Today's Armchair BEA topic is Author Interactions. Now that I have been blogging for three years, I receive a good number of comments and emails from authors whose books I have reviewed. I have also met a fair number of authors over the years (starting from childhood), and have had both positive and negative interactions. Based on these experiences, I have made a list of tips for interacting with authors in person and online.
When meeting an author in person:
- Have realistic expectations. When you really love a book, or a body of work, it is easy to build up the author in your mind. Unfortunately, sometimes you imagine such a specific image of what the author will be like that the actual meeting feels like a bit of a let-down.
- Don't freak out.
It can be hard to remember that authors are regular people. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer, so in my mind, meeting an author was a similar experience to meeting a major celebrity. Even as an adult, I sometimes find myself getting nervous standing in line at a book signing, thinking about meeting this person whose writing I have so admired. But it's best to remain calm. Sometimes the author is just as nervous as you are.
- Plan something to say.
Book signing lines can be long, and you don't usually get a lot of time to talk with an author. Therefore, I find it is wise to prepare ahead of time what you'd like to say. (This also helps with the nerves I just mentioned.) I usually like to say something specific about one book: "I really identified with that character" or "This book meant so much to me when I was fifteen." I might also say something complimentary like, "You are a story time favorite at my library" or "My daughter absolutely loves your books." Statements like these are meaningful, they let the author know how much you like his or her work, and they take just about as long to say as it takes an author to sign his or her name.
- Respect boundaries.
Some authors like to pose for photos; others don't. Some authors allow fans to hug them; others don't. Some will sign anything you bring with you; others will only sign books. These boundaries are usually put in place for the author's comfort, and sometimes for logistical purposes (to keep the line moving, for example.) Even if you're dying for a photo, a hug, or an autograph on your tee shirt, it is important to respect the limits the authors have put in place.
- Say thank you. Even if you can't get the courage to say anything else during your in-person interaction with an author, make sure to thank them for their time, and for taking the trouble to sign your book.
- Don't spam.
While the internet makes it very easy to connect with people we admire, authors are entitled to their privacy and their personal space. While the occasional reply on Twitter is probably fine, I make it a practice not to tweet my reviews at authors. Instead, I inform publishers of my review dates and provide links, and I let them get in touch with the authors. Then, of course, if an author responds to me directly, I happily acknowledge their comments.
- Reply to comments and messages.
Whenever an author takes the time to comment on my review, or to send me an email or tweet, I do my best to reply. Even if it's just a quick "thank you for reading" or "I'm glad you liked my review," it lets them know that you value their comments. If the author or publisher sent you a review copy, it also shows them that you are appreciative of their generosity.
- Be tactful.
Because online reviews are public, and because these are often shared with or stumbled upon by publishers and authors, it is important to remain courteous and professional even when you dislike a book. There is no reason to write only positive reviews, as critical reviews are how librarians, readers, and others often determine whether to purchase or read a particular book. Still, it is a good idea to focus your criticisms on the book only, not on the author as a person, and to restrain yourself from swearing or name-calling in your review.