I stumbled across this article in the U.K. Daily Mail the other day and it shocked me. I’m not sure if there is more to this story about how poorly Octavia Butler treated her fans, but it made me sad to read how she acted on this particular occasion.
At a booksigning at a Barnes & Noble in Los Angeles, she complained about petty things and took her fans for granted.
As one former fan said, “’Octavia was acting like a diva. She was mad because the event coordinator gave her a small glass of water but she wanted a large liter of ‘good water’ and demanded to know why she was being treated this way,”
Some of the people were parents who had been waiting for an hour with their children to see Butler. It’s sad, as the article notes, that a lot of those people are now former fans. Plus, she generated a lot of bad publicity for herself.
As a writer who has worked hard to gain fans, I wouldn’t want to lose them. I always do my best at booksignings to speak with the fan, have my picture taken, or anything within reason. Granted, I don’t have lines of people waiting for me for an hour, but a writer needs to remember that their success depends on their fans.
As a fan, I have attended the National Book Festival many times. I love being able to meet some of my favorite authors and have them sign my books. I have seen instances of some authors acting very poorly towards their fans, showing up late, refusing to sign anything other than their current book, leaving early, and refusing to take pictures with fans. Some of those things I’ve seen firsthand. Other instances, I heard about while waiting in other lines. When an author behaved badly, it spread quickly among fans.
On the flip side, I feel most authors do appreciate their fans. Here’s a few examples.
I waited in line to get David McCullough’s signature. He was scheduled for an hour at the National Book Festival (the length of time), but his line was so long it became obvious that he wasn’t going to get to everyone. Then word spread that he had asked to stay another hour and the organizers had been able to accommodate him. When I finally got to meet him, I thanked him for staying later. He said, “I would have been a schmuck if I hadn’t.”
I watched Harlan Coben at the National Book Festival joke around with fans and have pictures taken with them, seemingly with nothing better to do than have fun with his fans.
I once sent David Farland some books I had of his and asked him to sign them and mail them back (I included a check for return postage). Not only did he sign my books, he included a paperback copy of one of his early novels in the return package for me, which was a nice surprise.
I know that there are lots of authors who do similar things. That’s why their fans like to meet them and when they make a good impression, they can make a fan for life.