By Jodie Cain Smith
As an author who wants to sell books, I occasionally deal with the public. At a recent signing, attendance was so poor the “public” I dealt with for most of my allotted time was made up of the other two authors present. We shared a table so I couldn’t run away, even as some of the dumbest comments on publishing ever flew from their mouths. Nope, I’m not as sweet as I look, but at least my filter works.
Author 1: “I double-spaced my book. It’s been a hit with the senior set.”
My silent response as I thumb through the pages of the “Christian Thriller” in question: I have never read or heard anyone in the publishing industry recommend double-spacing a novel. Large print is an option, but costly, and the line lead varies from book to book and publisher to publisher, but this thing is printed in 16pt font and double-spaced. It’s gigantic! I could render someone unconscious with a book this thick. And what the heck is a “Christian Thriller?” Smile and nod, Jodie. Smile and nod. (If you are unaware as I was, Christian Thriller is an actual sub-genre on Amazon. Thank you, Google.)
Author 2: “Why did you use a traditional publisher? I don’t want to share my money.”
I responded, “Because I wanted to, and I couldn’t afford to hire an editor.” My inner diva begged me to say, “Watch that tone, Lady. And what’s with the snarl? I hope your face sticks that way.”
Author 1, joining in: “Oh, I didn’t use an editor. I wanted to see what I could do by myself. Sure, there are mistakes and quirks, but that’s what makes my book unique.”
My inner monologue: Don’t laugh. Don’t bang my face against the table. Don’t pick up this guy’s “Christian Thriller” and bonk him on the head with it.
Instead I said, simply, “I love editors.”
Author 2, later: “According to my publishing agreement, I had to buy 1,000 copies of my book, so now I have a good stock of books in my garage. You really should consider self-publishing.”
More smiling. More nodding. More screaming from my inner diva: Are you kidding me? You didn’t self-publish. You vanity published! And who on Earth is going to buy 1,000 copies of your book out of your garage? Good job with that whole not-sharing-your-money thing.
Toward the end of our time together, I asked my tablemates if they are members of the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop. They both nodded “no.” Then Mr. Double-space proposed the following question:
“I mean, what could a writer’s group actually do for me?”
“My chapter, Columbia II, makes me a better writer,” I told him. “They are my first-line defense against bad writing.”
“That wouldn’t work for me. I don’t need other people judging my stuff,” Author 1 told me while straightening his unsold stack of books.
I smiled. I nodded. Then I turned forward in my seat and stared at my own untouched stack. No more talkie-talkie. Let’s play the quiet game.