I knew this would happen one day. Maybe it’s just that paranoid sense of doubt that always lingers, or maybe it was the realistic expectation that if you are always in front of people with your books, at some point, someone is going to make a point of hunting you down to try and tell you off. At the latest comic convention, it finally happened.
I had just finished giving a panel, and when the young man showed up (probably 20, 22?), I recognized him from the panel. He had an old copy of my second book in his trembling hands. He said he wanted me to know more than he didn’t like my first two books, but he wanted to explain to me what was wrong with them.
He started talking, and I didn’t interrupt. I watched as he became more relaxed, and I avoided doing anything like folding my arms at him. As he was talking, my mind was going from one thought to another, and my wife (who was also at the booth, but I’d pulled the young man aside) was giving me a look. Many people would have suggested cutting him off, and sending him on his way, but I had a different strategy in mind.When he’d run the gambit of what he needed to say,
When he’d run the gambit of what he needed to say, I’d asked him if he knew the intended audience for the books. He confirmed that it was for 9-15 year-olds and layered for adults who like books like that. He then stated how he likes the genre and a number of other things, but not my execution, though he admitted that the second book (which he still had 70 pages to go), was better than the first. He stated that he’d been in a few of my panels last year, and like the one he’d just been in, had really enjoyed it.
With the audience confirmed, I said firstly how that audience isn’t after the same things he is after. But more importantly, I said, is that no everyone likes everything. I then talked about a beta-reader I had who hated a draft of my upcoming book, The Man of Cloud 9, and I’d then pointed him at The Wizard Killer, which he thought was the greatest thing since sliced bread. I pointed out how this person was very much someone who liked to experience a world first and foremost, and how the types of things he enjoyed were particular to him. The young man started relaxing. I said a few more things about different audiences, about different needs, and how when he comes to publish his own works one day (in whichever manner he does that: traditional or indie), he will discover who his real audience is, versus who he thinks it is.
He then asked me if I was saying that he should buy some more of my books to understand, and I said no. I told him that he could read the 3 episodes of The Wizard Killer that I posted for free if he wanted to see a different side of me, and taking to a different audience, but it wasn’t necessary. I said if my writing, which he didn’t liked some of it, helped him improve his own writing, great. And I believe by the end, he really understood that authors can represent different parts of themselves in different works, and you don’t have to like everything. You might just like my panels and my future non-fiction books, and that’s okay.
With a sigh, he thanked me for being so mature about it, and I wished him well as he left. Was it the best use of nearly 15 minutes? Not in terms of sales, but who knows. Hopefully, this boosted his confidence in addressing difficult issues in life, maybe it even helped him understand a bit more of what it’s like being an author, and maybe he’ll be a fan of something I write in the future, who knows.
Some have wondered why would I post this? Isn’t it giving myself some bad press? No. I have lots of fans, more and more every month. At the same convention, I had a lot of people (I lost track around twenty) who come up to me to tell me how much they loved my books. One even wrote an essay on book one for a college class and was really enjoying book two of The Yellow Hoods.
I find online there are a lot of bad examples, and very few (if any) good ones. My blog has always been about my author journey, and this was an important part for me. Hopefully, it gives others something to think about in case they are ever caught in a similar situation.