Recently, an author made an appearance at a pay venue to discuss his new novel about the New York art world. The interview went so “badly” that the venue offered all ticket holders a $50 gift certificate, essentially giving them a full refund. But what was so terrible about it?
The author was discussing…. art.
And he wasn’t funny.
Now, I haven’t actually read his book, but from the reviews I’ve seen on it, the book isn’t exactly a laugh a minute, nor is it meant to be. So, why would the audience being so angry that they’d want a refund?
Because the author was Steve Martin. And, what is Steve Martin known for? The funny, of course. Never mind that his novel, An Object of Beauty, isn’t particularly a humorous book, ticket buyers still expected to laugh because it is Steve Martin, after all.
We’ve been discussing author branding lately and, in my opinion, this is an example of extreme branding. Steve Martin is known as being funny and when he went outside that sphere,despite the fact that he was on topic, his fans didn’t like it. People get to know you as one thing, and that’s what they expect from you and when you go outside of that you run the risk of negative reactions. Sure, the 92nd Y probably won’t be offering a refund to your fans, but Amazon just might.
Question: Help! Someone please make a post for me and for other writers who might be dealing with this situation because I am too close to the problem to be objective about it.
If you’ve been receiving emails every day for about two weeks from the same person who isn’t necessarily being rude but is obviously wanting to keep you answering them with questions like “What kind of house do you live in?” or “What is it like in the U.S.?” or “What are the color of your cat’s eyes?” I mean, these emails have nothing to do with your books, but you suspect the person is lonely and probably wants to reach out and communicate with someone but you don’t have that kind of time to email this person every single day, then what do you do?
I don’t want to be rude. But do I have a choice? Is there a form letter I can send out?
Answer: I wanted to have your question answered as soon as I could and later I’ll make a post on Author Etiquette. Most people on here might not know what Ruth means by form letter. This isn’t some cold letter that you copy and send out. In the last year that we have been conversing, we have made a dozen or more form letters. What they are, are letters written to answer emails that would otherwise make you send a heated email cussing the rude reader off for whatever reader reason. Our letters aren’t a publisher’s rejection letters.
First, they are written when you’re not upset. Second, they can be modified to answer specific points in the readers email, which you should do if it doesn’t invade your privacy. And third, it provides a credible, professional image.
I’ll use Ruth’s questions for an example.
Dear (Reader’s name);
Thank you for your emails, however, I am uncomfortable with your line of questioning (or as Dave suggested, due to work / family commitments / time restraints, etc. I am only able to speak you on the writing/reader basis.) If you have a reading or writing related question please let me know (at your email or you can place a blog address here). I also have an author blog at (address), feel free to visit and comment.
Of course modify this for your writing style. I’m more formal in my letter writing then, Ruth. And I open this Q&A for anyone else that might have a better solution. Anyone?