Saturday, September 30, 2006

Good Book, Good Manners from Canton Rep in OH

Kevin Sampsell offers bookstore event etiquette for both authors and audiences:

Unlike all those times you go to concerts, baseball games or monster truck rallies, when you go to a reading at a bookstore you have to be on your best behavior. I’m not saying this just to audience members (who are usually saints among saints), but also to the authors themselves. I’ve been organizing and hosting events for almost nine years and I’ve seen my share of terribleness on both sides of the microphone. Here’s some tips on what NOT to do at literary events.

AUDIENCE: Don’t bring weird gifts. A few years back, a fan gave David Sedaris a hideous sculpture of a naked person. How he was going to take this on an airplane was probably not considered. After the reading, Mr. Sedaris kindly asked me to dispose of the statue and some of the other “gifts” he had received, including homebaked foods (suspicious), vanity press books (sad), and a T-shirt (I’ve noticed that people who give authors T-shirts are usually affiliated with some kooky political group).

AUTHOR: Don’t be a prima donna. One popular and prolific children’s book author gave our event hosts a lashing after finding out that we were selling some of his books used (uh, we are a new AND used bookstore). The next day we told his publicist we didn’t want him back. Authors should remember that booksellers are the ones selling their books (and we can return them if we feel like it too). One spiritual author of international repute has treated our staff like his personal servants on more than one occasion. As a result, you’ll never see an employee recommend his books. The lesson here is: Don’t be a jerk.

AUDIENCE: Don’t be easily offended. At Eric Bogosian’s hilarious reading last year, he started off by describing his morning TV appearance that day. He made a snarky comment about some older ladies in the studio audience. As he was about to read from his book, a woman in the front row got up and stormed out, leaving a note at the podium. Bogosian grabbed the note and inquired to the lady about it. She shouted something back to him about how he shouldn’t make fun of old ladies. Bogosion read the note to the audience, who laughed uncomfortably.

AUTHOR: Don’t smoke at your reading. For one thing, it’s probably against the law in 48 states, and for another thing, it stinks up the books. Legs McNeil — I’m looking at you, pal.

AUDIENCE:Don’t draw undue attention to yourself: People came to see the author talk about their book, not to watch you brush your long, stinky hair. One of the worst attention-getters recently was an older gentleman who wore short shorts and sat in the front row, directly in front of the female author.

AUTHOR: Don’t go on forever. This is one the most common mistakes of the author and probably one of the reasons why more people don’t go to literary events. Listening to someone read for longer than fifteen minutes can be like watching C-Span. When it gets to the booksigning part, don’t gab to every fan for five minutes. Some people have to be home before midnight.

AUDIENCE: Phrase your question into a question. Some audience questions sound more like philosophical rants with a question mark tacked on somewhere (often in the middle). Think before you speak is the general rule here.

AUTHOR: Don’t show up drunk. We had the pleasure of having two authors who were reading together both show up drunk one night. The tension was apparent during the event and after the signing (for a spiritual book the two had co-written, naturally), both authors left with shady-looking ladies of a professional nature (if you know what I mean).

AUDIENCE: Don’t show up drunk. Yeah, it goes both ways. We don’t want the stench of burped beer on our books and we don’t want to clean up your puke when Chuck Palahniuk gets to that gross part in that one story. Sure, some readings may make you crave a vodka tonic, but that’s what after-functions are for.


Blogger Bob Andelman said...

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9:25 AM  

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