Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday: Meeting Your Literary Hero

Seeing as how I am attending New York Comic Con this weekend and I've just taken a look through the guest list, I thought it prudent to address author-meeting-literary-hero etiquette.

If some of you have been following my blog for a while, you know that I have a deep seated love for a certain number of authors.

A. I love their work.

B.  I also want to be them when I grow up.

Most people only deal with issue A.  However, authors have a strange bipolar arrangement where they are both fan and followers.  I'd say worshiper, but that just sounds creepy, and really, I don't want to worship I want to befriend them.  Does it sound odd that I have "friend" goals?  It shouldn't, we all secretly want to get to know and quite possibly be best friends with someone.

So, that leaves me and every other wannabe Bestseller at a strange crossroads.

How do I conduct myself when I meet these people who both awe and inspire me?

I've seen many, many authors do the fan-girl thing.  You haul 15 books around a Con, hunting for the illusive authors, squeeing at the briefest sighting, cornering unfortunate author in an elevator and then holding them hostage with your life story and how you're an author too!  *face-palm*  This is not how you make friends...or get guidance.  This is how, in said author's next novel, the villain's obnoxious sidekick looks suspiciously like a combination of you and your creepy fandom cronies.

Here's some advice.

1.  Be cool and collected.  Nobody likes a hyperventilating maniac on the verge of verbal asphyxiation.

2.  If you must bring a book for the author to sign, that's fine, but don't bring everyone's book.  Choose your absolute favorite author and only bring their book.  They won't believe that they are your hero when you're going and getting all your other "hero's" autographs as well. 

3.  Fans get first dibs.  Let the fans talk to the author first.  The author is there primarily for them, let your hero bask in the glory of literary Godhood.  They have earned it.

Holy craps, this is it!  It's your literary hero!

4.  Make a good, professional impression.  Being an author is all about selling YOU.  If you come off as overpowering or demanding, your hero will remember it.  Try to think of a couple of good lines and memorize them.  Something like "I'm so and so, I'm an aspiring author (If you have some kind of clout, like an agent or book on submission insert it here).  I just wanted to let you know that you're one of my biggest inspirations and XYZ."  It's okay to flatter them (everybody loves a little flattery), just don't do it in a way that makes you seem like a desperate author-napping weirdo and don't tell them your whole life story.

5.  Make sure the author has time for you.  A simple "Do you have a few minutes?" is fine.  If they are in a rush, tell them what you're after, and ask if you can contact them via email, Facebook, or Twitter.  Make sure you remind them who you are and where you met them when you do contact them. 

6.  If they do have time for you, make sure that you're not holding up the line.  If there's another panel waiting outside the room, make it obvious that you're willing to speak on the move or outside the room.  Sometimes authors get this whole deer stuck in a corner thing when people are talking to them and you have to herd them out.  Just say something like, "Let's get out of the way" or "Do you need help carrying that out" (Inevitably they'll have promo or books with them) will work.  Sometimes suggesting lunch or a drink works too...

7.  Know why you want to have a relationship with this person.  And YES, you DO want a relationship with this person.  If you are meeting your favorite author, if at all possible, make friends with them!  Why?  Hello!  If you love their writing that means they are doing something right.  And you want to know what it is that they do.  Study their craft, find things that amaze you about what they do, and ask them about it.  I don't know a single author who doesn't love to talk about their writing or themselves.  :)  This goes along with the whole 'I want to be like you' thing.  Basically, you're Robin being like, "Holy Bananas, Batman!  That weird kick thing you did to the Joker was bangin'!  How'd you do it, Bro?"

...Cause we all know Robin is from the Hood...

Seriously though, if you want to be a successful writer then the best thing you can do is get a successful writer to tutor you.  Tutoring doesn't mean asking them to read and critique your MS.  (If ever Neil Gaiman or Brandon Sanderson did that, they'd never be able to put out their own awesome work.)  If you're a serious writer you should know what your strengths and weaknesses are, you should know what you want to instill in your readers, and you should always be trying to improve.

If you know someone that makes you feel like you want your readers to feel find them and find out how they do it.

8.  DO NOT start: pitching your book, asking them to introduce you to their agent/editor, asking them to write you a blurb, or ask them to read your MS.  This comes after the honeymoon.

 9.  Keep in mind that authors are people too.  if you're really serious about building a friendship with people, then make sure to engage them on things about THEM, not just about you and what you want.

I hope that helps some of you have a successful first encounter with your literary hero!  Good luck!