Friday, November 20, 2009

Oh, Behave!

By Deborah Sharp

I had a lovely Author's Tea last night in Okeechobee, the small, countrified Florida town that's the real-life inspiration for my books' fictional setting. Pretty china teapots and a hand-crocheted tablecloth transformed a meeting room at the public library into a parlor. My friend and fellow author Jan Day generously promoted me on her home turf. And the readers couldn't have been warmer, or more welcoming.

Which makes the contrast with another event earlier in the week all the more jarring. A friend who runs a bookstore has a theory: The number of candy wrappers she spots on the floor always predicts the level of rudeness in the crowd. Let's just say I waded through a sea of wrappers at this earlier event, held in the much more urban setting of South Florida, where I live.

A woman in the front row smacked and popped her gum so exuberantly, I feared I'd have to stop talking to pick bubblegum-pink flecks off my face. Someone else took a cell phone call in the middle of my presentation. One brazen old gal cut to the front of the signing line, and then kept pushing books at me from her cronies near the back. I was prepared to shove the line-cutter back to her rightful spot when an annoyed cut-ee did it for me. We were lucky, I guess, the police weren't called.

Where are people's manners?

And it's not just readers. I've also seen plenty of authors behaving badly. One Florida writer I know got drunk at a signing and tumbled off the podium. At the crowded, confusing Miami Book Fair, another author snapped at a fairgoer who spotted our official-looking table and innocently asked for directions:

''We're here to sign books, not help you find your way.''

She could have just pointed out the Book Fair volunteer standing three feet away who could have provided assistance. And how about those panel-hog authors at conventions? On they drone, as eyes glaze over in the audience and their fellow panelists drum their fingers on the table and seethe.

Why don't people behave?

Yeah, I know public venting isn't polite, either. But I have a final rant before I open the floor to comments. I'm the first to say booksellers deserve a special place in heaven, and I've met some truly wonderful ones in the year since my first Mace Bauer Mystery came out. Except for the one I met recently who acted like I was too insignificant an author and Midnight Ink was too obscure a publisher for this store to possibly carry my books. When I suggested she might want to see one of our catalogs, she said, ''I'm not bored. I don't have to comb through catalogs and search out new books to sell in my store.''

Really? Isn't that your job?

Okay, enough. What's your favorite example of an author, reader or bookseller behaving badly? Names can be withheld to protect the ill-mannered .... or not.


Alan Orloff said...

Wow, those are some "good" stories. Unfortunately, I've never witnessed any ill-mannered authors or readers at signings or conferences. (I think fisticuffs at a signing would make it very memorable.)

Oh well, there's always next year!

Lisa Bork said...

Gee, Deb, I guess I've got to get out more, but now I'm afraid to!

Jessica Lourey said...

I love posts like this, Deb! I'm a big fan of public venting, though I have to note that I'm impressed you have a line to cut into at your signings. :)

Shortly after May Day came out, I ran into an author at a conference. I had his book, held it out, and said I'd bought it and could he sign it? He said, "Oh, you're the one," took my pen and walked away. ???

I WANT to see a drunk author fall off the stage. That's worth the price of admission.

Beth Groundwater said...

Hi Deb,
Great post! I will add that when I do bookstore signings, I scope out where the restrooms are first (usually because I need them after the long drive there!) and where the information counter is. Then, when store customers ask me at my signing table where the restroom is, I can say, "Oh yes, I found it when I first arrived. It's over there." And when they ask me where they can find the Twilight books, I can answer, "I'm a visiting author signing my books, but the information counter is right over there. They can help you." Usually the customer is embarrassed or grateful enough to stay or come back and ask me about my books.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Oh geez, how much time do we have? At my first LA Times Festival I signed next to an author who was really doing a hard sell on a woman. When the woman walked away without buying the book, the author muttered "bitch" under her breath. I'm sure the woman heard her.

There is one bookstore I will never go into again because of the rudeness of the owner. And I mean NEVER. And no, it's not here in LA.

And I've seen drunk authors on panels.

Cricket McRae said...

Wow. Great stories! I haven't seen any drunks on panels -- yet. Just had a few hecklers at readings and, yes, there is one bookstore I'll never, ever return to. But for the most part the bookish sorts I encounter are quite nice, completely outweighing the obnoxious ones.

At least so far. ; - >

Mike Dennis said...

Great post, Deb. It's about time someone called out these rude people.

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Deborah Sharp said...

Hey, y'all ... thanks for reading. Alan, just wait ... you'll have your own stories to report; L: Nothing to fear but ... rudeness! J: Ha! It was a short line, but apparently not short enuf for that cutter to wait. B: I've learned that trick about the b-rooms, too. Only takes a moment to point them out. SA: Knew you'd have some good moments to tell. C: Hecklers? Do tell! Do you have some Don Rickles type lines to shut them up?
Last thought ... we're STILL lucky we're authors, even with the occasional weirdos and rudies, right?

Anonymous said...

It was rather interesting for me to read the blog. Thanx for it. I like such themes and anything that is connected to them. I would like to read a bit more on that blog soon.

Keith Raffel said...

Deb, I envy the massive lines of buyers you attract who riot as they wait for you to sign their books.

Victoria Allman said...

Tonight, at the Roger Daultry concert, he had to stop the show to yell at people in the front rows who were talking and distracting him. He actually had to do this twice before they finally left. The show went on and the rest of the audience had a great time. But, it got me thinking about your blog and what to do with rude people.
Maybe you could become the rebel author who throws people out of her booksignings. "Mama" could lecture these people and teach them a few manners.
It works for celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsey, who throws diners out of his restaurant if they insult him just by ordering their steak wrong. The press eat it up.
Deb Sharp, the take-no-crap author.

G.M. Malliet said...

I cannot imagine anyone heckling an author during a reading! That is...obnoxious? I don't know. We'd have to make up a new word for it.