Whenever someone helps me out, I like to return the favour. And when someone does something nice and unexpected, I like to express my gratitude.
Today I’ll be writing a thank you note to Clive Cussler, for example.
(And in case you’re wondering, I won’t be dishing details about this little bit of news. You can find more to read here. But you really should check out this which is looking incredibly cool.)
Getting back on track, one of the things I do have some trouble with is the expectation of backscratching. Or asskissing…whatever.
Now, the reason I’m thinking about this is because of a fair enough question a bookseller asked on Murder Must Advertise. Local author comes in to say they have a book coming out several months down the road, would like to do a signing, blah blah. They’ll send an ARC when the time comes, but the guy never shops in their store between first contact and release. Another author who does shop in their store has a book coming out, but it doesn’t quite fit what they sell as well as guy #1. Is it fair to think that the local author should support them?
This discussion went on to talk about authors who state they don’t read in their genre, authors who state they only read library books, etc. Now, you don’t even want to get me started. I personally can’t comprehend these booklovers and writers who don’t buy books, but that’s not the point.
In the context of local, I can completely understand where this bookseller is coming from. And this post isn’t about the bookseller or their question, because the context of the situation made if a fair question. However, in the ensuing responses, very few people have actually analyzed the situation and what reasonable bookstore owner expectations are, but have instead talked about how they always buy something at every bookstore they do a signing in.
No wonder authors are permanently broke.
I’ve got to tell you, when I travel I take the cheapest means available. Part of the reason is that I get to do a lot of traveling, while my husband gets to do a lot of working to pay the bills. So, when I go to Harrogate (for example) I weigh my bags before I leave and I know exactly how much stuff I can buy while I’m there (because I weigh them without books and then insert books until I’m at my luggage limit). I still ended up paying an overage last July, despite being careful. That happens.
But if I was doing 10 cities in the US, traveling around, I can honestly say that buying things would be least on my mind. First, the luggage aspect. Second, the cost. Third, customs.
I’m looking at it from a pragmatic viewpoint. Personally, I do think there’s a double standard on this. Do not even try to tell me if you owned a bookstore and Michael Connelly was willing to come and do a signing that you’d think twice about it unless he agreed to buy something in the store while he was there. If well-known authors come to town, people will happily host them because they’ll sell.
In my opinion – and I may well be corrected if wrong – it seems like a bit of a double standard. If you’re Mr. NY Times Bestseller, nobody will think twice if you do or don’t buy something while touring. If you’re Little Newcomer, people may well notice.
But toss that aside. Bottom line is, when you go out and meet with booksellers, you want to create a positive impression. It’s an important business relationship. You don’t want to fuck that up.
My own personal thinking is that authors need to promote their events, wherever they’ll be, and try to generate awareness and bring business to the store instead of just sitting back and expecting the bookstore to do it for them. In my opinion, that’s a better way to support the bookstore. I mean, think of it this way. Suppose you live in a city where there are five good bookstores and you like all of them. But you get a newsletter from your favourite author saying they’ll be at Bookstore C. If you’re me, you’re more likely to go to Bookstore C next time you’re looking for a book, and see what other author events they’re having. I mean, if they’re having my favourite author, they may have some other authors coming that I’d be interested in.
You know how we found out Michael Connelly was going to be in Calgary? A fluke. We went to the independent bookstore on our way to see Mark Billingham. I really should sign up for their newsletter.
All of this talk does leave me wondering. I have some concerns about the direction this topic goes in. Does touring, does who gets to have a book launch and local bookseller support really come down to whether or not the author buys something at every bookstore they visit?
I should ask JA Konrath – I doubt he bought something at all 500 bookstores he visited over the summer, but I could be wrong…
I’ve talked about this, from my standpoint, how I don’t read submissions from people I know. I’ve even had to make decisions about how to handle Killer Year books – which I’m not eligible to review. It just makes sense. If Killer Year authors want those reviews they can follow the same submission guidelines we ask all authors to follow re: sending ARCs, but somebody other than me will have to pick the book. I won’t make anyone, and I won’t ask them to go easy.
Just trying to keep a fair and level playing field for everyone.
So, the bookstore discussion unnerved me, because some of the responses made me think (and I could have misread them, or maybe I allowed my feelings on the subject to cloud my objectivity) that there are authors who buy at stores just to get readings. Would you really like that author any better if, a few months before each release they came in, told you about the new book, bought something, and then did a signing two months later and you didn’t see them for another 9 or 10 months?
And I say all of this as someone who lives about 50 km from the nearest bookstore and still resists buying on Amazon unless absolutely critical so that I do my bit to support the industry. It’s more than 70km each way to the nearest independent, and since it’s downtown it takes an hour to drive there, and an hour to drive back. Do I shop there every week? No. Do I shop there? Yes. I was there twice last month. That may not sound like a lot, but that’s as often as I went to Costco.
I’m telling you guys, there are so many things I didn’t even consider when I started writing. You know, it was just about writing. And now I have to think about all these things. Because it doesn’t matter what I think is best and proper and appropriate.
Really, all that matters is what’s expected. And if bookstore owners expect visiting authors to buy something at their store, then I need to factor that into the budget, and I need to factor that into the baggage allowance.
I seldom walk into a bookstore without buying something anyway, and I would be inclined to do whatever I could to support the bookstores that I did signings in, but damn, would someone please get on with the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Being a New Author so that we can know what we’re supposed to do? Because if there's an expectation then surely there must be an acceptable expenditure amount too? Is $8.99 enough, or must it go to two digits? To be honest, when a place hosts something for me or a group I'm organizing (like the MEs office did) I usually send chocolates or something. If I know it's possible I'll be going to someone's house I always try to take a gift for them. So, while there's definite frustration at this (one more thing to think about) I sincerely want to know what the expectations are.
I’m sure I’ve posted this before, but it seems appropriate today.
Ever wonder about those people who say they are giving more than 100%? We have all been to those meetings where someone wants over 100% How about achieving 103%? Here's a little math that might prove helpful.
What makes life 100%?
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z is represented as:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26.
H A R D W O R K
8 1 18 4 23 15 18 11 = 98%
K N O W L E D G E
11 14 15 23 12 5 4 7 5 = 96%
A T T I T U D E
1 20 20 9 20 21 4 5 = 100%
B U L L S H I T
2 21 12 12 19 8 9 20 = 103%
So, it stands to reason that hardwork and knowledge will get you close, attitude will get you there, but bullshit will put you over the top.
And look how far .........
A S S K I S S I N G
1 19 19 11 9 19 19 9 14 7 = 118%
will take you.
** After an evening of painkillers I've noticed that my typing is mostly backwards this morning, but I'm too lazy to check and see if this makes sense. Hope it does...