Line by Line

Like many folks in and around the publishing industry, I spent a chunk of time yesterday reading through the publicity horror stories that Bella Stander’s been posting on her blog. Some are hilarious, others are truly frightening, and boy, there are a lot of divas in every facet of the industry.

But one thing in particular that I’ve been thinking about off and on was encapsulated by this anecdote:

One of the darker and more amusing moments in my putative career came

at a large book-signing where I was seated next to Stephen King. This

seating arrangement is not good for a writer’s ego, but King was

charming and funny and did what he could to minimize the fact that

perhaps 10 people, through the course of the evening, asked for my

autograph, while his line stretched out the door, around the block, and

into the neighboring state. After quite a while he started suggesting

to the assembled fans that things would go a good deal faster if he let

me sign some of his books for him. The expressions on the faces before

us were pure gold, and if I ever doubted King’s ability to horrify with

a few well-chosen words, those doubts were put to rest forever.

Now, it’s a great story, but I still don’t understand why the whole line comparison thing is such a big deal. And yes, I’ve heard a number of writers talk or read a number of blog posts about the humiliation that ensues when he or she gets a few stragglers and the big names get zillions, and I can see how this would make sense especially if both writers began around the same time and one proved far more successful than the other but…the big names are usually big for a reason. Or maybe it goes back to my previous theory.

I can only speak from my own experience with a trickle of short stories under my belt, but watching the lines for top mystery authors at BCon while a few kind souls asked me to sign stories was not only entertaining, but heartening. Here are writers who can touch so many people, who inspire them to come out and get their books signed. It’s great they’ve achieved such successes, usually after years and years of building. Maybe I can get there too. Or maybe I can’t, or maybe my ultimate audience is limited, but is that so bad?