. I agree with Douglass--this might have been all the bookstore's doing.

    Sounds like too many customers brought already-owned copies to other signings and not bought enough new books.

  11. One bookstore wouldn't let Tess Gerritsen sign any of the books in their store. Said that they couldn't send them back if they didn't sell. Sad. Very, very sad.

  12. Sometimes it's the bookstores that set all these weird rules and whynot. *shakes her head*

  13. Anonymous11:53 AM

    Chiming in here with the thought that it was actually the bookstore with the rule regarding books signed must be brought at premises. And, given that some authors have some signings where they find the line too long to get through (if they are booked to leave that night for another location) what could have been a friendly caveat could come across as really snotty in the right person's hands. ;)

  14. That and back when I did signings, we tried not to treat the fans who came out to see us like snot. Guess I'm behind the times again.

    Then here's hoping you stay that way. ;-)

    Have a great weekend!

  15. If it was the bookstore it's a real shame the author went along with it. I would think no signing is better than alienating their fan base. Yes, the bookstore should make some money but that seemed way over the top.

  16. I'm going to e-mail the author involved in the booksigning debacle and see if I can get that side of the story (which is why I didn't name the author, btw.)

    Mary, I don't have booksignings anymore because I'm handicapped. I made dumb excuses for a few years, mainly because my condition embarrassed me. What sort of writer can't write their own name?

    With both hands about 75% disabled now, I can't hold a pen without rubberbanding it to my fingers (good days) or someone else's assistance (bad days.) I use voice recognition software to do all my writing and most of my correspondence.

    There is no cure for my type of arthritis and I'll never get better, but medications are helping with the inflammation and slowing the progress of the disease.

  17. Anonymous10:59 PM

    As so many have said, it is likely that the bookstore set the 'no outside books' rule. I think that sounds pretty rotten, but they may be reacting to the difficulty of dealing with tracking in-store (unpaid) books versus things folks bring in. Sad to say, not all fans are honest. I also don't think it's unreasonable to limit the number of books at a signing; either for the author or the bookstore. Having been on the bookseller end of signings with 300+ fans, limiting folks to two items a piece seems very fair.

  18. Never new you're handicapped, Lynn. Now we must praise all voice recognition software for giving you a tool to write.

    As for booksignings, I haven't been to many, but I did drop by on one: Juan-Carlos Cruz's signing at a Borders in LA (for his new cookbook). The best part of the signing? He and his wife brought food! AWESOME.

  19. Grrr...spelling...

    Never *knew you're handicapped, Lynn. Now we must praise all voice recognition software for giving you a tool to write.

  20. Lynn and all -

    It does sound like the bookstore rules -- I know this happened in my area with author Sherrilyn Kenyon. She is known to always be accessible to her fans and she even makes arrangements to meet them after signings if stores (or conferences) won't let readers bring in their previously-purchased books.

    Sherri's not the only one I've heard of or seen doing this to accomodate readers/ I suspect these conditions are inflicted by the store or even the publisher sponsoring the tour (if it's organized by the publisher).

    Alas, I've never had the problem of lines of fans at my signings... at least not yet!

    Lynn, you don't do signings (as you explained), but do you attend writers' conferences?


  21. Anonymous10:55 AM

    15 years in book pr, I saw this kind of rule all the time. Lots of times it came from the publicist at the publisher cause the author wanted it that way.

    It was usually when authors had an enormous backlist and COLLECTORS/Resellers/ebay auction sellers would bring sackloads of books, sit in the front row of the signing and take up the first 45 minutes of the signing time. Let's all remember in the author's defense that this post-first sale market generates NO money for the author, the publisher or the bookstore. Zero.

    I also saw a lot of "only books purchased here" when people bought books at steep discounts at Costco and then came to an indie bookstore for the signing. I can't tell you how pale the bookstore owner got seeing that kind of stuff.

    I saw a lot of "books only" when there was merchandise like movie posters, comic books, t-shirts attached to the authors name.

    And I saw a lot of authors who were very very tired on a 10 city road trip and just wanted to get to sleep before midnight in a strange bed, get up early the next morning for a plane ride to do it all over again in another place.

  22. It's appalling that someone would do that, Janet!

    In light of that, I can see imposing limits, but I don't see the point of doing "bought in store only".

    Limit 1: acceptable for the sanity of the author.

  23. Anonymous11:37 PM

    Blogeois said...

    In our neck of the woods, most authors are charged $250.00 for a signing gig to ensure the bookstore makes something. I heard about this a few months ago at a local writer's conference, then heard it first hand from our local big-box bookstore.

  24. Anonymous3:38 PM

    But was it the author's doing or the bookstore's? In the light of corporate greed, I'm inclined to think it's the latter.

    Jack's Momma

  25. Anonymous3:39 PM

    Okay, P., you won the bet:

    The check is on its way to MAW. I'd still like to know how you could predict that six months before it happened.



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