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. Continue reading

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Self Publish and be Damned

The Sunday Salon badge

This is a little off my usual timetable, but the muse was working so no time to delay!

The above headline has been taken from a post written by Rachel Abbot for The Guardian newspaper, where she has celebrated the sale of 2 million books, but will probably not be taken seriously because she self-publishes.

As a book reviewer and blogger, I get to work with a lot of publishers, writers, and other bloggers – some in person, most online. I have writers such as Katharine D’SouzaHeide Goode, Iain Grant and Simon Fairbanks, who I’ve met in person, read their work (and enjoyed them, so reviewed them), and have developed such a relationship that I will work with them again in the future.  All of them have said that Self Publishing works for them, but they wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone else.

I have worked with publishers like Le French Book and Tule Publishing, where I get to read some of their books ahead of publication, and have read several series, some by the same author, some by different authors but contributing to an overall series. All have been new-to-me authors, so I have no problem in reading new authors, and (since they’re galleys) books that are not 100% formatted ready for publication.  My point is, essentially, I don’t have a problem with people who go via the traditional publication route or via self-publication…….however:

I also get “cold callers” from authors and promo people wanting my attention for new writers and/or new works. It’s tough and lonely, I know it, I get it. Let me give you a massive tip from a blogger to a struggling author: I’ve made it clear what my rules are (it’s called a Review Policy). I’ve written posts on how best to pitch your pitch. They’re designed to help you as much as me. I’m telling you I don’t like Christian Fiction, because if you send me your book and I do actually read it, I’m going to write you a really really bad review and I don’t think that’s what you want.

This post is written primarily as a reaction to recent events.

  1. My auto-response to email submissions says “If I don’t get back to you, please assume it’s a no”. Someone has chased me for the FIFTH time, to ask if I’m going to read his book he first pitched in November (errr, no). Fair dues to most people, who get the hint the first time.
  2. My review policy says that I don’t read poetry, and I’m not taking submissions as I have too many books, and not enough time.  So I get an email last week from someone new asking me to consider a number of books he’s representing – including his own, which is his book of poems.  That email went straight in the bin, with no reply.bang_head_against_wall_md_wm
  3. Earlier this week, I published a review of a book written by someone I’ve worked with before. I’ve liked her previous work, so was happy to read and review the new book. The book review goes up, and a few hours later, someone comments on the review, apropos of nothing, asking if I’d read and review their book. First of all, don’t pitch your book on someone else’s review – it’s disrespectful to the other author. Second, it’s clear that you’ve done no research, or even looked at my review policy (which states I’m not taking any new books on, and I don’t accept submissions via comments). Third – there has been no attempt at making a relationship between us – I will read for some authors because we’ve worked together before and have put the effort into trying to make it work – would you go up to a stranger in the street and go “you don’t know me, but here – do some work for free, should only take you a couple of weeks”? No? Then why do it online?
  4. I’ve been at this long enough to spot a blanket email, sent to multiple people, where the author is hoping someone twitches.  If you want me to invest time in reading your book, then promoting it, at least pretend you’ve taken the time to find out what my name is (hint: it’s on every page of my blog, so it takes 20 seconds to find my real name – and my nickname is in the title of the blog itself – I’m fine with being referred to as either one!).

To conclude

There are reasons why Self Published people as a whole can have a bad reputation. So far I have yet to have an author react badly to something I’ve said, but I dread the day when that happens (note: when, not if). Some self-published authors are lovely, which is why I continue working with them – the number of books I have on my bookshelves by traditionally published authors would make it so easy to never work with a self-pubbed again in my life.

The problem of the internet is that once you push the button it’s out there for all to see, and it’s very very difficult to pull it back. People will make mistakes and some will recover from it (often with grace and a smile). However, there will always be the ones who will not recover well from their mistakes, and those who will respond before thinking and then ruin it, not only for themselves.  Unfortunately, it’s these latter people who give the rest of the other wonderful people in Self Publishing a reputation, which brings me back to Rachel Abbot’s piece at the top: No matter how successful she is, she will never be taken seriously – and it’s not her fault!