Everyone knows that you don’t pass up a kid’s lemonade stand. When you come upon a handmade sign, a wobbly card table and an icy pitcher of lemonade, you buy a cup. If the beverage looks a little sketchy, you don’t say, “no thanks, I’m not thirsty,” you say, “Yum. I think I’ll save this for later,” and you walk down the road a bit and pour it out behind a bush. Lemonade stands are not about thirst. You never, ever decline a cup.
Being an author is a little like having a lemonade stand; particularly if you’re doing a lot of the promotion and marketing yourself. You lug your card table and books and banners and bookmarks to whichever event is scheduled for that weekend; craft fairs, bookstores, library events, or conferences. You set up shop, hoping that the hundreds of people expected to attend will clean you out of your box of books and your pile of postcards. And sometimes I’ve seen that happen. To the guy next to me. Lots of folks walk up to my table, smile and say hello, ask me, “are you the author?”, snag one of the chocolates I usually bring and take a business card without so much as a dime crossing hands. The thing is, no one is ever obligated to buy my book, but from what I’ve heard from some other authors, that is what they expect. They think it is exactly like having a lemonade stand.
I disagree. These authors--and they are not in the majority--have expressed to me that it makes them angry when a person comes up to them at a book signing or other author event and simply asks questions. They feel their time is being monopolized, especially if the person doesn’t buy a book. Don’t even get them started if this poor soul moseys on down to the next author and buys their book!
Don’t get me wrong--when I’ve lugged 150 pounds of books and promotional items halfway across a field at the latest festival, I’d LOVE some sales. But when that doesn’t happen, I am just as happy to have made the acquaintance of dozens of people who take the time to talk to me. At the risk of putting too Pollyanna a spin on this, I’m so happy to have finally published my book and have it out there, that anyone’s interest in my book is gratifying. To clarify even further how I feel about it, how I feel is--fine.
I am fine with someone coming up to me at a writer’s conference and asking me for advice on publishers, just not the self-publishing kind. That “self-published” label still concerns some people and if they are expecting to hear horror stories from me, they’ve come to the wrong girl. My experience with She Writes Press has been positive from day one. Choosing SWP has given me an education in publishing I would never have gotten had I gone with a traditional publisher--not that any traditional publishers were knocking at my door. It was good for me to learn as much as I did about how to bring a book into the world. I liked it. I’m going to do it again!
I am fine with standing at my booth at a festival or fair and having people come up, ask me about my book, pick up a few tchotchkes and move on. I’ve been on my feet for over 5 hours and only credited three sales for the day, but even those days feel successful to me.
I am fine with being at a book signing, an event specifically planned for me and my book, and not having many people show up. I hope it doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does (and it did) it’s still a good time. Most people seem genuinely excited and supportive talking to a Real Live Author. At a signing, most who attend will buy a book, but not always, and that’s okay.
I know that my feelings about this might be vastly different from other authors’ and I am fine with that, too. I'm not here to judge how anyone makes sense of their own experience with their own work. Books have a huge and personal impact on people, for both the reader and the writer, creating worlds when they have none or inspiring them through their darkest times. It’s certainly not up to me to decide when someone should choose my book, but it’s definitely up to me to understand that they might not.