Posted by Lorraine (L.L.) Bartlett

"Do you read mysteries?" I innocently asked a library patron at my last signing.

"No," she snarled, giving me a look of disdain. "I only read INTELLECTUAL books."

I stood there, dumbfounded for about five seconds, before I babbled, "Thank you. I'm a mystery author."

The elderly woman instantly backpedaled. "I mean, I have to save my eyesight for SIGNIFICANT books."

I bit my tongue. I didn't say, "Oh, and what constitutes a SIGNIFICANT book? Something recommended by Oprah?"

Why couldn't she have said, "Sorry, I don't read mysteries," or, "Even though I don't see well, and probably shouldn't drive anymore, my selfish children won't give me the time of day so I risk life and limb (my own and everyone else on the road) to get here so I can read something that will probably depress and/or anger me." Or "I'm only here to take out a book of knitting patterns."

Not that I have anything against knitting patterns, as I have a mother and aunt who are probably the world's best hand knitters, and I myself can't do it anymore thanks to carpal tunnel syndrome.

But why is it that some people have to be so blatantly RUDE to someone who would much rather be sitting in front of her computer, creating characters and events not known in real life, rather than swallowing her pride to ask a complete strangers if they read mysteries?

Okay, this is NOT the first time a potential reader has been rude to me at a signing. "Do you read mysteries?" I ask, and more often than not they reply: "I don't read." I've never had the gumption to do this myself, but I've seen/heard other authors say, "Did you know you're in a library (or bookstore)?" and the non-reader looks at them blankly, showing lots of teeth and says, "Huh?"

Honestly, I don't expect everyone I meet to leap with joy at the prospect of reading my book, but I do expect common courtesy. "Sorry, I read horror (romance, women's fiction, non-fiction, and/or anything in between)." On those occasions, I snap my fingers, smile, and say, "Darn. I'm a mystery writer." Usually that elicits a self-conscious laugh, a shrug, and they move on. And that's perfectly fine with me.

But then you get the absolute gem who says, "Yes, I do occasionally read mystery." I then give my pitch. If they shake their heads and say, "I'm sorry, I only read thrillers (cozies/romance/whatever)," I counter with:

Oh, have you read J.A. Konrath's Jack Daniels mysteries?

Have you read Tess Gerritsen's books?

Have you read Leann Sweeney's Yellow Rose Mysteries?

Have you read Doranna Durgin's kick-ass romances?

Have you read Deb Baker's Dolls to Die For mysteries?

Have you read Louisa Burton's erotic tales?

Have you read...?

I usually have a suggestion for whatever these people want to read. Not that I've read every book myself, but I know enough about these authors to be able to recommend them to others.

Sometimes the reader's eyes will light up. "No, I haven't tried this author. Thank you." Sometimes they look at you with dead, shark eyes and turn away.

More often than not, my signings have been a lot of fun, and I've connected with enthusiastic readers who seem happy to have met me, even if they aren't interested in my work.

The rest of them...I pretend they've just been rear-ended and their brains have been addled.

You know what they say about mystery authors: don't piss one off; s/he may kill you off in a story.

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Comment by Patricia Gulley on November 8, 2007 at 3:16am
I can imagine how you feel, Lorraine, however one must always face these days that the majority of people fear being sold something they don't want--or worse, they do want but not quite at that moment.
Still unpubbed, I sometimes wonder if this is how agents feel after a day, week, month of queries.

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