Sunday, April 05, 2009

Wannabe Authors - Avoid Inappropriate Behavior

As with any profession, proper etiquette must be displayed. If you are a writer with author dreams, there's a few things you need to remember.

At book festivals, events, signings, etc., most authors are present for one reason - to sell their books. During this time, it is tempting for writers to ask questions about the publishing industry. Don't! And here's why-

Authors work hard to promote their work and set up appearances. It gives them a chance to meet fans in person and entice new readers to purchase their books. Often we have a small window of opportunity in which to accomplish this - sometimes not even an hour.

You may be tempted to take this time to ask an author questions. If it is related to their work, they are happy to speak with you! However, too often a writer simply wants to pump an author for information and then walk away without even buying a book. The five minutes you spent with us may not seem much to you, but unfortunately, you are not alone! Times that by the dozen others who asked questions, and we are left with no time to actually sell our books.

Next time you meet an author at an event, unless he or she is there specifically to answer publishing questions, please keep this in mind:

It is rude to ask how much that person makes.

Do not ask for the author's agent or publisher contact.

Do not ask that person how you can get published.

Do not ask the author to review your work.

Resist the urge to tell the person all about the book you are writing.

Do not hang around his or her table unless you plan to purchase a book.

We do not mind answering questions, but our events are not the proper time or place. Ask if you can email us one or two questions and we will likely be more responsive.

If you can't resist the urge to ask questions, please have the courtesy to purchase a book.

We do not mean to be rude or aloof, but being an author is our profession and how we earn a living. Please show some respect and avoid the above inappropriate behavior!

I am sure I left out a few points - authors please feel free to add other situations that you may have encountered!


  1. Very good points, Diane.

    The one thing I thought of to add is, DO sign up for the author's mailing list. A lot of authors at signings or talks will have a sheet you can sign to be notified of upcoming books or email newsletters. You'll get to know the author through their e-newsletter. Then visit their blog and website. You'll find opportunities to ask them questions that way without appearing as a nuisance at a signing. It's not that you're a nuisance. It's just that you've chosen the wrong venue or method.


  2. This is a good point to bring up. I'm sure that many people attending these events haven't thought of it this way.

  3. Yes, mailing list is good - I always have a sign up sheet.

    And you are correct, Mike! So many act as if we owe them the information, too.

    Wonder how these people would feel if I showed up at THEIR job and prevented THEM from working...?

  4. These are good points. Appropriate behavior is hard to find these days no matter where you work. Seems there is always someone who doesn't "get" it. It's nice to point out some basic rules.

    Good job.

  5. Great advice. That's too bad "wannabes" take advantage of such situations.

  6. I think this is a very help list of considerations. Actually, I don't mind when newbies ask questions. It's only when they are inconsiderate. It seems only fair that they should avoid taking time that an author might use with people who are there to have a book signed. So, for me at least, look around. Are there people waiting? Did someone just walk up to the signing table. Yield the right of way.

    And, yes, after an author has given you some time--even if there was no one else around buyin gheir book--you should do it. Or, at least offer to pass out cards or fliers for them. One of the best rules in PR is that you always ask others how you might help. (-:

    May I add that if this is news to you, you really might benefit from buying a book, particularly one on book promotion and, I hope it will be The Frugal Book Promoter. Ha!

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Tweeting at

  7. I have a different opinion and love it when people ask me questions about writing, whether they buy a book or not. So, I guess another key point is that everyone is different and feels differently about what is and isn't appropriate behavior. Good manners, though, always appropriate!

    You gave some really good tips about what and what not to ask.

  8. Helen has some good points. If you have questions for an author, most authors are more than willing to answer them at the right time.

    Morgan Mandel

  9. And I do not mind a question from someone - it's just five or six people in a row all asking questions starts to wear on my nerves!

  10. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  11. Thanks, Sarah!

    And that's the name of my main character in the second book of my YA series.