Monday, June 20, 2011

Just a Little Bit of Politeness and Self-Respect: Why I always answer emails...

Dinner with one of the nicest bestselling authors in the world: Joe Galloway. It doesn't take surviving the Ia Drang Valley to be polite these days...or, does it?
What is it with some bestselling authors? You put down your hard-earned money. You really enjoyed their book. You took time out from your life to share with the author your joy, how the book touched you, that you were overjoyed to have a literary adventure to just take a break with the content between those pages...and all you did was ask a nice little question about the new book they're coming out with, or how they arrived on a certain plot twist.

You click on the submit button...

And you wait...and you wait. And the self-absorbed author turns out to be a totally rude a-hole! Did you insult them? No.

Did you ask a question that's about to be answered in a PR released FAQ? No.

So what gives? Oh, yeah, the author is too damned busy to stay in touch with the very people who made him or her so successful in the traditional publishing world.

...Well, look out rude gals and guys, your days are numbered. Traditional publishing has been looking for the elephant graveyard for years, and with what has been happening in the world of ebooks and Kindle, traditional books might in the future be only found in used bookstores and libraries. In the meantime, saying hello and thank you to the fans is not that much time out of your writing schedule.

Remember that little thing called voice? Well, voice is part of an author's identity, and since it goes both ways, the identity of an author can color a fan's view of an author, especially in the world of the Internet--I smile politely and turn my head from rude people, don't you?

In the past, you could wonder what Ian Fleming must have sounded like, or seemed, in person based on a major magazine's interview of the famous book author. Or, you could possibly have felt a connection with an author interviewed on a radio or television show. That was enough for authors back then. Oprah took it to the bank. These days, if your name isn't John LeCarre or Frederick Forsyth, forget it!

The Internet, and the "official author website" has made it too easy for our fans to connect with us: the question is whether we respond appropriately. Sure there are glitches in software, where the email doesn't get through...

And it doesn't matter that we have newsletters and blogs. Yes, they're good for keeping the fan base up to date on the appearances, our special interests and upcoming books. Even sharing what we have to go through in the process of writing, marketing and selling books.

This is afterall a business. If we just wanted to write, we'd just type away on our computer, or crack open the diary and bleed onto the page.

As you can imagine I've interacted with a number of celebrities: they're always wondering if there's possibly a film idea with my next book, or something in my past that can be adapted to the screen. Some of them, like many of the paycheck writing producers they cower under, can be real self-centered little dweebs that make you wonder what did they think they did in their lives that earned them the right to look down on others as if they're owed something by their fans: they act like they earned a Medal of Honor for saving a division, though they only played a first or last name-only soldier character in a low budget film. You know who I'm talking about.

Then, there have been other film and TV actors, those who remember that respecting other people is a high level of self-respect, those like Gary Graham, Adam Baldwin, Michael Gregory, Patrick Kilpatrick, Kenn Scott, and Tim Abell, and, of course the dearly departed Charleton Heston, who not only put his actions behind his words, but also was kind enough to a neophyte book author, to write a nice little plug for the open of my Vietnam prison/Captain Kidd treasure hunting memoir, The Bamboo Chest. What applies to them, is what applies to anyone in the public eye.

If you want to keep your readers and you want them to recommend you to the uninitiated, then responding to an email is definitely worth a few minutes of your time...

It's also common courtesy--just being polite and in my book, in this time of increased rudeness as everyone goes about their lives as if they're alone (or they were just not taught how to treat other people with respect, which can be an indicator of self-respect), being polite and sharing common courtesy goes a long way!

And while I'm at, I want to share with you my most heartfelt words of appreciation for reading my books--THANK YOU.

...I'd never have gotten here without you!

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