#RandomRambling Do we expect too much of authors? #IndieAuthors #Authors #SelfPublishing

I recently attended a smallish (in terms of the venue) book festival and I was really underwhelmed by the interaction of the authors there.

The room was set out so that each author had a table with their books stacked in front of them, some around the edge of the room, others in the middle, and the visitors could walk through the middle. As I walked around each stall, looking at the books, reading the blurbs, the majority of the authors were either reading their kindles or chatting to the author at the table next to them. Some gave me a little smile, a couple spoke to me about the weather, but that was it really.

I was there for less than an hour and with over forty authors there, I had hoped for a little more.

But what that ‘more’ is, I have no idea to be honest.

Afterwards, I messaged an author I had planned to meet there to let them know that I had missed their talk (an organisational error meant that I was directed to the wrong room and so missed her – which is another story!) but I did mention my disappointment at the other things. She, very wisely pointed out that most authors are typically sat at home and are not, perhaps, the most vocal people in the world when it comes to being face to face with people.

I’ve thought about this a lot since then and I have to admit, I think we expect too much from authors.

I think we all see them as being a Fern Britton, Peter James or Stephen King in the making, someone who looks like they are comfortable with public speaking, someone who will shout from the rooftops about their work, and who is very outgoing to be able to stand and speak to a stranger for any length of time.

That’s just not the case.

Coming from a sales background, I have attended many functions over the years where I have had to be outgoing, I’ve had to walk up to strangers and introduce myself and the services/products I was selling but I found that really easy to do as I’m quite an outgoing and confident kind of person. Looking back in to that room now, I wish I’d realised that not every author I meet is going to be as outgoing as those I have already met, they aren’t all able to stand in front of their table at an event and start touting for sales Del Boy style (Roll Up Roll Up! Come and buy my book!!!) it’s just not possible.

Most authors are sat on their own a lot of the time, working on their manuscripts, researching, writing, plotting, planning, stressing. And then, if they don’t have a publisher, they have to start understanding marketing, social media, advertising, sales, functions, festivals … I’m tired just looking at that list and it’s not even half of what an author has to deal with, especially the indie authors who don’t even have a self-publishing firm who could help guide them.

There is so much more to publishing a book than we can ever understand as we never take in to account the actual author.

We don’t take on board their personality.

Every manuscript that lands in my inbox either to edit, or review, is typically accompanied by a note saying how terrified the author is to be sending it out to the world. Even those who are on their second, tenth, even eighteenth book!!! It’s a feeling that never goes away.

Now, when I think about that room full of independent authors, some of whom will have been way out of their comfort zones in such a situation, I feel a hell of a lot of admiration. They have put themselves out there in more ways than one. Not only have they dared to publish a book and share with the world their talent, they are now sat in a room full of other people, perhaps knowing no one, with no one there to support them just hoping that people like me don’t expect them to turn in to Derek Trotter and give them some trashy sales pitch.

It’s not just at public events either, I know that there are people online who have complained about how authors talk to people, how emails and tweets and Facebook posts are worded, how they only seem to appear in our lives when they have a new book out or how they don’t appear at all. How they post on social media too much or not enough. How we get too many emails or again, not enough.

Now I’m not saying authors are entitled to be rude or anything like that, but perhaps they just don’t know how to deal with whatever it is they are dealing with at that particular time and they don’t have the channels to find out how to it all “properly”.

What are authors supposed to do? They can’t please everyone.

So, yes. I think that we do expect too much of authors.

And I am going to try and stop.

Have a super day, bookworms, I’d love to know your thoughts.

Emma xxx


34 thoughts on “#RandomRambling Do we expect too much of authors? #IndieAuthors #Authors #SelfPublishing

  1. Even as a blogger, I find meeting people in the real world terrifying! It’s so much easier hiding behind my screen – I called myself The Quiet Geordie because that’s what I am. I don’t know how authors do what they do!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fantastic post Emma, lots of food for thought there & I think a lot of authors will really love you for writing this.


  3. An interesting perspective, Emma. Well said. The picture you paint of a room full of authors, sitting behind their tables sums up a recent event I attended. I left someone in charge of my table while I went to speak to another writer (who I knew vaguely) but she hardly looked up. And when I cheekily suggested she and I swap books (we both write women’s literary fiction and our books were the same price) she said she didn’t think so! Suitably snubbed, I went back behind my own table!
    You’ve inspired me to write a piece about being a ‘behind the table’ author for my website – and it would be great to mention this post, if you don’t mind me using your name and some of the points you make here…?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It could well have been the same event, Susan!

      I’m sorry that happened, it would seem that it was an ideal way to get your book out there by having another author hopefully recommend it to their readers and the other author missed a great opportunity there.
      Please, feel free to share/mention this as you wish, how lovely of you.

      Have a wonderful day x

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post and I think we do expect too much. Authors are not singers, dancers or actors and yet they are expected to put themselves ‘out there’. I’m quite shy in certain circumstances – I was terrified going up to introduce myself to people at Newcastle Noir and yet as a social worker had no problems knocking on a strangers door and completing an assessment with them. I think writing the actual book must be easy in comparison to all the marketing authors have to do especially if self-published. You have to have the Twitter account and the Facebook page or else you get lost in the huge numbers of writers. I can empathise with this as I’m really not keen on FB! I really feel for authors.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a brilliant post, Emma. I recently did my first public speaking event for Choc Lit at a library in Southampton and although comfortable with chatting to people in an informal ‘unspotlighted’ (is that actually a word?!) way during the initial meet and greet, the thought of chatting about myself and my book to a roomful of people which I knew I was going to have to do as the event progressed, left me quaking. I couldn’t believe I’d agreed to do it (as part of a panel) but something told me I ought to at least try or I might regret it. I wrote up some notes and spent the weeks leading up to the event worrying about it on and off. I almost got off the train on the way down there! 😀 Having said all that, once I got going and the initial voice-wobbles calmed, it went fine as it was all very relaxed, plus I had my fellow panellists who were more experienced and also a couple of blogger chums sitting in the audience for moral support, but it wasn’t something I was naturally comfortable with, same with self-promo. I try to be as open and friendly as I can online, and possibly come across more confident than I am, but it’s different behind a keyboard. I’m a bit of an introvert really. X


  6. On the flip side, I wonder what expectations authors have when going to these events.
    If an author can’t be bothered to look up from their Kindle or even offer a hello, I do question why they bother going at all.


    1. I was at that event, Emma, and I was sharing a stall with a good friend of mine who is also a romance author (and the author whose talk you missed, actually!). I am sorry I missed you when you came. I may have been chatting to the author at the table next to mine because she was on her own, or to my daughter who was helping that day. I did smile to the people who stopped to look at my books, but I really don’t think many of them wanted to talk to me. Some looked embarrassed because they weren’t buying the books after reading the blurb – as embarrassed as myself, to tell the truth! I did speak to the few who initiated a conversation, but it as a reader, I want to be left alone to browse and I don’t necessarily want to engage with every writer. I thought it was lovely to have so many different genres at the event, and so many different writers from all ages, and the enthusiasm of the young – and not so young – helpers was great to see.


      1. Ah no! I wish I’d seen you to say hello, I’ve tried not to allow the actual event in question to be an ‘issue’ and I should probably clarify, after reading some comments, that it wasn’t just the authors reactions/responses that prompted this post, it’s everything that authors are expected to do – the other things I have thought long and hard about since the event and the fact that we are wrong to expect them from any author, introverted or extroverted, published or indie/self …

        I’m not going to comment on the event itself as I didn’t experience enough of it and I don’t want to do that at all.


  7. Excellent post! As a recently published author, I am now expected to come out from the shadows and interact with the public, truly a terrifying prospect. For my part, I’m always afraid of coming across as too aggressive; I’m more than happy to talk about my book, but I’m reluctant to push it on someone in order to make a sale. Even when folks have purchased my book, I often forget to ask them to please post a review. I don’t have any concerns when dealing with my non-fiction publications, however, as these interactions are with professional colleagues and students, with whom I have more of a connection.

    In the few writers conventions that I’ve attended since my book was published, I’ve always found the authors friendly and engaging, for the most part. But at times I’ve sensed their reluctance, even among seasoned authors, when it comes to interacting with the public. I suppose a lot of it has to do with personalities and experience.

    Maybe authors and fans alike need to remember the old adage about bears: They’re more afraid of you than you are of them. It’s just that the role of “bear” switches back and forth, and sometimes it isn’t clear who’s turn it is!


  8. I have never ventured out behind a desk, as I am just getting my books out in paperback. A while back I went to see Fay Weldon talk at our local library – even she has to publicise her own books! I think I wouild be more comfortable at an event with other authors, than to sit alone ‘being the event’ at my local Waterstones. But it is common sense surely that whether you work in a shop, a pub or you’re selling your own merchandise on a stall, it’s rude to talk to your colleagues, read or use your phone, while members of the public are hovering. You don’t have to frighten them off begging them to buy, but you can look up, smile and catch their eye.


  9. I can see both sides of this. ‘Author Me’ knows she should be yelling ‘Look at me, aren’t I wonderful,’ 😀 whilst (love that word) ‘Me, Me’ wants to hide behind a keyboard under a pen name, and unrealistically expects everyone to buy my books and write glowing reviews.
    It could be the authors were shy, but felt more confident speaking to the person on the next table knowing they had something in common. Having said that, if someone picked up my book I would at least look up, smile and say ‘Hello,’ hoping they would respond with a question to start the conversation rolling.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Really interesting to read this, Emma. On Saturday I will be at a local Family History Fair, having taken a table with another couple of authors. We did one once before and it’s incredibly hard to know, when someone stops to look, whether to try to engage them in conversation or whether they will feel that’s too pushy and it’ll frighten them off. Hard to know where friendliness and openness stops and pushiness begins. Here’s hoping we can get a decent balance on Saturday. (I’m driving 2 hours to get there, leaving at 6.30 am, so hoping I don’t start yawning when I’m speaking to folk either!)


  11. I think authors need to go into it expecting to have to publicise what they have written. Even those with a big publishing house have to do publicity. Nobody is saying they have to be brilliant at it, the important thing is to try and surely an effort could be made to at least smile at people and exchange pleasantries rather than talking amongst themselves. I am by no means confident (far from it) but I have had to make myself do presentations and talks in my job and engage with people and by planning ahead and preparing myself it’s been ok.


  12. Emma this is a wonderful post and so many great comments – thank you for writing it – it means a lot to many people obviously – step into their shoes for a mile… really thought provoking. xx


  13. I think this applies to all people in all walks of life Emma. No matter what you do people make assumptions about who you are. You’re an author, you’re suddenly meant to be able to sell yourself and engage with fans even though this isn’t your default personality trait. You’re a blogger and engage on line so you must be larger than life IRL too (my arse is but the rest of me much less so). I’m a manager by day and have to naturally lead and instruct people but it is far from natural for me. I hate standing in front of a room of people to give a talk or training but I’m paid to do it so I have to. I still sit there wondering why people turn to me for advice – I wouldn’t. If I’m quiet I’m a moody cow (I am
    But that’s not the point) It can’t possibly because I am horribly shy and have no idea how to engage in small talk with people. Authors are like all other people as, surprisingly enough, we are all actually human. Some may be better able to turn on the party spirit when it’s needed. It it’s a solitary profession and alone time and solo work is what authors excel at too. Watch an introvert author with a friend and they’ll be totally different to sitting them with a fellow introvert book lover who doesn’t know how to engage with them either. Self marketing is essential. For some people it’s water off a ducks back – for others it’s like selling your soul to satan. Only more painful. I could never do it. Kudos to those who do manage. I feel a tool just asking for a signature in a book. Why should it be any easier just because you’re sat behind a desk?

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Great post! I think this is a difficult on for most authors – if you’re able to disassociate yourself from the ‘selling’issue and just chat, you’re on to a winner. With most people (not necessarily ‘buying’ readers) it’s just lovely to talk. Engage with them by a smile and an hello and you’re half way there. It doesn’t matter that they don’t buy there and then (well, not for me anyway); they will remember you, they will tell people about you and your books.. ultimately they will buy. It might not be right away then, it might be on kindle … or they may borrow from a library I(if you’re trad published). I suppose the main thing is to smile/ connect/chat… pretend you’re there having fun! Yes, it might be all about selling. but it’s also about finding readers in the long term. Book fairs used to be the one thing I dreaded (and buried myself behind a book behind the table in case people thought me ‘pushy’) I Now realise the readers want ti talk to us as much we, them.. Enjoy these events;

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I remember a friend who used to make jewellery (it was lovely – real gemstones, so not cheap) . She used to do a lot of craft fairs etc and always said that she couldn’t assess the value of a particular fair until about a year later, because of the knock-on effects of her presence there. So that’s what I’m hanging on to for tomorrow and hoping to just go and meet lots of folk interested in history, if not HF!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Great post, Emma, and good points. I am not a natural performer, although I’ve had a lot of public speaking training in the past. In a situation such as the one you went to, with individual tables for each author, the authors probably felt awkward about selling their wares. I know I hate that aspect of it and so they were probably afraid to engage people in conversation in case they were thought to be pushing their own books too much. I know that’s exactly how I think in the same situation. But I have trained myself to chat to people and not to do the hard sell. It’s difficult at first, but readers are mostly interested in hearing about how authors work and once you’ve found some common ground you get over the initial awkwardness.

    Liked by 1 person

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