Armchair BEA Day 2 – What do Readers want?

I’ve been to several Author Events, in various different locations, in differing styles and different levels of “fame”. There has been only one author event that is definitely marked under the “downright awful” title.  I won’t mention the author, or where I met him, but all he did was read extracts from his book(s) in a low monotone voice and barely looking up from the page. Considering he was supposed to be a teacher, he was certainly lacking in the engagement department and he soon lost his audience, the majority of whom disappeared in search of alcohol, never to return.  I have no idea whether he twigged what had happened.

letters book readWhat do I think makes an event successful? That the author is engaging, articulate, willing to look the audience in the eye (we’re there to buy the book in the end, right?). I’ve had a warning that one relatively famous author was known to be a little “difficult”, but on the day was lovely, took questions, gave promotional info on her new book, and then signed everyone’s book (even chatting with the starry eyed fan who Wouldn’t Let It Go) etc. If that was “Difficult” then sign me up!

I’ve noticed that I can get tongue-tied with various authors, and it must be hard for them in return to make some kind of connection. Terry Pratchett signed for me a couple of times, and remembered me once (because of my unusual name) and was relatively easy to talk to. Neil Gaiman is harder to talk to because I’m such a fan-girl. Henry Wrinkler? The loveliest man I have ever met, I was the last in the queue in what I knew had been a hard day for him, so I just shook his hand and wibbled.

Diversity at author events

Now in terms of diversity…well? Define “Diverse”!  When choosing my comic books, I try to consciously choose stories written or drawn by women, have a strong female lead, have a gay lead character, or ISNT written by Orson Scott Card.  Local book stores here are doing more diverse events, such as poetry, open mic, historical, book clubs and YA. One store in particular is able to get fairly large names into a local events venue. Next week I have a comp ticket to go see Arundhati Roy, who has written her first prose book in 20 years. But “diverse” in terms of non-WASP authors or topics? If the events are happening, then I don’t see them, but is that because I’m not looking? Or are they not happening because people are asking for them, and is that because the books aren’t being published because people aren’t asking, or aren’t buying? I honestly don’t know.

Getting more diversity in mainstream books.

Something I hear time and again is that Mainstream Publishers don’t like taking risks. They have an idea of what their market is (I would hope they have an idea of who buys their books!) and tend not to rock the boat. So those that have built a backlist of white authors writing about White Western stories will not take the risk on a non-white author writing non-white western stories, on the grounds that it won’t sell. Well it might not sell *for them* because they’ve built up a set of readers who will only read one style of book.Rhode Island Red cover

I hope that with the continued use of e-readers, and people self publishing, or smaller publishers producing back lists, then the bigger companies will see that people DO read outside of their traditional market. Due to places like Netgalley and Edelweiss, I’ve read books from all over the place, including Rhode Island Red by Charlotte Carter, whose main character is a black female saxophone playing busker who gets pulled into the rougher side of life on the streets….I would never have read this if I relied purely on Traditional Publishers for my reading habits

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9 thoughts on “Armchair BEA Day 2 – What do Readers want?

    • it helps that where I live is a major city in the UK, and generally one that’s on the list when people are doing tours. There are also plenty of venues of various sizes, as well as smaller, self published authors always willing to go to spoken word events or author talks.

      Dont know where you are in the world, but I hope that you get to meet your objective!

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    • I’ve been known to stick my oar in on occasion, when it seems that things have gone quiet, or the moderator/author seems to be struggling. Usually the more practised authors are better because, well, they’ve practised! The one “bad” event mentioned in my post – even the moderator wasnt pleased with the event, but stuck it through to the end, whilst the rest of use disappeared at various times during the night!

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    • I think they get “offended” because they are confronted by things they’ve never had to deal with before, and haven’t been taught how to be react without upsetting others. I know someone for instance, who will take offence at the phrase “taking the mick” as a racial slur (they are Irish), whilst calling people “coloureds” and not getting the irony or offence.

      I do think thereforethat we DO need diversity in books, but as I mentioned in my previous post….lets not be too evangelical about it and tell people they are wrong if they don’t agree with us eh?

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    • Oh that’s a shame. I don’t know where you live so I don’t know the practicalities BUT….some of the best author events have not been done with the big hitters.

      Do you have a local book store or coffee shop that could/does hold a writing group? Are there any local-ish writers (published or otherwise) who would be prepared to comme to an event, to do a little talk with the chance to sell their books?
      Are there any spoken word events near by?

      If the answer to these is “Bugger, what a shame it’s a no” have we spotted a gap in the market?

      If you are in a really remote area, have you considered video conferencing over the Internet if people can’t be there in person?

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