When writing and marketing your book, creativity is a necessity, but sometimes an author can go too far. While authors may be proud of being unique or even eccentric, they will want to avoid stepping over the line into crazy.
Hundreds of experts are out there writing, blogging, and speaking about what authors need to do to promote their books, but sometimes, authors need to hear about what not to do as well.
I’ve assembled a few of the more outlandish stories I’ve heard, and while they may seem truly crazy, I guarantee they are all actual things authors have done in the process of writing or marketing their books. Just on the slim chance you might be going down the road to crazy authorship, here are a few warnings of what not to do:
These two stories were both told to me by a friend who manages a bookstore:
We agreed to carry this author’s book on consignment. As long as a book continues to sell, we will keep carrying the book. But one author did not sell any books, so after six months, I called him to tell him we could no longer carry his title. He informed me that he had actually sold twenty books in my store. I told him the stack of eight books we had initially taken from him was still there. He replied that he had been coming in every couple of weeks and refilling the stack. Because we are not a computerized store but do manual inventory, when he kept refilling his stack, we had no way of keeping track that the books had sold, and consequently, I couldn’t pay him for those books. Bottom line, check with the bookstore manager before leaving new books in the store.
We had a local author whose books we placed in the local book section. One day I came into the store and all of her books were on the table in the front of the store with the bestsellers. I moved them back to the local author section. When the situation happened again, I explained to the author that customers looking for local books would have difficulty finding her books if they were not in the local section, but it didn’t seem to make a difference. A few days later, I came in and her books were again on the front table. After I had to move them a couple more times, I finally called the author and told her we would not sell her books anymore.
This story was told to me by an author who attended an art fair:
I was at an art fair and sharing a booth with another author. She had just had her story turned into an audio book. As a way to market herself, she decided she would bring a pair of headphones with her so people could stop by and listen to the audio book. Only she didn’t stop there. She stood outside of the booth and then ran up to people and put the headphones on their heads without asking their permission all the while exclaiming, “Listen to my book!” Needless to say, she kept people from getting anywhere near the booth to see my book and people were clearly starting to go out of their way to avoid us when they saw what she was doing to other innocent passersby.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard authors say the following when I’ve interviewed them. It does not make an interviewer happy:
“In your book, why does your character Mary decide to…?”
“You’ll have to read the book to find out.”
“Can you tell us though why you decided to have Mary do it?”
“No, I’m afraid I’ll give too much away. You’ll have to read the book to find out.”
In short, if an author doesn’t want to tell me about his or her book, I’m not going to want to read it.
One author wrote an opening paragraph to his introduction that said something along these lines:
Because I realize the situations in my book and the fantasy world I’ve created might at first be confusing and hard to follow for readers, I decided to write this introduction to explain things so my readers won’t get lost while reading the story.
Trust me, telling a reader your book is confusing is not going to help you sell books, and if your book is confusing, you need to keep working on it rather than publishing it.
You may not believe this, but some authors don’t know what is appropriate for a children’s book. I heard about one author who had his animal characters investigating a murder. Worst of all, the murder victim was a female, and the primary suspects were her husband and her lover. I hope I don’t have to say that murder, much less adultery, is not an appropriate subject for children.
I could list many mistakes here that authors make with their websites, but this author made what has to be the winner for all time craziest story. The following is a slight rephrasing of a posting I actually saw on an author’s website, but it represents what I’m afraid I’ve heard about more than one author (hence the fill in the blanks):
If you want to buy my book, I can’t mail it to you because _______ [the post office, the U.S. Government, the League of Evil, the aliens secretly running our planet, etc.] is purposely stealing books I’ve mailed so people won’t learn the truth about _______ [Bigfoot, King Arthur, the Bermuda Triangle, Jesus, aliens etc]. So I’ve turned it into an ebook you can download from my website.
Perhaps as an author your books are not selling as well as you wish and you’re wondering what you’re doing wrong, but after reading these stories, I’m sure you can pat yourself on the back that at least you’re doing a few things right.
Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.