Authors Behaving Badly … by Kris Neri

By Kris Neri

???????????????????????????????As Charles Manson once said, “Are people strange, or am I just crazy?” Call me naïve, but as a published author myself, I assumed other authors must interact with booksellers as courteously as I do. I’ve always believed intelligence and sensitivity to be typical traits among those who write. For the most part I’ve found that to be true. But I’m also a bookseller— my husband and I own The Well Red Coyote bookstore in Sedona, Arizona. During my nine-year tenure as a bookseller, I’ve discovered that, for a substantial minority, common sense among authors is not as common as you might think.

So here are a few of the things I’ve observed that the authors among you, and those who hope to be, might want to avoid:

* Don’t threaten the bookseller. Even before we opened our doors, someone wrote to say, “I have many friends in that area, and I’m going to send them all to your store to buy my books. But if you don’t carry them, they’ll never shop there again.” Now I like threats as much the next person, but that one got my back up. I decided they would sell snow cones in hell before we’d carry those books. To date, nobody has asked for one.

* Don’t expect the bookseller to take a loss for you. This advice is directed to those published by presses that don’t offer traditional terms. Someone emailed us to say she was published by a small press and asked if we could host an appearance for her. I told her to send a copy of the book, and I mentioned if wasn’t available through traditional outlets, she would have to provide it on consignment at a 40% discount. For a store to take less means they must sell that book at a loss.

The “small press” turned out to be iUniverse, a subsidy press that only offers a 20% discount and doesn’t allow for book returns — two conditions that make it impossible for most stores to carry their books. Yet the book was well written. But when I offered to give her an appearance, she thought it was time for negotiations. “I just bought a $32,000 truck,” she wrote in an email, “I can’t give you 40%. I need to make money from this book.”

Okay, let me take a moment here to laugh my butt off at that idea. I wish I could say this was an isolated case, but it’s happened too many times. Every spot on a bookstore shelf is a space that could just as easily go to someone else. When it’s a book of marginal interest, that’s a gift. If they have any issue with anyone, it should be with publishers who aren’t professional enough to understand how other books are sold, and price and sell their books accordingly.

* If you don’t read, keep your mouth shut. I assumed that, like me, everyone who writes is also a reader. Man, was I wrong! Incredibly strong numbers of published authors display no interest in any book without their own names on the cover. Okay, that’s their business, and in my opinion, their loss. But why would anyone who hopes to sell copies of their books share that fact with the members of their audience. Yet they brag about it, displaying superior contempt for those who are so uncool as to still read. Then they’re surprised when those uncool people don’t choose to buy their book.

* Don’t tell them where they can buy books cheaper. Some authors who do read will note for their audience all the covers of books in our bestseller section that they have read. But they don’t stop there. Oh, no. They share how much less they paid for those books in Costco, the supermarket or used on Amazon. Then they’re surprised when someone asks how little their book is going for used online.

* Don’t treat a bookstore like a free swap meet. Some authors have discovered that they can make more money selling their own copies of their books direct to the store’s customers. We learned that the hard way, when an author seized a moment alone with a customer to sell her own copy of her book for cash, rather than the ones we had stocked. Do you think there’s a chance we would ever have that author back?

Well…you get the idea. Authors should display the same level of courtesy to booksellers that they show in every other area of their lives. And if they aren’t polite and considerate — they should learn how to do be.

Now, most of the authors who visit our store are great! They’re considerate, fun, and they see booksellers as their partners in the book-selling process. But the numbers of rude, thoughtless authors are higher than I would have imagined. Wouldn’t you think that, if they aren’t naturally courteous, they’d be more practical? Selling books is hard. Why sabotage the efforts of the people trying to help you? Some days I think it would just be easier to sell “Authors Behaving Badly” DVDs on late night TV.

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Neri_Revenge cover artKris Neri writes the humorous Tracy Eaton mystery series, featuring the daughter of eccentric Hollywood stars, the latest of which is REVENGE ON ROUTE 66, a madcap romp along the Southwestern Mother Road.

She also writes a humorous paranormal series, featuring a questionable psychic who teams up with a modern goddess/FBI agent. Her latest magical novel, MAGICAL ALIENATION, was a 2012 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award winner for fantasy. Kris teaches writing online for the prestigious Writers’ Program of the UCLA Extension School and other organizations, including the Sisters in Crime Guppies. And with her husband, owns The Well Red Coyote bookstore in Sedona, AZ.

24 thoughts on “Authors Behaving Badly … by Kris Neri

  1. Patricia Stoltey Post author

    Thanks for the view from the bookseller side of the story, Kris. I’ve found booksellers to be mostly incredible people who are very supportive of authors and their books. We love the ones most who love us back.

    Occasionally, though, we’ll run across the exception who doesn’t promote a signing, “forgets” to order our books, or never pays the author for consignment copies. All the time we’re being professional, we also need to be careful. Check on those book orders in advance, touch base with the bookseller a couple of times regarding promotion, and if at all possible, get a signed agreement in hand for those consignment copies before the signing date. We can do all that and still mind our manners.

    Reply
    1. Kris Neri

      Pat, you’re absolutely right that some booksellers behave unprofessionally, too. As an author, I’ve dealt with those as well. The majority of authors I see are professional and courteous, it’s only the minority that aren’t. And I hope most booksellers behave that way, too.

      Reply
  2. Frank Zafiro

    Wow. That is some horrible behavior. It wouldn’t even occur to me to behave like that, but apparently to some people, it doesn’t occur to them NOT to behave that way.

    I feel guilty enough when people at a bookstore appearance ask if my books are available as an ebook! I answer, of course, but then point out that I can sign the one right here in front of them. It also helps if the store carries Kobo, because I can mention it in that light.

    I think the people who make the kinds of mistakes you mention here, Kris, are either self-absorbed or naive…or both. (Yes, I know….”thank you, Captain Obvious!”).

    Support your local bookstore!

    Reply
    1. Kris Neri

      Frank, you’re obviously a considerate person in the rest of your life, and that naturally carries over into your career as an author. I also feel uncomfortable as an author when readers ask me about ebooks, or whether they can buy the book online, when we’re all in a bookstore that has copies. I agree that the people who make these mistakes are simply a little clueless on why what they’re doing is rude or thoughtless. But clearly, some booksellers and even readers make mistakes, too. Thanks for supporting independent bookstores!

      Reply
  3. Karen Duvall

    Wow, Kris, it’s amazing that some authors behave that way. Thanks for sharing. It’s tough enough to get a signing and I think some of these bad behaviors have spoiled the chances for well-mannered authors to get their signings hosted by a book store. The bad apple analogy holds true.

    Reply
    1. Kris Neri

      Karen, this behavior has shocked me, too. But while there’s been more of it than I would have thought, these folks are still in the minority. Believe me, booksellers really remember the well-mannered authors and enjoy having their favorites back. Nobody would do this work if they didn’t genuinely love books and the people who write them.

      Reply
    1. Kris Neri

      It’s been pretty surprising to me, too, Cindi. I would think that, even if people aren’t naturally courteous, they would assume being so in this context would be in their interest. I really assume they just don’t know these behaviors aren’t a good idea.

      Reply
  4. Roman

    Traditional publishing and bookstores are dying a slow death. Hopefully, most authors will take advantage of online publishing, and everything will be digital. It will destroy the arrogant and greedy publishers who take the lion’s share of the profits while the author gets very little, and it will save many trees.

    Reply
    1. Patricia Stoltey Post author

      Roman, I sure hope bookstores never die. I love holding a real book in hands to check out the cover and the synopsis…and to buy and read. I use my e-books for travel, but still love curling up in an easy chair with a great book, even one as heavy as King’s Under the Dome.

      Reply
      1. Kris Neri

        Roman, I hope you’re wrong. I agree with Pat about real books. But there’s no question that there are fewer bookstores than there once were. That makes it harder on newer and midlist authors. Bestselling authors don’t need handselling by booksellers, but newer authors and those less-well-known need someone to introduce them to readers. Booksellers perform that function.

        Reply
  5. Shannon Baker

    As an author who signed at The Well Red Coyote, and had a couple of books on consignment with Kris and Joe, I can attest to their professionalism, integrity and friendliness. The book store is delightful!

    Reply
  6. terryshames

    It always amazes me when people behave badly…and especially to booksellers, who work really hard, on the smallest of margins, and who love books. I wrote a well-thought-out request to a well-known mystery bookstore, expecting to have to grovel for a signing, since I was a newbie. Soon I got a letter warmly welcoming me. Here’s what sealed the deal: I introduced myself and told him about my books. He said that many authors don’t say who they are or what their books are about when they ask for a signing…it’s as if they expect the bookseller to either know who they are or look them up. Seemed like common courtesy. Kris, I’m going to plan on doing a Sedona signing in the future….if you’ll have me!

    Reply
    1. Kris Neri

      Terry, what a nice experience. Thanks for sharing it, especially since it gives good direction to newbies. It is true that many authors do suggest the bookseller look up his/her work, and often it’s with a link to Amazon. It’s a minor thing, but most indie booksellers regard online sellers as the competition. But even if they just tell us to look them up on their own websites, it still places the burden on us, rather than simply telling us what they write. Terry, we would love to have you!

      Reply
  7. erinszoo

    I’ve met and know a few published authors. Most of them are incredibly nice people who have done so much to help me and others with this writing thing and are just lovely people to be around. But, as you list, there are those other ones … I guess I’ll be glad to meet them too so that I’ll know how NOT to act when my day finally comes. I love Indie bookstores!

    Reply
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