Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Fed Up To Here (BSP pet peeves)

This continues my thoughts on BSP, so you might want to read my Killer Year post first and then come back for my rant, and the final day of the ARC contest.

I’m not a good person to annoy. Let me tell you a story. A few years ago, when we still lived in Vancouver, I was jogging up the stairs as the phone rang. I was in such a rush to get it before the machine picked up I did something I seldom do – I answered it without looking at the call display.

I said hello a few times. Finally someone said hello back. Then they said, in an assertive manner, “Is this Mrs. EYEnarson.” Okay, don’t know this voice, they said my name wrong…

“Who’s calling?”

“Is this Mrs. Einarson?”

”Who’s calling?”

We repeated that a few more times before the person finally said, “(company I won’t name because Kevin would have a fit) - Is this Mrs. Einarson?”

But the guy had slurred the words so fast, and I was angry, so I had to ask him to repeat what he said. I should have just hung up.

He actually screamed at me, “Are you going to answer my questions?”

Hell no, buddy. I’m not. By this time, the fact that he was calling from (company I won’t name because Kevin would have a fit) was a telemarketer, and was unbelievably rude had all sunk in.

I hung up the phone and called directory assistance. Using the number that had registered, I was able to track the call center in Ontario. And I reported the incident to a manager there, along with an explanation of why I would never consider using their services in the future as a result of that call.

Now, we’ve had a security issue in our family. I don’t automatically identify myself to anyone I don’t know on the phone. This is common sense. In fact, when we moved in here, I was being harassed by someone about cleaning our furnace. We have a boiler. Five calls along, the guy thought I was the kid. When he asked me when my mother would be home I said, “I’m not allowed to tell strangers that on the phone.”

He hasn’t called back since.

But friends, I’ve got to ask you – what the hell is a salesperson like this thinking? Ask a kid when their mother’s coming home? WTF? If I ever caught my niece or nephew answering that to a stranger I’d go ballistic on the caller, and I’d contact the media.

And I don’t think I’m overreacting. That shows a complete lack of common sense, and as someone who’s spent years working in the field of education, my radar is perhaps a bit too sensitive, but I’d rather lean that way.

Not to mention, I hate telemarketers to begin with. I mean, come on. People who knock at my door while I’m about to sit down to dinner with my husband or phone and impose on my time while I’m working frustrate the hell out of me. I can’t even stand it when salespeople hover when I go into stores, which means I’m actually looking for something. Imposing on my time, my space? If you add getting the slightest bit snippy to that you’re toast.

I recently saw a publisher moaning about how hard it is to promote new authors. Oddly enough, this is one I’d emailed about reviews, who never wrote me back. Do you want to promote or do you want to complain?

Look, I’m not saying it’s easy. It isn’t. But I lose sympathy for people who make reckless suggestions to authors, and who don’t even seek out viable opportunities right in front of them.

The sad thing is, the people who are horrid and abusive with BSP will still be awful long after people have forgotten about this post, because they really don’t seem to understand how their actions make them look, and if people feel defensive, they’ll cling to the one positive result and tune out the negatives.

It’s the people like me, who don’t want to turn into nothing but self-promoters, who will take all of this to heart, perhaps withdraw for fear of offending people.

This is the most delicate balance to walk. New authors have no choice but to find ways to reach readers. Most new authors just don’t get the push from the publishers that’s needed to get nominated for awards, to get press buzz, to get on panels at conferences, to get carried in bookstores, or even to get blurbs or reviews. The authors, more and more, have to deal with this themselves.

Then we’ve got people complaining on forums about books being delayed. Well, duh. When, exactly, are the authors supposed to write and edit when they’re so busy marketing?

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll do events gladly. If I can get on panels, that’s fantastic. But for me, the point is that I’m interested in talking to readers. It’s worth it to me to make myself available that way, which is, in part, why I have my email address available online. Although some of my lingering shyness that exerts itself at times might be interpreted as snobbishness, in truth I want to be approachable. I’m working on it.

I’m just a person, who’s passionate about books and particularly mysteries, an avid reader and reviewer (and interviewer and editor), who happens to be a writer, who managed to sell a book, which means I’m a soon-to-be-published author.

But the latter means that, to many, I’m no longer qualified as any of the former. I’ve been slotted into another category, and can never undo that.

Which, to me, is sad. Because I always want to express my enthusiasm for the works of Ian Rankin, for his influence that turned me to writing crime fiction. For Val McDermid and how she taught me to add a new dimension to what I was doing. For Stuart MacBride, a friend, an awesome talent and rising star in the crime fiction world. For Cornelia Read, another friend, someone who has become a confidante, the shoulder I always know I have if I need. For Mark Billingham, who has often provided ears, shoulders and wisdom, and Simon Kernick, who has encouraged me so much…

For all of them and so many many more, who I’ve loved first as authors, their books captivating me and inspiring me. Also people I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know and admire.

It’s just so damn easy for me to tell you to buy their books. Because their books are fantastic, compelling reads I’ve enjoyed immensely.

Doesn’t hurt that they’re all great people too.

But buy my book? I hope some people do, but not because I pressured them into it.

Perhaps the wisdom is at Killer Year today, with the comments I collected from readers.

Here, I just had to vent.

Because last night I deleted a dozen spam posts from my blog that all came in within a few hours.

And it really pissed me off.

Jason Pinter’s latest Killer Year blog post, 20 Surefire Tips To Get Your Book Published has to be one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long while. If you missed it, check it out!

Want more reader thought on the topic? Check out this thread on Mark Billingham’s talk zone. Skip the first post, where I ask forum members their opinions. Do they mind having other authors participate on Mark’s forum? Does it influence them to try new books?

You might find the answers interesting.

Win an ARC of my debut novel!
So, you can enter for every day. I don’t care, I’m easy. I’ll put all the names into a hat, and announce a winner eventually. The questions go back to my post last Thursday, and they all have clues.

Today, what will my question be?

I’ll give you three questions – you can answer any one of them. Answer two and you get entered twice.

1. The name of The Author Formerly Known As God
2. The name of the author who wrote The Torment of Others (which, despite the beliefs of local booksellers, is not a true crime book)
3. The name of the author who has a blog called On Life And Other Inconveniences

Oh, and I don’t think I said anywhere that you actually needed to answer correctly.

Email and you can enter for all 7 days. Okay okay, I’ll announce the winner tomorrow, although the ARC won’t be available until next month.

JT sent me this joke, and it seemed appropriate today…
A minister concluded that his church was getting into serious financial trouble. While checking the church storeroom, he discovered several cartons of new bibles that had never been opened and distributed. So at his Sunday sermon, he asked for three volunteers from the congregation who would be willing to sell the bibles door-to-door for $10 each to raise the desperately needed money for the church. Peter, Paul and
Louie all raised their hands to volunteer for the task. The minister knew that Peter and Paul earned their living as salesmen and were likely capable of selling some bibles. But he had serious doubts about Louie who was a local farmer, who had always kept to himself because he was embarrassed by his speech impediment. Poor Louie stuttered badly. But, not wanting to discourage Louie, the minister decided to let him try anyway. He sent the three of them away with the back seat of their cars stacked with bibles. He asked them to meet with him and report the results of their door-to-door selling efforts the following Sunday.

Anxious to find out how successful they were, the minister immediately asked Peter, "Well, Peter, how did you make out selling our bibles last week?"

Proudly handing the reverend an envelope, Peter replied, "Using my sales prowess, I was able to sell 20 bibles, and here's the $200 I collected on behalf of the church."

"Fine job, Peter!" the minister said, vigorously shaking his hand "You are indeed a fine salesman and the church is indebted to you."

Turning to Paul, "And Paul, how many bibles did you sell for the church last week?"

Paul, smiling and sticking out his chest, confidently replied, "I am a professional salesman. I sold 28 bibles on behalf of the church, and here's $280 I collected."

The minister responded, "That's absolutely splendid, Paul. You are truly a professional salesman and the church is also indebted to you."

Apprehensively, the minister turned to Louie and said, "And Louie, did you manage to sell any bibles last week?"

Louie silently offered the minister a large envelope. The reverend opened it and counted the contents.

"What is this?" the minister exclaimed. "Louie, there's $3,200 in here!
Are you suggesting that you sold 320 bibles for the church, door-to-door, in just one week?

Louie just nodded.

"That's impossible!" both Peter and Paul said in unison. "We are professional salesmen, yet you claim to have sold 10 times as many bibles as we could."

"Yes, this does seem unlikely," the minister agreed. "I think you'd better explain how you managed to accomplish this, Louie."

Louie shrugged. "I-I-I re-re-really do-do-don't kn-kn-know f-f-f-for sh-sh-sh-sure," he stammered.

Impatiently, Peter interrupted. "For crying out loud, Louie, just tell us what you said to them when they answered the door!"

"A-a-a-all I-I-I- s-s-said wa-wa-was," Louie replied, "w-w-w-w-would y-y-y-you l-l-l-like t-t-to b-b-b-buy th-th-th-this b-b-b-b-bible f-f-for t-t-ten b-b-b-bucks, o-o-or wo-wo-would yo-you j-j-j-just l-l-like m-m-me t-t-to st-st-stand h-h-here and r-r-r-read it t-t-to y-y-you?


Bill Cameron said...

I think that guy called me. Reminds me of the story of the guy who tried to quit AOL and ran into, well, a demon from the very bowels of hell.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Who created that link down there? Man, I've tried to do that before and failed... How'd it happen this time?

Bill, you know what irked me? That damn company phoned back this week! And when I told the guy to take me off the list, he said nothing. And I said it again, and he said... nothing! Just dead air on the phone. I finally hung up.


Bill Cameron said...

I think there is a certain kind of madness needed to be a telemarketer. A kind of pre-sociopathy. Not as bad as some creepy, soulless killer with dead eyes. But close. Sometimes disturbingly close.

angie said...

My first job many, many moons ago as a freshman in college was as a telemarkerter. It sucked - I lasted a grand total of 3 weeks. Not only did I feel like an ass (exceptionally shy person here, knowingly invading people's private time), but people were evil rude. I had one guy go off on a diatribe about how he didn't have time to answer questions because he was busy doing a survey of his own on various kinds of condoms. Hey, I was more than happy to say "okay, thanks for your time" and hang up when people said "no," but the condom guy just freaked me out. Man. The things I used to do for beer money!

Sandra Ruttan said...

Bill, is that another plot forming? I think you might be on to something there.

Angie, I sympathize with people desperate for a job. Completely. I've never been a telemarketer, and I'm glad. It's bad enough people and circumstances sometimes make me email people I don't know for various reasons. Why is it I love getting emails from strangers and find it so hard to write them myself?

But I'd really understand the job if you said it was to buy Canadian beer. :)

JamesO said...

I once had a long conversation with a telemarketer from Sky telly, but only because she had this gorgeous Western Isles accent. I probable ruined her sales average for that week because there was no way I was going to buy anything from her.

More often than not, telesales people calling here are actually based in Delhi, and whilst I'm sure their English is infinitely better than my Hindi, I still can't understand them most of the time.

But the sad thing is, telesales works. People really do make their purchasing decisions based on random calls from strangers. They must do, otherwise the marketers would have abandoned the technique long ago. As the old saw goes, no-one ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the general populace.

Sandra Ruttan said...

James, it works?

I've misplaced your number, can you email it to me again?

Bill Cameron said...

Hmmm, John Carpenter's The Telemarketer...

Julia Buckley said...

We've had a "No Solicitors" sign up on our door for eleven years, and not one solicitor has ever acknowledged it and walked away. And in these days of assorted technology, I don't feel obligated to answer my door, or my phone, to anyone that I don't recognize as a friend or family member. If you're someone other than that, you should call me before you come to my door, anyway.

In the same way, I think e-solicitors don't acknowledge any potential barriers in their path. And I only see this problem growing worse.


Tracy Sharp - Author of the Leah Ryan Series said...

I had a really rude one call for the boss here, and when I wouldn't let him through he started yelling at me. But I've read somewhere that some of these guys are working from prison. So it's no surprise.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Bill, sounds like a winner! LOL!

Julia, I used to have one of those signs. Obviously, door to door salespeople are illiterate. Unfortunately, because of our old house, the windows were nailed on and we don't have great ventilation short of taking them off (we need new windows!) so we tend to leave the front door open and just have the screen door locked. Plus the cats can look outside at the birds then.

So, they think it's like an invitation to try the door handle. Which really irks me.

Trace, I had a horrid work experience! Interestingly enough from another phone company - my horror story was a different phone company.

This is why I'm with Telus and not one of the competitors.

Anonymous said...

Our residence is provided as part of my husband's job contract. This means that our address and phone number are not published anywhere, and we don't pay any sort of utilities or property taxes so the only telemarketers we have to worry about are the stupid credit card people. Oh, and the fact that the person who lived there before us had the same first name as me, so when people call and ask for her, and I unwittingly say, Yes?, they start rambling on about some cause she belonged to.

The credit card people are absolutely relentless though. I given up answering the phone between five and seven pm., mainly because I'm tired of expending the energy to hang up on them. Norby

Daniel Hatadi said...

My girlfriend often gets asked if she is Mrs. Hatadi. Since we're not married, her response is to press the button that says 'END CALL.'

WannabeMe said...

Which is why I had to switch to moderation on my blog - trolls. Ick. And I'm a nobody, how does a nobody get a troll?

Sandra Ruttan said...

Norby, can't say I blame you! This is why we have call display. I used to have a message on my machine that said if you're calling for Sandra and Kevin, please leave a message. If you're a telemarketer get lost.

Well, or something a bit less polite.

Daniel, she should say she is Daniel Hatadi and that her wife will be home soon, do they want to make something of it? I had that happen when I was at a pastor's house and answered the phone - okay, the caller had no idea it was a pastor's house, just assumed I must be Mrs. ---- This is when you say, "No, the jerk. He won't propose, he won't commit! Men, I swear..." and make it sound like you're settling in for a good cry. That's how to make telemarketers hang up on you.

I swear I only did that once, but it was good fun.

Most of the time, if they call continuously I just open the line on the phone but don't say anything. About a minute later, I hang up. Cheap entertainment.

Dana, you aren't a nobody. You're friends with the famous Sandra Ruttan!

I am so going to get Mindy for that one day. When she's the famous Miss Ginsu Tongue. Notice the initials are the same? So appropriate.

Anonymous said...

We used to get looooads of telesales calls, but then we did that opt-out, tps thing. Can't remember where it's based, but you can register online for free, and it's basically a company that provides lists of "banned" numbers to various companies. If a UK based company calls you after that, they're breaking the law, even if they call from outside the UK. I was sceptical at first, but it's halved the telesales we get, if not more.

Fortunately, when they do call, it's usually from abroad and so there's a two or three second pause after you pick the phone up. Gives you plenty of time to rest the receiver down gently on its side and go off and do something else.

s.w. vaughn said...

Ah, fun with telemarketers! I think I had the same conversation with someone from AOL as that poor, unfortunate man in the Youtube recording...

When it comes to BSP, what bugs me is people who clearly refuse to consider there is a reason they haven't been picked up by a trad or agent, and use their website to rail against the "industry" that's keeping them down while trying to get people to spend $30 on their POD piece of crap.

(Now, now, I'm not in the way of having anything against POD -- it's damned hard to get published anywhere, and I admire anyone who tries to self-publish...when they have taken the time to learn the craft first. It's the arrogant ones that bother me!)

Sela Carsen said...

We did that Do Not Call listing, too. People kept trying to sell me timeshares in Arkansas. No. Thank you.

Promo bites. I'm an extrovert and promo still bites.


I swear that whisper follows me everywhere!

s.w. vaughn said...

Funny... out of nowhere, I just got this urge to buy Sela's book next week! :-)

Anonymous said...

A slightly different take on the self-publishing thing. Obviously, there are the standard criticisms and difficulties with it, but my friend Simon Logan ( is actively talking about going down that route for different reasons. He has a pretty strong cult following, and always has loads of projects on the go, but he's yet to land a deal with a "big" publisher. While he tries to do that with more commercial book-length projects, he's considering using to self-publish other new projects - novellas, and books the mainstream might pass on - to keep his profile up and make sure his existing fans have something new to buy.

Not trying to flog the site or him here, but to me it seems quite a canny bit of self-promotion. From what I remember, there's not much outlay for the author, and it allows you to build up a body of published work without any massively terrifying copyright issues. Also good for ARCs.

Am I sounding too much like a salesman? I just thought it was interesting when he told me, because I've generally associated self-publishing with "being-a-bit-crap-if-we're-honest" - as an alternative to traditional publishing. When there's no reason why it can't be something a more 'established' writer can utilise as well.

s.w. vaughn said...

Steve, absolutely. I've heard of many authors who choose to self-publish for various reasons, and I think it's an excellent avenue -- as long as you do your homework, you are prepared for the harsh realities of self-publishing, and you write a damned good book!! :-)

Sounds like your friend's doing things right. Cheers!

Sandra Ruttan said...

Ohhh, nice, subtle promotion Sela! See, it's working already!

Steve, I should look into that. I wonder if they have that here.

And SW, Steve, I agree it's a tricky line about self-publishing. No joke that one person who responded to my questions told me if I was self-published to forget about it, fwiw. I know for me, I never wanted to be self-published. Somebody else had to believe in what I was doing. We used LULU for the Spinetingler Anthology just so we could afford to do it. I don't regret that, but for my own work, it needs to have somebody else's name on the spine.

Just my opinion anyway. Although I can understand why others feel differently and respect their choices.

Anonymous said...

I think the best way for someone to promote is just to be themselves and post because they want to. You can tell the people who are posting just to self-promote and for no other reason. There's a lot of lovely people I've met on the blog trail and I'll be buying their books for this reason.

I have the same technique with telemarketers, hang up or shut the door. I know that they're obviously doing it for the money but there are other jobs to be had that is not based on the job description of harrassing people in their own home.

Australia is introducing the banned phone number register and I'll be the first one down.