Monday, September 24, 2007

They Don't Get It

How many times have I been asked, “Is it in the library?” When people find out I am a writer, and they show an interest in the book, so many times they ask me if they can get it in the library. Doesn’t it seem like they would use better judgment? I find it so rude, but they never bat an eye. I know they must see the confounded look on my face, and they must wonder what that is all about. My standard reply is that I don’t know—even if I do know. They can go to the trouble of finding out themselves.

Another winner is when you are at a miserable booksigning and someone asks where John Grisham’s (or some author who makes scads more $$$$ than me) latest book is. And have you ever noticed how many whackos frequent book stores? Or do they just come out when I’m around?

Friends and relatives. That’s another story. They are so proud to tell me they have lent my book to everyone they know! Don’t they get the point that I’m trying to make a living here? They should be out there cheerleading and telling others to buy, buy, buy! And most of the time I have GIVEN them the book! But I don’t have the heart to be frank and tell them to knock it off, so I make a joke about it. Still I don’t think they get it. I honestly also think they believe I get all the books I desire (my own books) for free.

Then there is the group who want to know where I got the book printed. Oh well, I suppose they find it hard to believe that I am a REAL writer. Actually, so do I sometimes.

If only I could get a hook-up with Oprah, then everything would change.


Nina Wright said...

I'm smiling in empathy. Nice post, Lynn! Yes, I've noticed the whackos at bookstores (and libraries and coffee shops and writers' conferences). But we gotta love 'em because some of 'em eventually buy our books.

At a signing, one purchaser informed me that he was buying the book only because it was written by someone with his last name: Mattimoe. When I pointed out that it was a Whiskey Mattimoe Mystery written by Nina Wright, he was utterly crestfallen. I could see the wheels turning and fully expected him to drop the book and high-tail it out of the store. Instead, he said, "Well, okay, you can sign it. But I really wish you were Whiskey Mattimoe."

Sometimes so do I....

Mark Terry said...

Huh. I was thinking it was just me. I used to listen to the "I loaned your book to all my friends and they just loved it" with the thought: "Shit, now there's music to an author's ears: a dozen readers for every sale."

Now I just shrug and say, "Glad they liked it." And hope all those twelve will buy the next book themselves.

I've had all those experiences. And more than my fair share of wackos.

I also have the feeling that there's a lot more people thinking things are self-published now because, well, there are a lot more things self-published now. And thanks to technology, it can be hard to tell by just looking at the book. Particularly if it's published in trade paperback format.

Lynn Sholes said...

I actually had a guy come up and talk to me at a signing in a mall. He seemed normal--but didn't buy a book. About 30 minutes later he comes back, stands outside the store on the opposite side and starts SCREAMING at me, "Are you Jewish or Christian?" He yelled it over and over and this was when I was writing historical fiction, not the kind of book I'm writing now. Security finally came and took him away. Freaked me out.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

We've all had our share of strange encounters at signings. I once had a woman say she wouldn't buy my book until I told her my stand on's pro-choice...she didn't by the book. Did I sulk about it... absolutely not.

I think in order to keep up the energy needed to interact with all sorts of people and to stay the course for the long haul, we need for focus on positive things. Yes, I would prefer that people BUY my books instead of loaning them or borrowing them. And yes, a lot of people are pretty clueless and insensitive towards authors and the book biz, but libraries account for a large number of sales and not everyone can afford to buy all the books they want to read (see the recent posting on used books).

I get e-mails from readers almost every day. Many tell me they learned about my books via the library or from reading a friend’s copy, and most of these readers tell me they can’t wait for the next one to come out so they can BUY it.

It goes back to what I’ve said before. Every book out there, whether bought new, used or borrowed, is a potential seed for more sales in the future.

Keith Raffel said...

I've been invited to speak at book groups in people's homes and seen participants with library copies. I think it's kinda like what's happening with newspapers. People, especially those under 30, want edited stories, but won't pay for them. OTOH, when I was signing at a bookstore yesterday, several people bought to "support a local author." Unfortunately, all those supporters were over 50.

Felicia Donovan said...

Great one, Lynn. A similar discussion appeared recently on another blog about the role libraries play in book sales. I agree with Sue Ann, that it plants seeds for future readers. I confess that I read most of my books "on the cheap" (yard sales, library, etc), but once I find an author I like, I will go out and buy another book of theirs and I will always buy a book at a local signing to support the author.

As for the whackos, we deal with them at work all the time and most are pretty harmless. Many are lost souls just needing attention. We have one that visits all the time and I'm thinking one of these days, I'm going to have to make her appear as a character. I try to think of everyone as potential characters, not potential threats.

Paul Lamb said...

There has to be some amount of flattery when a potential reader asks if your book is in the library. Granted, it's not a sale, but it is possibly a reader of your hard work, isn't it? Isn't that worth something? If they like your fiction, mightn't they buy a book of it in the future?

Or am I simply naive?