As I travel from convention to convention, participating on panels and meeting a variety of authors, I’ve come across some rather unfortunate behavior and attitudes. Unfortunate because it is unnecessary, but it is extant nonetheless.
Most fantasy conventions have many authors in attendance. Some of them are in artist alley or the dealer room selling and signing their own books. Some of them are brought in by the con to be a part of programming (panels, readings, autograph sessions, etc.). Some of them do both, sell books and participate in programming. Authors range from those who published their books through a vanity/subsidy press, self-published authors, those with small presses, and those who are published with one of the New York Big Boys.
Most authors I meet are wonderful. They are kind and gracious, intelligent and respectful. I learn much from my fellow authors just by participating on panels with them. It’s a fun way to network and trade knowledge.
I’ve been on panels with Cherie Priest, Jody Lynn Nye, and Tim Powers. I’ve been part of a writing critique group with Skyler White and Stephen Brust. Each of them treated me as a colleague. After all, we are all working authors continuously trying to improve our craft, navigate the changing publishing industry, and market our books. All of these authors have been friendly, helpful, and respectful.
However, there are a few who haven’t been. A very few NY published authors act as if they are in a secret club with a special handshake, and they look down on the rest of us. At one con not too long ago, I had an autograph session with two authors who will remain unnamed.
They treated me like a second-class citizen. They literally looked down their noses at me and my book. A reader had come up to one of them and asked if her books were available at the con. She said something along the lines of how her publisher didn’t get them in. Once the table was clear again, I asked this author if her publisher didn’t get books to her in time for the con. I was just trying to engage in polite conversation. After all, we all had to sit at this table together for an hour. She sneered, I kid you not, and said, “Oh. I don’t sell my own books” in the most condescending tone imaginable, as I sat there with my own books. “Besides,” she continued, “everyone at this con has already read my books.”
Really? I had never heard of her.
She continued her conversation with the author sitting between us, and I kept trying to join in, but I felt like the outcast in junior high all over again. They ignored me completely. I walked away from that table feeling a little smaller than I did an hour before, even though patrons came up, bought my book, and had me sign it. I still felt just a little less.
And that’s just not right.
All of us are trying to make a living. All of us are trying to get our stories in front of an audience. All of us have something to say and our own unique way of saying it.
We each have individual goals and timelines. We each make an individual choice that makes sense in our lives, for our goals, to the best of our knowledge.
No matter what your publishing choices are, no matter if you are represented or not, no matter if you sell your own books or not…play nice. Respect your colleagues. And, yes, if they are authors, they are colleagues. A NY published author may say they’ve worked hard to get where they are, so they are entitled to a certain level of respect. Sure they’ve worked hard to get where they are, but just by saying so, they insinuate others have not worked as hard.
And that’s balderdash.
Take a doctor who makes $400,000/yr and a General Contractor who makes 1/8 that. Who works harder? Whose job is more important? I guess that depends on if you are sick or if you have a hole in your roof.
The difference is societal prestige, not effort or labor. Not skill. Not even intelligence.
Different choices. Different goals.
So, show some respect, and leave your elitism and entitlement at home.
27 Comments Add yours
Great post Christine. As an Indie author and a project manager for a construction company I know that elitist balderdash first hand. People who build themselves up by pushing others down are the smallest people of all. And it’s not just in publishing, but every profession and group. Thanks for calling them out.
Thanks, Max! And you’re right, they are the smallest people of all.
There’s no excuse not to be professional no matter WHAT. Or common courtesy.
I agree, Rhonda. Sometimes I wonder what happened to common courtesy. As I get older, I meet more and more people who don’t know the meaning of courtesy. Or, perhaps, I just recognize it sooner from experience.
I think you just recognise it sooner!
An outstanding post, Christine. Certainly something that needed to be said and you said it well. Experience has shown me that just because one may have achieved a greater level of experience or notoriety, this doesn’t mean that someone just starting out in the field (or only having a bit less experience) is not just as skilled, if not moreso. Unfortunately, most of us have to maintain a “day job” to keep the cashflow coming as we pursue our dreams. In that environment alone, every day, I see quite a few instances wherein someone LESS qualified is in a higher level position. Whether they came by this position due to their skill, fortuitous circumstances or skullduggery does not matter. It still remains that there is always someone, somewhere, better suited to do what you do that you yourself. Get over it and do what you have to do and have a sense of general decorum about it, if not courtesy.
*hops off soapbox*
Thank you, CL! I used to believe that people generally do the best they can with what they know and what they have to work with, and to some extent I still do believe that. But, in my middle age, I find that I have decreasing patience for elitism and entitlement, not to mention those who will just use a person to further themselves and then devalue that person. Truly. No patience for that any more.
WOW. I can’t believe the rudeness, the utter insensitivity and just…ug…lack of kindness those authors showed you! I’m glad most of your experiences have been positive. I’ve found that, myself–almost overwhelmingly, authors are supportive and encouraging of each other (at least in my children’s and YA author world). I’ll bet that made you never want to read that author’s book, eh? It would turn me off an author….
Oh. I’ll never read either of their work. Ethan, my husband, had a book from the male author. I asked him how it was, and he said “ok.” We got rid of that book, and we won’t be buying another. Yes. Life is too short to deal with assholes. And there are plenty of books out there to read that are as good or better, so my money supports good people.
Ha! I like that, that you got rid of the book by one of the authors who was so rude. (To me, bordering on cruel.) It’s different, but I haven’t been able to re-read any of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game series, even though I loved it, since he came out as so strongly homophobic and full of hate for LGBTQ people….
WHAT?! I hadn’t heard. I won’t be reading Card now either. That’s just ridiculous. And yes, it was rather cruel of them.
yeah. I couldn’t believe how horribly homophobic he was. It hurts a lot (I’m queer) — and I don’t condone hate on any level. To find out an author whose books I’d loved was like that–it was a shock.
And you’re right, it was cruel, the way those authors were to you. I would have felt the same way–it would have destroyed my joy in the day, and i would have felt smaller, too. There is no reason for people to behave like that.
oh, wait, wait–was that a YA author? I know you write YA. (I was thinking general fantasy, because you mentioned it was a fantasy convention.) Ug. Either way–I’m sorry you had that experience!
They were not a YA author, just general fantasy/scifi. Mystery, I think actually. I write both YA and adult fantasy (under O. M. Grey). It wasn’t fun, but it was most certainly a learning experience!
Very cool; I didn’t know you wrote adult fantasy, too!
I do! Avalon Revisited by my alter-ego O. M. Grey. Very steamy. The short fiction on this site is general adult, no steamy stuff that teens couldn’t read. Still rather disturbing, though. Most of my stuff is rather dark.
I understand! Most of my stuff has darkness in it, too. Edgy. (It’s what I know.)
A great post and a great shame that you went through that experience. I’m guessing that ‘She’ and others do not express compassion very well in their writings. Keep on writing!
We’ll definitely keep writing, Gary. Thank you so much for your words of kindness and support. So sad I didn’t get to see you while I was in the UK. Next time, I hope.
So true. It’s something you’ll find most of the time. Although I do have to say, with horror authors, I’ve been to a few conventions and they all seem pretty grounded, even the ones who are living in rarified air. But, elitisim exists in every profession. Just don’t let it get you down!
Elitism indeed does exist in every profession, in every walk of life. Thank you for your comment, and I’m not letting it get me down. It’s empowering, really.
Absurd, but true. That attitude of ‘I don’t dirty my hands with base trade’ should have gone out with a few centuries ago, but unfortunately still lingers, as does the ‘I’m and artist and my book is better than yours because….’. Both are silly and unprofessional, IMO.
Agreed. Very unprofessional. Thanks for your comment.
Love this post, Christine. Said author sounds lonely. It just goes to show that success doesn’t bring happiness. And I’ll stop spouting aphorisms now….
Sometimes I think success causes loneliness, actually. Many people might be falling at your feet, but those aren’t real relationships. So all the praise in the world can come across empty if that’s all one has. No doubt.