Monday, May 23, 2016

How NOT to Approach an Author for Advice

By Vicki Delany

It happened to me again recently.  Ask any professional author who does public appearances, and they’ll tell you it happens to them all the time.

I was at a public event, in a spot reserved for me to give me the opportunity to introduce my books to readers and possibly persuade a few to actually buy and read them.  I had travelled some distance from my home to be there.

A person arrived: “I’ve written a mystery book.”

That can only mean one thing.  They are here to ask me to spend fifteen or twenty minutes of my valuable time, potentially fifteen or twenty minutes when that one eager reader passes by not wanting to interrupt me, telling them how to get this book of theirs published. They will, of course, not compensate me in any way for this advice.

Here’s a tip to every single person who has ever approached an author at an event when they are WORKING. (Yes, talking to the public is work) PAY THEM FOR THEIR TIME.

All you have to do is buy a book.  And not only should that not be a sacrifice but if you want my advice, wouldn’t you want to see what my product is?

In addition s/he is carrying a cheaply produced trade paperback book.  That can also only mean one thing. They want me to read it. They probably want me to buy it, but they might offer to give it to me for free, as long as I promise to pass it on to my publishers.

In this case, s/he said they would buy one of my books as long as I bought the one they were carrying (cost of $30 as opposed to my mass markets which are ten).  We could then exchange reviews on Amazon.   

I was pretty blunt about that: I would never promise to review a book I hadn’t read.

This person then wanted to know all about my publisher.  H/she paid $3000 for 100 copies of this book.  Who was my publisher? Penguin Random House. How much did I pay them to publish my book?  Uh, I paid nothing .Things have changed, h/she told me. Publishers these days expect authors to self-publish one book before they’ll consider them.

Now, I’ve heard that one before. I suspect some vanity publishers or self-publishing ventures are spreading this rumor. If anything, it’s the opposite. Unless your self-published book has been a huge hit (think Fifty Shades of Gray)  all you’ve done is destroy your marketability as a first novel author, and give yourself such low sales numbers that no one will look at you.

Sorry, that’s the way it is.

This poor schmuck had self-published the first in a series and was looking for a traditional publisher to pick up the next.  Never, never gonna happen.

Finally h/she left, book still under arm, and probably very unhappy with me.

Tough, I’m sorta losing patience, here. Not only with people who think my time and my professional advice, after 23 published books, isn’t worth forking out $10 to read what I produce, but who think they can make a success as a mystery writer with no research into the industry, no classes to learn the craft and the business, and no need to seek advice from the people you supposedly want to emulate (before taking that first, fatal step). 

I don't think there's anything wrong with self-publishing. But DON'T think it’s a natural step to a traditional publisher and DO go into it knowing exactly what you can expect. 

Oh, and buddy. If you want to sell books, ask yourself who’s going to buy them. Because obviously you are not.


Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

Great post Vicki. I had something similar happen to me at Chapters in St. Catherines (a good 2 hour drive for me). It was my first bookstore signing and a woman (holding the latest Louise Penny book to purchase) proceeded to tell me that she was writing a book (and had been doing so for about 7 years) and what advice did I have etc. etc. I tried to be polite and give some advice (something along the lines of, "it's time to finish that puppy , and you're not going to find a publisher if you haven't finished the book."). I then made a point of mentioning I was there to sell MY book. She told me she didn't read Canadian Crime Fiction! When I pointed out that Louise Penny was Canadian and wrote crime fiction, she muttered something and wandered off. Happy Ending: She came back with her partner about 20 min. later. The partner bought my book :-)

Charlotte Hinger said...

Vicki, the first rule I give in writing workshops is DO NOT GIVE ANYONE ANY MONEY. Why is that so hard to get across? Publishers pay you. You do not pay them.