Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What is it about writers?

As everyone is probably sick of hearing about, I'm in the middle of a marathon 3-month book "tour". That term in quotes is used loosely since I'm only traveling around the Greater Toronto Area (or GTA) signing in the big Canadian chain, Chapters/Indigo.

The vast majority of the signings have been enjoyable -- and successful -- but this past week's "singleton" on Saturday (I was helping to shear alpacas on Sunday. Long story...) brought something into sharp focus: other writers seldom buy books.

I had three of 'em this week: one had published 3 books many years ago, one is about to have one published and one of them is working on becoming a writer. I don't think any of them bought a book (I'm certain that two didn't.). But boy, did they take up my time. A lot of people walked by as they were bending my ear, telling me about themselves.

This is certainly not the first time this has happened, and I'm positive it doesn't happen only to me, but it is a legitimate phenomenon. Maybe every other signing, a writer of one kind or another drops by and wants to chat, usually for an extended period, maybe wants to pick your brain, but in the end, they never seem to buy. I have even pushed on occasion just to see what might happen and they seem firm in their resolve that they ain't there for any other purpose but to speak with you.

Now I'm wondering what's going through their brains? Are they looking for some sort of confirmation from me? Do they want to make me aware that they're "special" too? Would buying my book somehow be "uncool"? You'd think they'd understand what it is like to be sitting there with a large pile of books that you'd really like to whittle down by the end of the signing.

And yet, when they finally depart, the stack is stubbornly the same size as it was 5, 10, 15 minutes before.

How come? I am puzzled. Any thoughts from you Type M types?

PS I am not talking about other Crime Fiction (or CF) writers. They're usually more than supportive. Why just a few months ago, someone was chastising me on this very blog for not being forceful enough in talking about my new book. He'd already ordered one!


Vicki Delany said...

I have definately noticed that myself. I'd say that as soon as someone tells you they're a writer, you can write off a sale. A happy exception, however, was this week at Prime Crime in Ottawa when a whole writers group came to meet me, complete with spouses, and they all bought books, even some of the back list. Come to think of it - it might have been the spouses who bought.

Charles benoit said...

Yes this happens - far too often, and just as often with pre-published authors looking for a way in to the published world. I find a way to slip in something like this:" One of the most important things you need to learn is focused marketing - for example, I'm here doing this signing - I only have X hours, so I have to get busy. If you want to buy a book, that would be great, if not, here's my card, drop me a note and we can hat via email." And it's true, I will chat, but they seldom write. I think they just like to talk about writing with another author.
That's Theory 1. Theory 2 is that writers are cheap bastards. I still have some research to do to check each theory, though.

Rick Blechta said...

A great tip, Charles. Thanks!