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.