07 November 2008

Think too much or too little

Rowena Cherry raised an important question to me the other day. As authors, do we think too much of ourselves, at times? Not that this was particularly aimed at either of us. It was just an interesting topic of conversation, at a moment I was trying not to do edits. Funny how a lot of topics start that way. Grinning...

So, do we think too much of ourselves? Some authors do, but in general, I'd have to say I don't think we do. When we seem full of ourselves, the average author has often been pushed to a defensive posture and finally says, "I don't have to take this. I have accomplished..." Is it hubris? Perhaps, but I don't happen to feel that moments of self-pride are wrong. Living your entire life mired in pride...a little different.

Now, why do I believe this to be true? Honestly, from the years I've watched authors (both in NY and in indie press), it seems that authors are, in general (those nasty overbearing ones notwithstanding), pleased, amazed, overjoyed when fans show interest. Being nice to readers who contact you isn't a marketing scam; we're honestly tickled that readers not only bought the book and enjoyed it but that they take the time to tell us they did...to ask questions...to request more of something they liked...to come see us at events!

Overall, I think many authors, being the introverts or partial-introverts we often are, give ourselves too little credit. That doesn't mean we're self-effacing, all the time. It doesn't mean we can't hold our own, that we don't share our experience and knowledge, or that we can't spout a bio or market with the best of them. It means that the facts of who and what we are and have done don't touch the emotional state of that introvert, unless forced to a prideful response...or faced with a fan that brings it crashing home.

I've often shared a story about my early days writing novels.

My sister was putting up posters for my first-ever book signing. At that point, I had NO books in print. They were all e-books, and I was actually signing cover flats I'd made for the event. I wasn't well-known, though my sales were decent. I was gearing up for my first print release, and I'd been invited to do a reading and signing at this event at a little indie store in VA.

A woman came up and saw the poster. She started gushing to my sister and anyone else who would listen that she loved me and she'd "read everything she's ever written." Well, my sister was courteous, but she didn't believe a word of it. After all, I had no print books. I wasn't in the stores yet...

Skip forward a couple of weeks. I showed up for my reading, and as I was setting up, my sister pointed the woman out in the crowd. I didn't think much of it and went on with my planned reading. Afterward, she came up to get a signed promo from me...and started gushing about the e-books I had out, which company they were with, asking questions about specific characters and who was coming next... She was a FAN! I'd never met someone who knew who I was without knowing me pre-writing before, unless it was online, in the Yahoogroups I frequented.

Now, people might think that was just "first time" reaction, but I've never found it waning. Not after 6 years and 70 or so releases in this business. Let me share another...

Some people might think I'm going to share what it was like to find out that some of the writing legends I aspire to be like read my work. That's still fairly new to me. It's only happened four times, so far...all NY authors that I've jokingly said I want to be when I grow up. That's always a thrill.

Nor am I going to talk about reviews, though getting reviews that say things like "the best bar none fantasy romance I've ever read" [Regina of Coffeetime Romance of Fairy Dreams] will definitely make your week.

I got a phone call from my husband a few years back. By that time, I had about half a dozen print books, in addition to the e-books. He asked if I would like to bring our youngest down to Boston for lunch with him. I said I'd get ready, and he tacked on a rather ominous: "And bring promo gear with you." Okay... That was strange, so I asked him what was going on.

"One of my co-workers was reading PROPHECY at the security desk. I told her that you're my wife, and she doesn't believe me."

That one was fun. I walked in, dressed up (which I wouldn't have done, if he hadn't mentioned the situation to me...it would have been jeans and a ponytail). He was across the lobby and just waited there while I went to the desk and asked for him. Once the woman picked her jaw up off the floor, we had a great talk. I gave her some promo gear and such, and we discussed which books were coming next.

Finding fans in unexpected places is always a joy. Having someone recognize you at a convention and start talking about your books is a wonder. Fan letters are a gift. I have a fan letter from 2004 framed and hung behind my desk...just above my monitor.

Better yet, when someone who knew you pre-writing stumbles across a picture of you online, someone who has been reading you and didn't realize he/she knew you... As the old joke goes...priceless!

If we were really "too full of ourselves," these things wouldn't make a difference to us. They mean so much, because we don't spend enough time (IMO) telling ourselves that people love what we do. We love what we do, but the fact that someone else does is pretty cool.

1 comment:

Rowena Cherry said...

Good morning, Brenna!

Thank you for the link, and also for your support for my open chat session on LibraryThing. Seventy books is an impressive quantity!