Meeting Your Favorite Authors – Always Good?

Although in-person book tours are becoming less common, many readers have attended a group book signing or made an effort to see their favorite writers in person. While I’ve found meeting an author face-to-face is normally a stellar experience, occasionally, I’ve been disappointed. On the other side of that coin, meeting an author who’s a wonderful person can impact my opinion of his or her writing.

SignatureRecently, I’ve met authors whose worked I liked but wasn’t over the moon about until I talked with them in person. Because they’re nice people—genuine and generous—I want to support their writing careers with my money. I’ll buy anything they write from now until the end of the world.

Unfortunately, personal interactions with authors aren’t always so positive. A few years ago at the National RWA (Romance Writers of America) conference I was standing in line for coffee behind a fairly prominent romantic suspense author. She was griping about the hotel, the conference, pretty much everything under the sun. I’m no Pollyanna, but I was totally taken aback at her attitude and the fact that she was spilling it in public like the Exxon Valdez dumping an oil slick. Although I’d been interested in reading her work, I decided then that I wouldn’t buy her books.

Another time, I was attending a group book signing and excited to meet a big-name contemporary romance author. When I approached her table, she appeared bored and harassed. She certainly wasn’t welcoming or enthusiastic to sign a book for me. I have no idea if she’d just encountered someone who dissed her work, had bad shrimp for lunch or simply hated book signings. Since, I have read a couple of her books, but am unable to get through one without reflecting on her behavior.

You may be thinking that many authors are introverts and possibly uncomfortable with the public side of authorship. Introverts are actually people who obtain their energy through more solitary pursuits (writing :-)) than contact with people. I get that. As outgoing as I am, I’m actually slightly on the introverted side of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator introvert-extrovert scale. That’s because I have to “recharge” by being alone after lots of interaction with others. Perhaps a better way to describe this type of author is reserved. But there’s a big difference between reserved and rude.

How do you think highly reserved authors should handle in-person reader contact—Avoid it? Fake it? Grin and bear it?

Have you ever stopped reading a writer’s work because of a less than stellar in-person encounter? Can a writer’s personality make you a fan even if you’re only lukewarm on her writing?

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Personal Assets finalKelsey’s debut book, Personal Assets, will be released by Carina Press August 26, 2013.

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Personal Assets is on pre-order at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other book retailers.


Comments

Meeting Your Favorite Authors – Always Good? — 21 Comments

  1. Fantastic post, Kelsey! Publishing is such a competitive market. The last thing an author wants to do is alienate potential lifelong readers. Great reminder to authors.

  2. Reese –

    I think this thought struck me again earlier this month when I was at this year’s RWA. Everyone I met was SO fabulous, and I became a fan-girl of several new writers because they’re just so darned nice and talented.

    It was was a reminder for me to always be kind to readers. If I can’t be kind and smile, it’s probably time for me to gear down and recharge!

    Kels

  3. More years ago than I like to remember, I met two of my favorite authors (at the time) at a local sci-fi convention. One (multiple best sellers, award winner) sat in the hallway next me and we chatted for 15-20 minutes while we waited for the meeting room to come available. The other sailed in after the doors opened and begain demanding water and silence or she wouldn’t do her reading. Now I agree, with the crowd it was only respectful to be quiet so everyone could hear, but it certainly could have been done with more courtesy and respect for her fans. 20 years later and guess which author’s books I still buy and which one’s I’ve never bought again.

    Everyone can have a bad day, but I find it almost impossible to forget that negative impression when reading their book.

    • Lisa –

      I bet that contrast between the two authors made the behavior even more stark.

      I also know it’s not necessarily fair to judge someone off one interaction, but we’re human and that’s what we tend to do. First impressions and all that.

      One author who’s made a fabulous impression on me is Christie Ridgway. At my first RWA in 2008, I was at her workshop very early. She and I chatted for several minutes and she still remembers me (or at least she’s sweet enough to pretend to ;-)).

      Kels

  4. I’ve been lucky where almost everyone I’ve met has been fabulous. I know I became a huge fan of a big name NYT bestselling (and Lifetime movie made of her life) author when she stopped to talk to my friend and I after a workshop she’d given. She was all that was gracious and helpful. I hold her up as my idol of what I try to be when I’m with other readers and writers.

    • Leah –

      I love that story! It’s such a reminder of how powerful–in a positive way–our behavior can be. So fabulous to have a role model to call on, especially for those times when you might otherwise be feeling tapped out.

      What a great memory!
      Kels

  5. I agree that some writers are so friendly that it makes one want to buy and love their book. I didn’t run into any grouchy authors at the big RWA signing in Atlanta this year, which made me start to think. Have I ever met a rude author? Not at a book signing, no, although they know they are “on stage” at signings. I’ve seen some be a little too eager to jump up and leave with their buddies when they’ve given away their last book–and I’ve been disappointed to see someone’s empty spot with a scribbled, “Sorry, no books” sign. I’m always impressed with the superstars, like Nora Roberts, who patiently pose for photo after photo with a line of hundreds of fans. Maybe that’s one reason they are superstars–they manage to smile for each reader. Come to think of it, Jude Deveraux ran out of books at one signing, but still shook hands and took photos with the rest of us who’d been waiting in line. Yeah, that’s classy, don’t you think?

    • Caro –

      Another great example of good author behavior :-). We all want to hang with our friends at conferences, but your story will definitely make me more cognizant of that urge at future conferences. We write for our readers and we need to give them time and respect, just like they give our books.

      Thanks for stopping by today!
      Kels

  6. I was bummed. I’ve met one of my fave authors before, but just ran into her a few times at a recent writer’s conference. I spoke each time, and the last time, she gave me a look like, “You again? Are you stalking me?” I was embarrassed, and felt awful. I’ll still read her books, but will no longer crow about her/them. So sad, another bubble popped.

    • Laura –

      A great reminder of how fragile our interactions with others can be. As authors, it’s so hard being “on” and although we should be authentic when interacting with anyone, we need to make sure we’re at our Sunday-best authentic when dealing with readers and fans. And other writers are often big fans!

      Thanks for your comment!
      Kelsey

  7. Kelsey, yes, years ago I stopped reading a certain historical romance author because of her behavior at a book signing. As a member of our local RWA chapter, I often attended area signings because I know how difficult they can be for authors. This particular bestselling author was no exception. I was the only person there, but she acted as if signing her latest hard cover novel was a bother. I almost dumped it on a shelf after, but I felt bad about doing that to the bookstore. However, I never bought another of her books. Never read another. There’s a difference between being an introvert and being rude. I daresay most authors are introverts, but she’s the only rude one I ever met. Her publisher would have done better to keep her at home.

    • Samantha –

      Oi! That’s the kind of story that makes us all cringe. But honestly, I’m so glad you and the others have shared your experiences–both good and bad. It’s going to make me even more mindful of my interactions in the future.

      Sometimes being in the public eye means an author has to check her baggage at the door. If she’s not able to do that, she may be better off passing on the public appearances. It’s not exactly the same, but the last night of RWA after the Ritas, I ended up back in my room. I’d be on all week and just knew I would be forcing a smile if I went out to a party. Your story makes me think I made the absolute right choice!

      Kels

  8. Hi, all –

    I was a little worried about this post–that it might have too negative a slant. But after reading the comments, I’m so glad I decided to go forward with it. Your stories–both positive and negative–will stay with me, reminding me to be my best authentic self in public. If I’m not capable of that, then I need to rethink going to an event. I know we don’t always have a choice, but we can choose our reaction to the situation!

    Kels

  9. It can happen, that’s for sure. On the other side of the coin, I met Nora Roberts for about five minutes (there were several of us…in the bar) in Chicago. Fifteen or so years ago. I’m still starstruck. :-)

    • See, Liz, that’s what we all want folks to say about us! :-) So glad you had a great experience with Nora. It makes me happy to know that most authors are kind and considerate – they like their readers!

      Kels

  10. I meet several wonderful authors at RAGT in June. They were all very friendly and I had a great time with them and getting to know them. Some of them I knew of and others were new to me authors. I hope to be able to meet up with them agin in the future.
    My only complaint was some were unorganized or late and even no showed for a schedule event. I think it’s important not to disappoint the readers.

    Hi Leah *waving* it was fun getting to meet her face to face after talking to her on line.

  11. Hi Kelsey – I have only met a few authors and they all seemed very nice. I don’t expect reserved people to be fake to readers, but general kindness towards those people that are helping them sell books would be great! And, yes, a writer’s personality can make me buy his/her work even if I thought the books were only lukewarm. I enjoy online interaction with authors. I love talking to authors as I read their books and something surprises me while reading it. There are some authors that I have met and felt that I have formed a friendship with so I will automatically buy their books even if I get ARC’s of them, too. I wish you the best of luck with Personal Assets!

    • Amy –

      You’re the kind of dream reader we all want :-D. Thanks so much for supporting the authors you love and the authors whose work you love!

      So glad you got to know Adrienne so I could get to know you!
      Kels

  12. One bad impression can last a lifetime. I was at a conference years ago where a big name writer was the luncheon speaker. She went on about how much money she’d made. It totally turned me off and I’ve never bought any of her books since. On the other hand a great impression can also last a lifetime. I’ve met a couple of big name historical writers who are gracious and generous, and I’m happy to buy their books. As everyone here has said, it goes both ways.

    • Jana –

      Honestly, I’m so relieved to hear other writers (and readers) have had these polar opposites in experience with big-name authors and that I’m not alone in my reactions.

      Thanks a ton for sharing your experience!
      Kelsey

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