Friday, June 5, 2009

BEA Recap: Horror Stories

You know those horror stories agents and editors use as cautionary tales for what to never, ever do around them? Like to not hand them an unsolicited manuscript, follow them to public restrooms, or pitch them in the middle of a social event? Like, use common sense?

Okay, well. I never knew people would actually consider doing any of those things to lit bloggers. But I’ll tell you what, this is how I’m debuting my series of BEA recaps: rude and awkward but funny situations I found myself in at BEA.

First up was at the blogger booth. Firebrand set up a space for bloggers to sit in scheduled hour-long slots to meet readers or people who were interested. Think an author signing, but for bloggers. We had some materials to hand to curious people who passed by and trading cards to use as business cards, etc. Fun idea, huh?

Well, my slot was at 11am on Saturday. I didn’t get many visitors (way to feel like a reject, Steph!) when a middle-aged man stopped by and asked what bloggers did and how much we charged for our services. The two other people signing with me, Trish and Molly, were busy chatting with other visitors, so I explained that we do this for free as a hobby, etc…

He perked up. He pulled a (very cheap-looking) book from a suitcase he was carrying and began pitching this true crime novel to me, even after I’d told him I only do YA. I’m not good at telling industry people off in person, and my subtle attempts to get him to leave me alone failed to work, so I was stuck there. Half an hour the guy was there.

Out of an hour I had to be there. He took up half my time, and out of my peripheral vision I saw people come up and leave once they saw how engrossed he was in this one-sided conversation I couldn’t get out of. He handed me the book and said, “You gotta review it.”

“My review pile is way too big right now--”

“This will be a bestseller. Did you miss the part where a feature film is being made for July?”

Are movies even made that quickly? It sounded off to me.

“That’s great! But I really can’t--”

“Take it!”

“Uh…okay.” I took the book and put it with my stuff. “Thanks.”

“So you’ll review it?” He was looking at me so expectantly.


“Hey, Steph, I gotta show you something,” the event coordinator said. “One second,” she told the guy. We walked over to the computer and she said, “You looked like you needed some help there.”

“Oh, thank you. Yeah. No kidding. He’s been here for half an hour and he’s badgering me.” I was really annoyed, more so by the fact I hadn’t found the courage to defend myself.

We browsed Twitter for a couple of minutes and I said, “Okay, I’m going back. Thank you.”

The guy was talking to another coordinator when I went back to my seat, and the coordinator looked just as uncomfortable as I’m sure I did. I tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around and I said, “Look, I’m not going to be able to review this as my readership is mainly comprised of teen girls who aren’t your target audience.”

He looked so immersed in his conversation with the other coordinator that he just nodded, took the book, and went on talking. I almost said something to him, but the coordinator who saved me looked like she had it under control, so I just left.

Oh my GOD, was that awkward. It makes you wonder if people have no common sense at all.

Then! At 12:30pm I was moderating a YA consumer panel. We had four teen girls (five with me, but I wasn’t a panelist) talking about their reading habits and such. We got a ton of audience questions and when the panel finished, some audience members came up to talk to me. I got through the first two people okay and then as I was talking to the third, this guy came up to me.

Another guy, mind. Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice.

He poked me. I politely motioned for him to wait a bit as I was in the middle of a conversation with another person. He tapped his foot, the classic image of an impatient prima donna, and it took my all not to roll my eyes. A couple of minutes went by, and I was still talking to the other person. Instead of waiting, he grabbed my shirt and turned me to face him and handed me a couple of children’s books.

“Read these, okay?”

“I’m sorry but--” As you can see, I was getting a little bolder. No Uhh…s this time.

“Read them, okay?”

He looked anxious to leave, so I figured if I said okay he’d go. “Sure!”

He grabbed my wrist and pulled the books from my hand. I was getting a bit creeped out, but since I wasn’t alone in the room, I said nothing. He pointed at the title and said, “If you type that into the Internet, you’ll see the website. You’ll read them, right?”

I pulled my hand back, gave him a wan smile and did like a thumbs up thing.

He left.

I apologized and continued my conversation with the other person--who looked about as irked as I was when the guy finally left--and when I was all done talking to the awesome people who stayed after the panel to chat, I threw the books in my bag and left for the book blogger panel.

Long story short: When I left New York on Monday, those two books remained in the hotel room. My bags were heavy enough as it is. Here’s to hoping the hotel housekeeper has a kid who’d be interested.

All I’m saying is: That’s not the way to pitch bloggers. Or anyone. I never thought I’d have this problem--I mean, I’m a book blogger. What published author would have the audacity to impose themselves on a person like that? It’s one thing to casually come up to someone and say, “Hi, I’m ___ and my book, ____, published by ____, might appeal to you.”

But…the above? Ick.

I guess all’s fair in marketing and BEA?


Alea said...

Ehhh I'm sorry about that! I had one really nice lady come up at the Blogger Booth and talk to me about her graphic novel and I was so excited, wish you could have had someone else creepy and more your speed come up to chat. You had a good time when I was at the blogger booth though right, had some lovely people come chat with us then! :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Welcome to the world of weirdos!
As an author, I could give you stories of odd characters who've approach me at events. Love the over-talkers. I've finally learned to tell them that I'm only there for X amount of time and other people are waiting.

Wish common sense was more common...

L. Diane Wolfe

Diana Dang said...

Haha, now that's just a great morning read! xD

Meghan said...

It is amazing how these people have no manners and no knowledge of how to pitch a book to a blogger. I'm wondering how they would have ever managed to successfully pitch a book to a publishing company, and suspecting that they were self-published. (Obviously not all self-pubbed people are like that, I know a number of nice writers who can actually write and know how to sell their book, but it's the only explanation I can think of!) I hope you also had nice visitors.

KT Grant said...

You have to be kidding me! I was at BEA on Saturday and I met with various publishers and editors. I am in the process of getting published and not once did I talk about my book I was working on or bring it up at all. Even when I had the opportunity, I never did.

I wish I could have stopped by the Firebrand booth! The next thing I new, it was 4pm!

anilee said...

*laughs hysterically* People are idiots. It's so funny. And they actually think that their books are amazing and that everyone is so totally going to love them. Sigh. When are authors going to realize that mostly? Strangers--even those who review--just don't care that you've written a book. (Or maybe, since I frequent the Amazon forums, I think that just because of the number of self-promoting authors who don't know the best way to sell their book....)

BookChic said...

OMG That's horrible!! Ugh, those guys are just creepy to the max. I can't believe the second guy actually grabbed both your shirt and wrist and forced his books on you. Geez. Especially in a room with other people around. WTH?

I'm a bit nervous now if I do decide to sign up for the blogger booth next year, if they do it again. I don't want that happening to me- I don't even know what I'd do. I'd prolly have the same reaction as you- I don't think I'd be able to speak up and reject them (though obviously you did do that with the first guy after a bit of time away from him- kudos on that, btw). It can be difficult enough doing it through email, but in person? It would be horrible.

Looking forward to reading about the more positive aspects of BEA!

Unknown said...


Seriously, people like that make me embarrassed to be a writer.

I wish I'd been there, though! I sure would have given them a piece of my mind!!!

Lenore Appelhans said...

Now I understand why you had that desperate look in your eye when I visited you at the booth. I had no idea he was bugging you for that long. I just told him firmly that his book sounded interesting but it is not the type of book I read or review.

moonrat said...

boo!!! touching a stranger at a convention (poking, shirt-grabbing) is REALLY icky!! i'd like to teach that guy some boundary issue training.

you forebore very nicely, i'd say.

Heather Zundel said...

I'm with Beth. People like that make me embarassed to be a writer. Can I apologize for all us decent ones out there who know proper etiquette?

And touching?! BIG time no-no. You handled yourself amazing. I don't think I could have done any better.

Steph Su said...

It's unbelievable to think that there are people who will actually do that, eh? I'm sorry you had to go through that. Next time I think you should just kick their asses and get on with the happier moments of BEA. :)

Unknown said...

Oh wow, sorry that happened. Hope you still had a good time though and enjoyed your trip to NY.

-Tempestt (book reviews and author interviews) (entertainment news and reviews)

Great giveaways at this link - - just check the sidebar.

Shalonda said...

Wow! You would think that in an environment involving their profession, these two men would act professionally! I can't believe the nerve of some people.

I am assuming they were self-published because if they hadn't prepared a better way to pitch their books to you, how on earth did they get published?

Shalonda said...

Looking back on the comments, it looks as though I had the assumption as Meghan!

That's so funny. Just goes to show how irresponsibly the two men acted.

MySharonAnne said...

lol Same freaking thing happened to me during my signing. I think that the best way to deal with people like that is to be nice. I had some guy come up to me to talk about his quantum psychics book. So I pretended to be all excited and told him about how my bf loves the science channel and I would tell him about his books. This seemed to make him happy enough and he left.

If someone touched me like that second guy I might have flipped out. What a creep! This is where nice Sharon leaves and zombie loving Sharon comes to the surface! *nomnom*

MySharonAnne said...

omg good thing my bf doesn't read blogs. I think he would be shocked to see me butcher the spelling of quantum physics!

Alyce said...

That is so creepy! I'm not a touch-feely person in the first place, so if someone invades my personal space I get upset. I'm not sure I would have been so self-controlled or nice as you were.

Summer said...

You're a hot commodity. You go girl!

Kimberly Derting said...

Just ewww!

Heather (errantdreams) said...

Wow, the audacity of idiots never fails to surprise me! Thank goodness there are plenty of good folks to balance 'em out. Hopefully blogging these stories will be good catharsis. ;)

trish said...

Knowing your experiences, we'll have to look out for each other next year. As easy (or hard) as it is to tell someone no, it's always nice to have someone nearby who can rescue you!

Reader Rabbit said...

That sounds terrifying! And touching is a big no-no. That's just creepy...

But it sounds like BEA was an adventure. :)

R.J. Anderson said...

I met a pushy guy like that at the last big conference I attended. I tried to be polite and friendly at first, but when he barged up to me as I was talking to my agent, tapped me on the shoulder and *demanded* to be introduced, I was so appalled I just turned and walked away.

I can understand what it's like being unpublished (or newly published) and eager to get a break, but boy howdy there are ways to approach people and that was definitely NOT how to do it.

Beth F said...

Ick!!!!! Sorry you got hit twice. I got one women who was trying to tell me the entire plot of her book after the blogger panel. I finally said, "You know, I won't remember a thing that you said by the time I get home. Here's my card, email me." She at least got the hint (well, more than a hint!).

Amee said...

Yikes! That guy who touched you was creepy! The other guy too, but especially the toucher. I worked in a restaurant before and had people tugging on my apron or shirt a lot. It was pretty annoying. It's like people think if you're providing a service (serving food, reviewing books, whatever) that they are free to grab and tug away at you to make sure that you are giving them their fair share of attention. I had a customer grab me by the wrist once. It was pretty scary even in a restaurant full of other people. It only happened that once, thank goodness! Hopefully it's just a one time thing for you too. No more grabby hands next year! ;)

Emily said...

Yikes. I'm so sorry!
But at least you know part of your deomgraphic!
...creepy older men (;

Michelle said...

Yikes, that was just the height of rude. What runs through a person's mind that they think this type of behavior is going to garner anything remotely resembling positive results?

As a person not inclined to confrontation in person I'm glad that you were able to stand your ground and let the one man know you wouldn't be able to help him out.

**shakes head**


Rebecca Herman said...

Oh yikes! That's so creepy and rude.

Renay said...

Dude, you are way more composed than me. As soon as a strange dude put his hands on me, he would've been scrambling in embarrassment, because I would have been screaming. Ugh, I am so sorry you had to deal with that.

BookChic said...

I think next year at BEA, bloggers should employ the buddy system, lol. Make sure we have at least one fellow blogger around at all times so we aren't accosted by crazy, creepy, old self-published male authors.

Maybe make an escape plan? ("Look over there- it's some huge famous author!" *crazy author looks in direction we point in as we then run away and hide*)

Khy said...

I'm with Renay. I would scream at the second guy too. xD

But that reminds me of this one time I didn't scream when a stranger grabbed me. I was at this museum and some guy came and put his arm around me and after a moment he took his arm off me and was like "OMG I'M SORRY I THOUGHT YOU WERE MY GIRLFRIEND."

Yeah that was awkward. Worst part was that my friends decided to turn around at that exact moment and laugh hysterically.

Ruth King said...

Oh, man. That guy who poked you? I probably would have smacked him. I don't mind people touching me in most situations, but random stranger coming up to me and touching me? Not cool. Really not cool.

I once had an interview for a summer internship and the lady who interviewed me tugged on my ponytail as I was leaving her office. I must have been 15 or 16 at the time. To this day, I have NO CLUE why she did that, but it still creeps me out to think of it. She didn't yank on it or anything, but who touches a complete stranger's hair? Total WTF moment.

At least online, you can ignore people who are pushing way too hard to get you to read something you have zero interest in. Sad that the same thing couldn't be said for BEA. Pack mace for next year.

Kami Garcia said...

Next time I'll go with you and be your bodyguard. I've the a "don't mess with me" vibe.

Amy said...

Wow. I got a really cool ARC that I'm thrilled to read during my signing session!

The luck of the draw....

I do find it much harder to say no to in person pitches!

Deborah said...

wow that is creepy. WAYY creepy. Interesting how they were both males that did it.

Robert Robbins said...

All I see is that you wrote about these writers and nothing else so it must be a good tactic to use at book expos. And the only thing I've ever gotten out of blogging is free books to read and review. If you turn down the books then you just don't get it.

Genevieve said...

Wow, those guys were creeeeepy! I only had one pushy person give me a book that I didn't want... It was about the Vietnam War. Idk if it was adult or non-fiction but author and pushy 'publicist' keep telling me to take it even after I explained that I tend to review only YA (and some middle grade). I ended up taking the book but I explained that if I found the book inappropriate for my readers/viewers that I wouldn't review it. Oh, and the 'publicist' demanded to know why my phone number wasn't on my business card... stalkerish much?

Michael Northrop said...

That's just nasty. I'm sorry you had to deal with that. Authors need to let their books speak for them, not their hands. Yuck. Next BEA, Steph Su (black belt!) and I (ditto) are working as pro bono bouncers.

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