Sunday, February 14, 2010

Snobbery Lives

Snobbery Lives
by T. Lynn Ocean

Staying with this month's topic… Have you ever been the victim of snobbery… Hell, yes! Is there anyone out there—writers or otherwise—who hasn't? When it happens to you, depending on the Snobber (as opposed to the Snobbee), it can make you feel not like a doormat, but a speck of debris that has fallen off one's shoe and landed among the bristles of the doormat. Tiny and insignificant.

Here goes and no, I'm not going to give a name, so please don't ask. When my very first book, FOOL ME ONCE was about to come out in 2005, I was told by my editor to do anything I could to obtain jacket blurbs—you know, those terrific one or two-sentence testimonials that declare the book to be a fantastic read?

One southern author who was and still is a NYT bestseller was doing a book signing event at Waldenbooks / Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach, not too far from where I live. (Note: this store, as have many Waldens, has since shut down). Anyway, it was a Thursday. Signing time: 11-2. My arrival time? Eleven thirty. The author's table? Empty. Yeah, there was a string of ladies, books in hand, eagerly awaiting the arrival of their favorite author. A few store employees milled about. The author's driver & media escort popped in every so often, just as unsure of her whereabouts as everyone else. Problem? Not only would I be late getting back for work, but I was out $25 plus tax for the hardcover. Worst part? I'd already read the book. I simply purchased another copy as an excuse to meet the woman in person and ask if I might send her a galley in hopes of obtaining a jacket blurb. (Keep in mind that my book was in the process of being published by St. Martin's Press…I wasn't some psycho asking to lounge by the author's private swimming pool over hand-rolled sushi and mimosas.)

To reiterate: I'm on my lunch break, I'd driven 15 miles, I'd spent $25, and I'd waited outside the bookstore, semi-pacing in the chilly weather, for 45 minutes. Just when I'm ready to give up and head back to work, I see the author rounding the corner… CARRYING A FREAKIN' SHOPPING BAG! Hello? She was scheduled to sign books beginning at 11:00 a.m. I suppose there weren't enough fans in attendance to suit her taste, so she went exploring the Barefoot Landing boutiques.

When her Highness finally settled in at her signing table, there were about 15 women waiting. I stood back, letting everyone go in front of me, hoping I could have thirty seconds of this author's time without pressure. Tacky, sure, to ask for a blurb during a book signing. But, WTF? As a brand new writer, you do what you can, recklessly, sincerely, hoping for a break. As this author scribbled something on my copy, I mentioned that I was a writer and was wondering if she may have time to take a glance at my current manuscript. If she liked it, could she send a blurb on to my editor at St. Martin's?

Her eyebrows immediately went tight and her mouth pinched. But then, another fan appeared behind me in line, a stack of 3 books gripped against her stomach. And the author's retort immediately morphed into a smile.

"Absolutely," she said loudly, between lots of bright teeth. "I'm always happy to help an aspiring writer. Anything I can do, sweetie," she drawled, scribbling something onto the back of a bookmark. "Send it here and I'll do what I can."

Energized, gripping the bookmark and my newly purchased hardcover, I made my way to the parking lot, formulating an excuse as to why I'd be late returning to work. Once back at work, I pulled the bookmark from my handbag to see what she'd written.

It was the name of her publisher. Not even an address, not that it would have mattered. With no agent, editor, publicist or other real contact, my blurb request (had I actually sent my manuscript) would have ended up in the recycle pile without ever having been forwarded. To anyone.

Gotta smile, I thought, a bitter taste in my mouth. Or maybe I was just hungry, having skipped lunch. Either way, lesson learned. Every single bestseller has to start somewhere. There's no need to be a nasty, self-centered bitch, out shopping for a blouse when you're supposed to be sitting at a signing table. But some authors will. They are the snobs who use the rest of us to feel better about their status in life.

The flip side? I've also personally met other bestsellers… Nora Roberts, Cassandra King, Mary Alice Monroe, Harlan Coben and Celia Rivenbark – just to name a few – who were down-to-earth, friendly, wonderful people. They probably remembered that they, too, started as an unknown author, trying to work their way up the list. Or maybe writing has nothing to do with it. Maybe they are just genuinely nice, enjoyable people to begin with. And the good news is, they're in the majority.

T. LYNN'S latest book, SOUTHERN PERIL (St. Martin's Minotaur) is available to order on Kindle, and at your favorite local bookseller or online retailer. See for more info.


Anonymous said...

Fun piece. Plus I totallt think I know who this is.

T. Lynn said...

Happen to you, too??? :)

River Jordan said...

T. Lynn you precious thing with your 25.00 hardcover and late for work. I totally, totally understand. And thanks for naming the good authors who are warm and winning even with their bestseller status. You can add Catherine Coultier to that list. 60 million books in print and she was sassy down to earth fun when I met her.

Keep those words coming!