Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A bit of a booksigning rant

In the last week, I've attended two booksignings from well-known, best-selling authors. Both of them write books that are in a popular series, although they write in completely different genres.

Both authors were doing a "talk" as well as a signing because they were well-known (in their genre) and already had a readership established; thus it was a formal event with a session preceding the signing.

Each experience, from my point of view, was very different. One of the authors arrived on time; the other arrived 30 minutes late. One of the authors was dressed in business casual; the other much more casually.

At one of the bookstores, as soon as I walked in and approached the table (in the front of the store) where all the books by the guest author were displayed, the bookseller walked up to me. I hadn't read any of this author's books, but had driven especially to the store for the signing because I was interested in reading at least the first in the series.

I explained to the bookseller that I was looking for the first book in the series because I hadn't read any of them. She helped me figure out which was the first, but then she handed me the author's new book (a more expensive one than the mass market paperback of the first book), which was several books into the series, and informed me that "You can't meet X Author unless you buy the new book."

I was taken aback.

Apparently, I couldn't sit and listen to the author, nor have her sign a book, unless I bought the one she was promoting.

It wasn't as if it was crowded or standing-room only; there were maybe five or six people there. Lots of empty chairs. Like it would have hurt them if I sat and listened to her talk and had her sign my book.

I ended up not buying any of that author's books, unfortunately, because that whole situation felt very uncomfortable.

I did speak to the cashier (as I was checking out and buying other books) and explained what had happened and asked if that was a store policy, an author policy, or a publisher policy--something that had never happened to me before.

The cashier didn't know; but he said it definitely wasn't a store policy.

So for some reason, this author lost a potential new reader because of the way the signing was handled. I felt snubbed.

On the other hand, the other author signing that I went to was very pleasant. I had been reading this author's series all along, but there were many people who brought bags of previously-purchased books for her to sign, and while others bought the first or second in the series--and they were gladly autographed, complete with a personal conversation with the author, after a nice forty-minute Q&A session. (And dare I say with fair confidence that this second author is more well-known than the other one.)

So I missing something here? Was I being too sensitive, feeling snubbed? Should I have bought the book anyway? Is there a point, when an author becomes "big enough" that they can and should put their own ground rules around a signing?


Blogger Stacy Dawn soliloquized...

Personally, I think you did the right thing. An author needs people to buy their books--any of them--to make a living. I'm not saying they should get down on their knees for us but being pleasant, thankful, and friendly like the second author is what I would have expected.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 1:23:00 PM  
Blogger Trish Milburn soliloquized...

I agree with Stacy. It does the author no good to put this bad taste in potential readers' mouths. That said, I'm not entirely certain this would have been the author's policy. We have a bookstore here where they give out admittance tickets to the readings/signings of more popular authors only to those who buy the newest (usually hardback) book. I think that policy smacks of elitism, which this store has the reputation for.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 1:29:00 PM  
Blogger Colleen Gleason soliloquized...

Trish, I wanted to give the benefit of the doubt to the author--that's why I asked at the bookstore if that was their policy...and they said it wasn't. In fact, the employees that I asked (two of them) also thought it was strange.

It's possible it was a publisher policy, but, again, why? Why would it be any entity's policy to tell customers what they have to buy?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 1:31:00 PM  
Blogger Sandy Blair soliloquized...

No, you aren't the least off base with your complaints. If I ever hear that something like this has happened to someone at a signing I'm participating in, I'll be sending a strongly worded letter of complaint to not only the store manager but to corporate headquarters, and then sending a letter of apology--and a copy of the book--to the reader. God Lord!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 1:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Caryle soliloquized...

I agree, that is a very strange policy. It has been my experience that the point of an author appearance is to allow "old" readers the opportunity to meet the author and to attract new readers. Call me crazy, but I prefer to start reading a series at the beginning. I probably would have done the same thing you did and not purchased any of the author's books. I wonder if it would be worth writing the author to let them know about your experience? They may not realize how alienating this policy is, or even realize it's happening.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 2:15:00 PM  
Blogger Stephanie Feagan soliloquized...

Totally f'ed up if you ask me - and you did, so there you go. :)

It might be worth an email to the author, however, because she may not be aware that it happened that way, or she may have no clue how offensive it is.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 3:03:00 PM  
Blogger Jana DeLeon soliloquized...

That situation was just plain rude! You did the right thing in leaving. But I would definitely take the advice of others and send a quick email to the author. She might not know and BOY, would I want to know if it were me!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 3:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Holli Bertram soliloquized...

This kind of policy makes no sense - unless there's limited seating and the author is drawing huge crowds, and in that case I still wouldn't like it.
If you email the author, let us know what she has to say about it!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 4:49:00 PM  
Blogger Theresa Ragan soliloquized...

You did the right thing, Colleen. I would have felt snubbed also. I can't imagine that they would send someone away if they didn't buy an author's book. That's crazy.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 5:41:00 PM  
Blogger Diane Perkins soliloquized...

Maybe you ought to also email the bookseller, although this is where things get sticky. Suppose the author or bookseller takes a dislike to you, because of you justifyable complaint. Then it might affect your sales. You don't want to make any enemies in this business.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 8:17:00 PM  
Blogger Diana Peterfreund soliloquized...

Ahem, as a girl who has made a few enemies in her time by refusing to be bullied, you know how i feel about that.

I am unsure why they wouldn't let you buy the book you wanted. It wasn't like you were waltzing in with your own book (which I can understand them seeing as bringing your own food to a restaurant) but insisting you buy hte hardback? Nay.

Saturday, July 15, 2006 3:03:00 AM  
Blogger Colleen Gleason soliloquized...

Oh, I could have bought the book...that wasn't the problem. It was that I couldn't "meet the author" if I didn't buy the new one.

Saturday, July 15, 2006 8:25:00 AM  

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