Author Autograph: A Case Study

A real life example of bad author behavior at a book signing and its potential impact on a writer’s career.

Learn from this true story of an author autograph event.

My favorite up-and-coming novelist was scheduled to do a book signing at a large event I attended many years ago.

She’d had 2 books published and I enjoyed her first so much that I ordered her second as soon as it was in print.

The first encounter

I joined the line, eager to get my copies of her books autographed. There were many in the queue ahead of me.  We all had plenty of time to observe the author, who sat behind a table, rarely looking up from the tabletop and never smiling. She looked unhappy about being there with us.

It was almost my turn when the author glanced at her watch, announced “Time is up!” and promptly left. There were a few groans from people who had been waiting 45 minutes for nothing.

The second encounter

After lunch I found myself in another line, this time waiting my turn to go into the ladies’ room. This line was even longer than the author-signing line. While chatting with the women ahead of me, I learned that many of them were in attendance to buy books for bookstores or libraries.

That’s when it happened.  My favorite up-and-coming author got in line right behind me! It seemed like a lucky coincidence.

Should I ask for her autograph? I hesitated, remembering that she hadn’t seemed happy to autograph her books that morning. Still, the line was not moving and there was plenty of time.  Plus, I just happened to have her books in the crook of my arm. I probably wouldn’t get another opportunity.  I’d explain how much I enjoyed her writing and how disappointed I was to stand in line without getting her autograph—would she mind autographing her books while we waited? The worst that could happen would be that she’d say no, right?

Wrong!

The author didn’t just say no. She launched into a nasty tirade about how this wasn’t the time or place to be bothering her and why would I even think about asking for an autograph in the ladies room?

For the record, we were not in the ladies room. We were in the hallway outside the ladies room, along with dozens of others waiting our turn. Many overheard the author’s unpleasant response.

Not only did I not receive her autograph, I never again purchased or read her books. Her outburst may have influenced the book buyers in line ahead of me, as well.

What can we learn from this?

Too many authors regard autographing events as dreaded chores instead of opportunities to further your readership, which is exactly what they are.

In today’s competitive environment, no author can afford to alienate the people who can help them build their career.

Postscript

This author—who has remained nameless for obvious reasons—went on to publish a couple more books, but she never achieved much of a following. She has now dropped out of sight. Assuming that her attitude carried over to other author events, could her bad behavior have ruined her potential success?  Share your thoughts in our Discussion area.

Copyright 2006 by Barbara Doyen. All rights reserved.

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