As any kind of author, you have to understand that not everyone is going to like your work. You won’t be able to please 100% of your intended audience, so you will get negative reviews.
As a self-published author, your ego is even more at risk, since you don’t have a marketing firm to pave your way, telling everyone how awesome you are and how desperately they need to buy your book or books.
Small publishing presses alone can give authors valuable marketing resources that boost their presence and likability. And when it comes to Big 5 publishing companies, they have the ability to not only pave your way to The New York Times Best-Selling List; to a large degree, they can pay your way there too.
Sorry, authors, but you normally don’t get on that lauded listing without some serious cash behind you.
While I’m in no way shape or form knocking self-publishing – I went that route, after all – you have to understand how it means you’re on your own. You have no name recognition whatsoever, which makes people say "no" more often than not.
I knew all of that perfectly well when I called up Lancaster’s 4th Wall Comics two Wednesdays ago to see if it ever did author book signings for fantasy or sci-fi novels. I figured it would be a likely market to try Not So Human in, so I was happy when they said to bring the book in.
There, I spoke to a very nice guy named Jared, who looked at the novel, asked if it was age-appropriate, and said he simply needed to speak with his business partners. After he did, he’d get back to me about scheduling something at a peak traffic time.
We shook hands, and I left my book and business card with him, thinking that I’d get a call back in the next few days one way or the other.
Yet a full week went by, prompting me to call them again the Wednesday after my initial contact. This time, it was Jim who picked up, and when I explained that I was the person who called last week, he immediately said, “Oh yeah, we decided not to go with you” without a shred of caring in his voice.
Admittedly, my ego remained intact for that round. It was my Italian temper that took a trip, flaring up with righteous indignation at his attitude and the fact that he and his had apparently made such a firm decision but didn’t bother telling me about it.
My irritation didn’t subside when I asked him if I should just come get my book, and he gave me a one-word answer with the same indifferent tone. I immediately got into my car to make the 15-minute drive, trying to rein in my own attitude as I did.
By the time I got there, I had cooled down enough to be professional. But I still wasn’t happy and wanted to know why Not So Human had been so summarily rejected. Moreover, I was determined to let Jim know how he should handle rejections in the future.
No, I wasn’t going to say anything rude. I promise. And I wasn’t going to make a scene. However, I did want to point out that it really would have been nice if they had called me about their decision when they made it – which, the way he made it sound, had been pretty quick.
When I walked into the store though, it wasn’t Jim but Jared again, and he had a very different message to give me, asking if anyone had reached out to me on Facebook about my upcoming book signing.
Just like that, my emotions took a turn into utter confusion.
Jared pointed out where in the store it would take place and showed me a book by another author who would be doing his own signing next to me.
Thanking him, I left, muddled out of my mind, wondering if I’d completely misheard one of them somehow. As a result, I felt pretty stupid about connecting with 4th Wall Comics on Facebook, as Jared had instructed.
But I decided to put my pride on the line and just go for it anyway. So this is what I sent:
Hey 4th Wall,
Just checking in about the upcoming duel-author book signing for Not So Human.
Looking forward to getting the details!
Yes, I spelled “dual” wrong. Self-editing. Enough said. That aside, this is what I got back:
We discussed the signing between the 3 of us and we decided that it’s probably not in our best interest. We are a comic book store first and foremost and would like to stay true to our fundamental vision of bringing people together to examine, explore, and share with one another their experience with comics. That being said, we are currently only looking for comic writers for future signings. Sorry for the miscommunication on our part. Good luck.
4th Wall Comics
Now, by then, I wasn’t surprised. I had a feeling that was going to be the answer. But I still wanted to make it clear that they had a communication problem on their part; it wasn’t me. So I shot back:
Okay, I am exceptionally confused. Because when I called up yesterday and spoke to Jim, he said exactly that: that you guys had decided not to go with me. But then when I spoke to Jared in person when I came in to pick up my book, he said the opposite.
So I officially understand that I won’t be doing a book signing with you. But I don’t understand the mixed messages.
I never heard back after that.
Who knows what the real reason was. I don’t think it was the one I got though about staying true to their fundamental vision, since 1) They do sell some books there, 2) The other author Jared mentioned had a regular book, not a comic book, and 3) At least one of the business partners had no clue the official store policy completely excluded non-comic-book writers.
But the answer is obviously a no regardless. And that’s ultimately okay. Because for the slew of negative responses self-published authors expect to get, the positive ones really do make it worth the effort.