Serving the fans, why it’s important, and how to survive it
Being a popular author is a lot of work. There’s all those hotels you have to stay in, and all those bookstore appearances, and all those drooling fans with books they want you to sign. Oh, sure, it sounds glamorous, but you have to smile at a lot of people when you’d rather be watching re-runs of CSI, and your hand gets tired from signing all those books. There’s got to be an easier way.
OK, yeah, I mock the problem. And I do have a faint notion of how stressful and tiring that scene can be; I know I tend to come home from cons and other public events worn out. But while I am learning (slowly) to marshal my resources at public events, I think we forget why we do those events at our peril. They’re not for us; they’re for fans. Yes, we have to take care of ourselves; but we have to do it in a way that doesn’t leave fans feeling unappreciated.
This morning on Facebook, I read this post from my friend Mitch, who graciously agreed to be quoted here:
Unless you’ve been under a rock for a while, you know The Hunger Games is hugely popular right now. I’m sure all the appearances Ms. Collins does are swamped, and the bookstores at which she appears have no reasonable choice but to impose some sort of order on the chaos that her presence creates–not only for their sakes and the health and safety of the author, but also for the fans who come to see her. And when the crowds get huge, inevitably some fans will be disappointed. But in this case both the bookstore and the author seem to have lost sight of the goal, which is to serve the fans. That is a separate issue from selling the book, as you may observe from Mitch’s reaction. While this episode represents a lost sale, it also represents something worse: a fan who feels used and disrespected. In short, a lost fan. And that’s the loss of far more than one sale.
I recognize that this failure is an outgrowth of real problems for the professionals involved. So here’s my question: how should this situation have been handled? How could the interests of the author and the bookstore have been protected without leaving fans feeling used? Please help me troubleshoot this one.