Monday, April 03, 2006

Misanthrope

Romancing the Blog did an entry awhile back about authors who try to market themselves in annoying ways, like hijacking email discussions to yammer on at length about their books or sending out blanket pleas to people to PLEASE buy their books because they have received news from their publishers that the book hasn't been doing all that well and are afraid for their careers (an email that seems to be going out with all the frequency and truthfulness of those annoying Nigerian bank scams).

I'd like to add that a few authors do this kind of crap in person, too, and I'm tempted to go all Edvard Munch on the next person I meet who displays such insensitive, verbal marketing incontinence, and put my hands to my head and shriek until I run out of air--regardless of how many people I'd freak out.

Let me just preface this by saying that I like talking to people. I'm interested in what people are working on, what they're passionate about, what they do for a living, who they're voting for on American Idol, etc., and as a reporter, I can always keep a conversation going because I'm not only not afraid to ask people questions about themselves, but I genuinely enjoy hearing the answers. However, there's one thing I do not enjoy when meeting new people....

I try to treat everyone I meet like a unique person who is worth getting to know. If you are going to talk to me, I would appreciate the same courtesy. But people who not only don't ask what my name is but don't give a rat's ass? WHY are you talking to me?

I'll tell you why. Because some idiots think that if they just vomit all of the details about their books over someone as fast as they can, that person is going to be so thrilled to meet a Real Live Published Author Who Deigned to Come Down Out of the Rarified Published Air and Talk to Them, that they will go running for the nearest bookstore and snap up every copy of said Real Live Author's book for herself and all of her friends and acquaintances.

Let me tell you now--it's not going to happen. Last year, I met an author who was writing the EXACT type of book I love: dark, gritty suspense. Did I buy her book? No, I did not. Will I ever buy her books? No, I will not. Why will I not buy her book when it's exactly what I like to read? Because while she approached and talked to me on several occasions at a conference, I might as well have had a bag over my head during all of our conversations that read "Marketing Opportunity," because it was obvious that that's all she saw me as--someone who could buy her upcoming books, and that's all.

I know, I know--maybe she's shy. Maybe she was nervous and didn't know what else to talk about. Maybe I intimidated her (because at 5'3", I can be wicked intimidating).

I've thought through all of those things, and I do try to give people the benefit of the doubt the first time or two. But you know, sometimes a person's complete and utter disinterest in you as a person just smacks you in the face like a clammy, wet towel. You can always tell when they see you as a potential book sale and nothing more--the flat, emotionless shark eyes; the buzzing drone their voice takes on as they go through a well-rehearsed speech about how they just wrote the Best Book, Just the Best Book Ever, It's So Good (yes, someone actually used that phrase to describe her book to me once); the utter refusal to even pretend to care about you as a person; the speed-of-sound monologues about their publisher, their BOOK TITLE, their agent, their BOOK TITLE, their covers, their BOOK TITLE, and lest we forget, their BOOK TITLE, which comes out from their publisher for $6.99 at a bookstore near you in AUGUST! AUGUST! AUGUST! Here, have a bookmark. Don't you just love my bookmarks? I have the best cover. Did I tell you my book was coming out in August? Gotta go. It was nice seeing you again, Stacy. Oh, were you saying something? Don't have time; gotta run. Bye!

And if that weren't enough, there's the way their eyes glaze over if you happen to utter a declarative sentence in the middle of such a "conversation" with a couple more words than "Oh, that's great" or "Wow."

I love celebrating other people's success. I compete with myself and no one else--publishers always have room for a great book, and if I write one, I'll get what I deserve to get. Your writing a great book and getting a great contract does not lessen my chances of writing a great book and getting a great contract. If I have the talent and marketing savvy to do it, I'll do it. And if I don't, it's my own fault and no one else's (but I'll always be happy writing category, because it's fun).

So, if you're not a jerk, I will be happy that you've succeeded. If you've succeeded more than I have, go you. I'd love to ooh and ahh over the story of how you sold or over the foil and step-back on your book cover. I'd love to hear all about your upcoming book and how the market is treating you and the prospects for your future. All I ask is that if you decide to talk to me at length, talk to ME, not to the marketing opportunity you think I represent.

I don't think this is too much to ask. So, why, WHY do some people still have to waste my time (and others'--I KNOW I'm not alone here) yammering on and on without truly engaging? (At least I know it's not something wrong with me, because this type of person can barely SEE me, much less register who I am as a person, so they wouldn't even notice if I did something annoying or socially unacceptable.)

Therefore, I have decided that I'm going to literally run away screaming the next time some whackjob hijacks a perfectly nice conversation I'm having with someone else to blah all over us all glassy-eyed about her book. No, it's not a figure of speech--I will literally scream and run away. Life is too short to be held hostage by some guerrilla marketer with poor social skills. My new rules for having a conversation without being interrupted by my personal version of The Scream are:

1) If you want to talk to me, at least ask me what my name is. This is a very basic social practice that indicates that you give a rat's ass about who I am.

2) If you want to talk to me, be interested in talking WITH me, not at me. If you're looking over my shoulder, I'll be pretty sure you're talking at me.

3) Here's the important one: You DO NOT have to ask what I write, care about what I write, or pretend that you're going to buy my books. Not everyone likes gritty category romantic suspense, and that's fine--I'm certainly not going to force the issue. But if you are going to talk to me (or to anyone, for that matter), let's have a conversation. Take a breath once in awhile and let me say something back to you. Listen when I talk. Notice that I am listening to you and am interested in what you have to say. (And on the off chance that I'm not, you have my permission to start pelting me with small promotional items or to run away screaming. Chances are, I will run after you to apologize.)

4) Do not waste my time and yours by blahhing all over me about your book at length, while making it obvious that you don't care at all who I am. When annoyed, I not only get overtly aggressive, I get passive aggressive, and I will not only NOT buy your book, I will tell my friends what a wanker you are and why THEY should not buy your book. The odds are about 99% in your favor that if you are nice to me and to my friends, I will ASK you about your book. Might even buy it.

5) If you ever catch yourself thinking of anyone as one of the "little people" who is probably delighted that someone like you would talk to someone like her, don't talk to me. Just don't. Ever.

6) And finally, don't tell me that my husband is undoubtedly going back to Iraq and will probably get shot (He won't, and he won't! Dammit.) and that everyone who goes there is getting shot and you know someone who lost an eye and a hand. At that point, you will have crossed the boundary from merely annoying and slightly rude to just being an ass.

Done now. (I'll try to be more cheerful tomorrow, because really, the majority of the authors that I know are really cool people to whom none of the above applies.)

4 comments:

mariann said...

I can totally relate to the me-Me-ME types of people one encounters, although what makes it worse is what said person is supposedly a friend. I had to end one friendship (non-writer related) a few years ago because I was tired of barely getting five minutes to talk about my life, family, dreams and concerns after listening to fifty-five minutes of MY husband, MY daughter, MY sister, MY mother, MY LIFE. Good lord, I was sick of that, and there wasn't even a book involved.

I would totally want to talk with YOU at a conference! I like your books and your sense of humor, and I really want to know how you manage to squeeze writing in while being a mom of young children. Future blog entry, perhaps? :)

Brenda Coulter said...

Uh, so this wouldn't be a good time to ask if you're planning to buy my book?

Never mind.

On second thought, it might be worth it to tick you off. I'm curious about how a sweet-faced thing like you would look doing The Scream....

Tracy Montoya said...

Mariann, the older I get, the less I'm willing to put up with this kind of thing. I tend to keep my friends around for a long time, but on the rare occasion where I've cut someone off, I've never regretted it. You're SO much better without that person.

And if you ever get to National or another conference I'm at, we should totally have coffee (or Diet Coke). As for writing and being a mom, I WILL blog about it this week--good idea!

Tracy Montoya said...

Har har, Brenda. I've met you and already know you're nice and not a marketing guerilla. Plus, I like your approach to promotion--straightforward, no false modesty, and BALANCED.

As for the sweet-faced thing? It's the chipmunk cheeks, and certainly has nothing to do with me personally. I'm too crabby to be sweet.

About Me

My photo
Tracy Montoya writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue.

Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter