Monday, May 7, 2007


You know I've met a lot of writers over the years, and almost always they are down to earth, generous, and friendly. But then . . . Well, I'm sure we have all met some folks (writers or not) who just get too big for their britches. So here's a little story that still makes me laugh. Joe Moore (my co-writer) and I were at a writers conference and there were some pretty big names there. We were tiny little fish (maybe even plankton) in a huge sea. One of the days at the conference we were manning a table and giving out information on a writers' organization. The room we were in had a beautiful view of the river, and we could see the tour boats glide past. As we sat there, often with our jaws agape at some of the rich and famous authors among us, one big kahuna stopped at our table. He/she (don't want to reveal the gender) picked up one of the brochures and made the following statement. "Oh, I could take some of these with me while I'm on toooooooour." I guess it was the pretentious way he spoke the word "tour" that set Joe off. Toooooooour. As soon as Big Kahuna turned his back, Joe nodded toward the river and said to me (as if he were speaking to the big kahuna), "Well, we're taking the two o'clock river tooooour, which one are you taking?" I thought I would roll off my chair. To this day, all we have to say to each other is the word "toooooour" and we break out in hysterical laughter. (Maybe you had to be there)

Then of course there is also the very humbling experience of asking someone to blurb your book. I'd say 99% of those we have asked have responded courteously. Some have agreed, and others because of schedules or demands have declined, which they did quite graciously. Even if they just didn't want to be bothered, they knew how to be polite about it. Only on one occasion when we asked an author, face-to-face, for a blurb did we get a very clear too-big-for-his-britches response. People like that shouldn't have such success.

I've also gone to hear writers speak and sign books. I've seen Stephen King sit and sign books until every one waiting got a copy. And he personally looked up at every fan and acknowledged him. Yet once I met a flash-in-the-pan author who got way too big for his britches. He had an announcement made that he would only sign 100 books and would not personalize any of them. And sure enough, as soon as the 100th book was signed, he got up and left. And I might say, he never even made eye contact with a single person buying his book. Yikes. That kind of thing gives writers a bad name. We can't forget that it's readers who give us success. Be thankful for heaven's sake. What's up with being rude to the very ones who got you where you are?

Lord, I do hope to one day have the OPPORTUNITY to get too big for my britches, and hopefully I will decline to do so.


Mark Terry said...

The majority of big and/or famous authors I have met or talked to on the phone have been gracious and generous. From time to time I run into one who isn't and I'm forced to step back and say, "huh?"

Of course, it's the smallest animals that can be most vicious, and I've seen more of that sort of behavior at cons from unknowns than I have from famous writers. Maybe it all just comes down to human nature.

Mark Combes said...

"I guess it was the pretentious way HE spoke the word "tour" that set Joe off." "He?" Lynne, you've created a mystery here by the slightest of slips!

Yeah, it's those kind of people you just want to push down. Just lookin' for a little humanity - and humility - in this world....

Joe Moore said...

The good news is that "he" has given us both so many opportunities to not only have a great laugh, but realize that we can never take ourselves (or anyone else) too seriously. We're not saving the whales here, just making stories up and hoping someone will want to read them.

Happy touring!

Nina Wright said...

Wonderful observations, Lynne! Thanks for sharing.

In my experience at writers' events, it's the midlist authors who can be the rudest to those of us farther down the bookstore foodchain. The Big Names generally dole out noblesse oblige.

One midlist author--whom I will let wallow in anonymity--prides herself on coldly informing newer novelists--and I quote--"I do this for money. I always have. I'm in it to make a living. Period. For me it's always and only about selling myself, which I'm damn good at."

She then went on to lecture us newbies about building a wardrobe around the colors of our latest book covers so that we could always be a walking billboard, and also about finding ways to mention our latest book to every single person we encountered. We then watched her do that with busboys, janitors, et. al.

I think we were supposed to fall down on our knees in awe and humility, but to this day whenever I think of her (which isn't often), I think of her as a Publishing Ho. And a humorless one, at that.

Rashenbo said...

Well, I only hope that one day I will be in a position to remember these good words of advice... until then, I must just hammer away at my keyboard and complain along with my other unpublished writer buddies :)

Julia Buckley said...

I, too, have been humbled by some "I am bigger than you" attitudes. Like all of you, I've met mostly nice people. However, the worst was when I met a relatively successful writer who said they would be happy to read my book, no promises if it wasn't their cup of tea.

This sounded totally fair to me, so I sent on the book--and never heard from the person again, nor did I get responses to my "did you get the manuscript" e-mail. I was even gracious enough to think it was some sort of family crisis until I found out that the author did the exact same thing to another newbie.

I would have far preferred being told "Sorry, I'm too busy right now" than to be encouraged to waste a manuscript that would never be returned or acknowledged. But we live and learn.

G.M. Malliet said...

I've never met a big-time author who wasn't completely gracious and generous with his/her time.

Maybe the big names got where they are by being smart enough to acknowledge how much plain old luck is involved in this business.