Creative people rest in a unique position in society. Until very recently, with the explosion of “independent” artists, we have been expected to create art for the sake of art. We haven’t been expected to be business people and I have been, at times, made to feel less “artistic” for being concerned about getting paid for our work. Talk to any musician about how it feels at the end of the gig to have to hunt down the organizer to ask for the check and go through the standard “it’s here somewhere, can we mail it?” routine.
Everyone around us is allowed to worry about their bottom line, but not the artist herself. I wrote a lengthy rant on this subject when a bookselling gateway wanted me to basically work for free while he made money off my efforts and then chided me for lacking in generosity when I refused.
This rant is a little closer to home. I may come off like a self-satisfied “I’ve got mine now you get yours” bee-yotch but bad manners are bad manners. Rachel Spangler wrote a marvelously wise blog about the soft sell that has spurred my thinking, and I want to credit her for that, but my mention of her does not imply that she agrees with anything I’m saying.
I was once a first-time writer. That was twenty-mumble years ago. Back then, had I gone to an event at a bookstore and walked up to the table where the featured writer was sitting, placed my book on that table, announced to the crowd that I was there, then sat down alongside and refused to move, it would have been career suicide. The pond was very small, and my talent was not so exceptional that I could rise above being a known monumental jackass. I’d have never seen the inside of a women’s bookstore again and my publisher would have heard about it–my contract would have been in jeopardy. In addition to a 7 a.m. lecture about my jackassery, Barbara Grier would have told me that such behavior did not sell books.
Of course, I hear you say, no one would do such a thing. It’s the height of rudeness. Who crashes someone else’s space like that? Yet–and we have reached the point of this blog–all over the Internet authors have set up their own spaces, their Facebook walls, their blogs, their wherevers. These spaces are carefully crafted to represent the books and they took the author’s time and money to create.
And I don’t know an author who hasn’t had another author post BUY MY BOOK links on their space. Cover art, links to buy, promotional copy, the works. This happens to me at least once a week.
It’s rude. Just as rude as crashing a reading would be. I don’t care if you’re new and I don’t care if you can’t get anyone to notice your book and I don’t care if someone said you should do it and I don’t care if you see other people doing it who claim it works, they’re lying to excuse the fact that they’re being rude.
It pisses people off. It pisses readers off. It does not sell books. It makes you look desperate. It also makes you look like a liar, to wit, “I need to hijack Karin Kallmaker’s name because my books are best sellers!” Right.
Unfortunately, in today’s world there are few reprisals for being rude. I wish I could send you a 7 a.m. phone call from Barbara Grier. Alas. All I can do is delete your post, take time away from my maxed out schedule to diplomatically ask you to stop, deal with your emotional angst when you respond that you never meant to bother me, or I eventually block you and risk, of course, being thought lacking in graciousness and generosity for not wanting you to plaster your poster over mine when I bought the space, big meanie that I am. This is what the other authors I know do as well. But we don’t forget your name and you may never know that’s why you’re not asked to play reindeer games down the road. The pond is not as small as it used to be but word still spreads.
Kindness and courtesy still matter. They will always matter. If you can’t practice them for their own sake consider this: Readers notice.
P.S. Added after the original post: Same goes true for a transparent proxy doing it on your behalf. If someone is doing it for you that you don’t know tell them to stop. Everyone assumes they are your proxy and you are reaping the bad P.R.