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.