There's a reason why J.D. Salinger went into hiding back then. It's a jungle out there when writers have to go forward and meet the public. Writing is something we love to do, selling is something we have to do. Most of us consent to book signings reluctantly, first because we'd rather be writing; second - well, suppose nobody shows up? This happens.
We may be famous - some of us - but not like rock stars. We don't dance for our money. We have no tattooed groupies trailing us and rarely do our fans rush us at our laptops and throw us their panties. (Well...once in a while...) They do not swoon when we give speeches, and if they pass out it is usually because we've gone over too many pages in the reading. We do have, bless you, people who are devoted to books. I've written about this before, but it's time once again to provide advice to book store customers who find themselves face to face with an actual living writer.
True, most readers like their writers dead, like Shakespeare and Tolstoy. Sorry to disappoint. Remember, this living writer is a person who'd rather not be here, signing and selling books that hardly anybody is willing to buy, so please, adhere to the following tips to spare the writer any more humiliation that already comes with the territory.
- BUY THE BOOK!
- Do not ask the writer - as he sits there defenseless in front of the store - "Excuse me, which way is the bathroom?" He's not there for this reason.
- Do not rush in with your own manuscript and insist that he find you an agent. This is the author's event. So please. Likewise, please don't tell the writer that you've got your own story to tell, much better than his, but that you just don't have the time or the skill to put it down on paper, so will he please do the writing for you. You'll talk, he'll type - all for free, of course. Most writers are broke, the better ones especially.
- Do not mention some other book that you've just read that simply can't be beat. This can be so deflating. Also, do not say that you "only read bestsellers." Bestsellers happen when people buy books. This may sound strange, but that is usually how it works.
- If the writer is a novelist, please don't say, "Oh, I only read non-fiction." Also, don't flip through the pages of his book, read a few lines here and there, and then dump it back on his desk and walk away as if nothing good happened. This can lead the writer to contemplate alcoholism and even worse. Also, do not say, "I only read mysteries." Every book is a mystery. Also, do not ask the author what his book is about. The author is the last to know. Also, trust the good reviews but never the bad reviews, which were most likely written by the author's mother-in-law.
- Please don't say you'll buy the book when it comes out in paperback because you can't afford hardback - as meanwhile you're walking out with $500 worth of merchandise, and, THAT LATTE YOU'RE DRINKING could have bought two books! Besides, hardbacks do not become paperbacks automatically. The author has to get lucky for that to happen. Likewise, please don't say that you'll wait for the movie version, which leads us to -
- Please don't ask the author when the book will become a movie. That's like saying a book is not enough. A book is plenty.
- Please don't ask the author where his ideas come from. We don't know.
- Please don't ask the writer what other writers influenced him. We like to think we made it up ourselves.
- Please don't say you will get the book from the library. Libraries are nice but there is no money in this for the writer and we know you don't mean it anyway.
- Please don't say you will borrow the book from a friend. No money in this, either, and your friend doesn't have a copy. You know this (and so does the poor author).
- BUY THE BOOK!
Okay, that's my advice. Did I miss anything?
Now also available on Kindle, Novelist Jack Engelhard's international best-seller "Indecent Proposal" was translated into more than 22 languages and turned into a Hollywood motion picture starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore. His memoir, "Escape From Mount Moriah," which was honored for writing (MPA) and film (CANNES) has been re-introduced in paperback and on Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/Escape-Mount-Moriah-Triumphs-Homeland/dp/1935232436/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1
Engelhard's website: www.indecentviews.com