Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Professional Courtesy

So, I was at an event today during which four authors, from four different publishers, were addressing booksellers. Each of us was to have 10 to 12 minutes to speak.

The first guy said right up front that he wasn't going to bother to keep track of his time, and rather would leave it up to the MC to cut him off -- which is a very aggressive thing for a speaker to do. And when the MC did finally tell him his time was up (long after it actually had been), the author said, "Well, then, this is a good place to stop" -- and promptly went on for two more minutes.

The second person, a woman, did her ten minutes -- and then announced -- FREE! BONUS! -- she was going to read five typeset pages from her novel on top of that. I actually objected from the audience -- five pages is between 1,500 and 2,000 words, and that takes nine to twelve minutes to read aloud properly; she relented, and only read three pages.

The third fellow finished on time, but then instead of getting off stage announced, "You know, I just feel like doing a Q&A," and although no one volunteered any questions at first, he waited until people did ask him a couple.

And then it was my turn -- and we were now running late, of course. I got up, talked for nine minutes, and, I truly believe, left them wanting more ... which is the whole idea.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


At February 13, 2007 3:40 PM , Anonymous Jim Shannon said...

Hi Rob, Out of all four of you, I'd say you had more honest integrity then the rest except for maybe speaking up about the reading. Hind sight being what it is of course, I would have let her go on and on and when your time came up and cut short you would have stood out the better for it. Honestly do you really need the ten minutes of "fame" more then they did?

Did you have a chance to speak to any of these authors after?

At February 13, 2007 4:49 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

With all due respect, Jim, my publisher and its distributor spent about $1,000 total in airfare, hotel, etc., to buy me that ten minutes, and I gave up two days of my life -- and am marooned right now in Vancouver because my flight to Toronto has been cancelled, thanks to a snow storm -- travelling across the continent for that ten minutes.

You have no idea -- none at all, Jim -- how rare it is for a publisher to pay to send an author ANYWHERE. I had an obligation to protect their investment, and I did -- with humour and grace, I might add.

At February 13, 2007 5:37 PM , Blogger Drakkenfyre said...

Jim, I count speaking up as a positive factor towards someone's integrity.

I understand that some of the cultures that make up North America put a value on meekness, but others value the courage to speak up to prevent hardship to others.

And trust me, sales conferences are a hardship. :)

At February 13, 2007 6:05 PM , Blogger Josh said...

Moreover, I'd argue that you had a responsibility as a decent human being to speak up—for the sake of the rest of the audience! I don't know, maybe her pages were absolutely gripping, but I'm usually ready for most speakers to come to a close when their allotted time is up, and I think most other folks are too.

At February 13, 2007 8:41 PM , Blogger Lou_Sytsma said...

Totally unacceptable behaviour from fellow professionals who, more than anyone, should be empathetic to the plight of their own.

At February 13, 2007 11:52 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Thanks, Lou, Josh, and Kirstin.

Actually, she was a very fine writer, but not (yet) a good reader. And the place she ended up stopping was a scene change (I know, because we all had copies of her book, and the woman sitting next to me had hers open and was following along).

At February 14, 2007 12:49 AM , Anonymous Jim Shannon said...

Hi Rob,
I meant no disrespect but you still showed a lot more integrity then all the rest but I'm only going by what I read.If I was at that gig, I would have thought more of you then the other "blow hards." I was/am still speaking on your side.

I can further appreciate the business aspect of your time and effort and the publisher's investment as well. And what about the other authors? Was their circumstances similar to yours? If so they should have known better.I was/am working with limited information here so I don't have a lot of the details to go on.Maybe you could send their publishers the bill for the difference and the hassle these authors caused you.I just reacted to what you initially wrote so I plead the 5th:-)

About the weather in Vancouver it's no national secret that they've been getting some unusual weather there this season.I've lived in Coquitlam/New Westminster up until the late 1970's, half my life spent there and I've never seen weather as bad as it has been this season.

Sorry Rob, I wasn't trying to come across heavy handed or diss you in anyway.

Firstly now that I know the background, then as now I'm on Rob's side. Rob sowed more integrity then all the rest and that bodes well for me. Robs posture there at the event from what I read was admirable and I have come to "know" Rob since I've been blogging over the last year as a stand up guy.

I look for integrity, honesty and consistency in people. Three virtues that are sadly lacking in this world of ours. I'm not out looking for friends or to jump on the band wagon. My ego doesn't need to be stroked.

Please don't think I was out to be malicious in any way. I'm not that kind of person.

At February 14, 2007 11:47 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Thanks, Jim. Yes, the other authors were there under similar circumstances (although they were all BC authors, so they hadn't flown all the way across the country to be there).

And they were all new authors -- their first or second books -- so they perhaps have a little of the beginner's self-absorption (although I certainly knew that one shouldn't go over one's allotted time from the very beginning of my career).

And, actually, the weather problem was in Toronto (where the flight was going), not Vancouver -- although I had indeed heard that Vancouver has had some bad weather this year, too. In any event, I'm home safe and sound, and am very glad I went to BC.


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