In the vain attempt to escape from a campus tradition involving tennis balls, golf clubs and excessive amounts of alcohol, I rushed down into Colonial Williamsburg directly upon the heels of waking. I unhappily forgot that Colonial Williamsburg does not belong to the college campus, and as such is subject to the vast crowds of tourists. I scuttled from sandwich shop to sandwich shop to coffee shoppe in search of a Line that Is Not a Ridiculous Wait, and thankfully finding sustenance within a reasonable time, I decided to wander into the campus bookstore. (A purely spur of the moment, whimsical idea, that was completely and utterly spontaneous and had nothing resembling "PLANNING" or "DESIGN" about it, because that would mean that I had spurned my homework in favor of shopping, and worse still, browsing a bookstore for a book to read when I had all those class readings to do....)
I was charmed when I saw that an author was sitting at a table near the front door, but I only wandered over to her table after guiltily surveying the Lack of An Interested Audience, and also catching her eye a few times as I browsed the aisles. I spent a few minutes chatting, during which time another customer came up to the table. We both decided to buy her books, being sufficiently intrigued to invest the money. The author cheerfully asked "Would you like me to sign that for you?" and then proceeded to simply write her name and hand the book back.
Now I realize that as a published author, sitting there, the idea is that customer is interested in You, and Your Work. They are buying Your Book. They come to you. Cue the supplicants to approach the mighty Wielder of Creative Power.
THE CUSTOMER IS (unfortunately) TO BE PANDERED TO.
You are an author. And unless you are singularly blessed/ lucky/ whatever to be John Grisham or Stephen King or Anne Rice or some other Big Name, this scenario will never play out. At a signing, YOU ARE TRYING TO DRAW A CUSTOMER IN. You say "Oh, look at me. Look at my books. Don't they look interesting? Here I'll tell you why. You're intrigued? That's fabulous. Here, let me sweeten the deal. I'll sign this book for you. What's your name? To Jane Doe, Happy Readings, Sincerely, Still Poor but Finally Published Author." And unless you are the aforementioned John Grisham, Stephen King or Anne Rice, you have the time to write that much, because there's not likely to be a line of 100 more people waiting to meet you. YOU INVEST THE TIME WITH YOUR READERS IN YOUR BOOK BY MAKING IT INTERESTING AND REALISTIC. WHY WOULDN'T YOU DO THE SAME IN PERSON?
As an author, your readership is based on loyalty. You continue to deliver the goods, they continue to buy. Word of mouth is equally important. If my first exposure to an author is in person, but they don't seem to care about me, the reader, other than a statistic, why should I care about them, the author? I don't like giving money unnecessarily to ungrateful people, which is what a disinterested author shows. He is saying "I'm too important to be here signing for you commoners. I'm a Voice of Genius. I'm Special." And I'm saying in response, "Then obviously my money is too common for you as well, right?"
So please, invest a little in your readers. Because they invest a lot in you through reading, buying, and talking about your works.
What I'm listening to: Nothing.
What I want most: ummmm. The excuse to buy more books. And the time to read them in.
And I thought the pun inherent in the title just deserved a little acknowledgement....