Worst. Author event. Ever.

Jodie Cain Smith 

  By Jodie Cain Smith
Columbia II Chapter

As an author who wants to sell books, I occasionally deal with the public.  At a recent signing, attendance was so poor the “public” I dealt with for most of my allotted time was made up of the other two authors present. We shared a table so I couldn’t run away, even as some of the dumbest comments on publishing ever flew from their mouths. Nope, I’m not as sweet as I look, but at least my filter works.

Author 1:  “I double-spaced my book. It’s been a hit with the senior set.”

My silent response as I thumb through the pages of the “Christian Thriller” in question:  I have never read or heard anyone in the publishing industry recommend double-spacing a novel. Large print is an option, but costly, and the line lead varies from book to book and publisher to publisher, but this thing is printed in 16pt font and double-spaced. It’s gigantic! I could render someone unconscious with a book this thick. And what the heck is a “Christian Thriller?” Smile and nod, Jodie. Smile and nod. (If you are unaware as I was, Christian Thriller is an actual sub-genre on Amazon. Thank you, Google.)

Author 2:  “Why did you use a traditional publisher? I don’t want to share my money.”

I responded, “Because I wanted to, and I couldn’t afford to hire an editor.” My inner diva begged me to say, “Watch that tone, Lady. And what’s with the snarl? I hope your face sticks that way.”

Author 1, joining in:  “Oh, I didn’t use an editor. I wanted to see what I could do by myself. Sure, there are mistakes and quirks, but that’s what makes my book unique.”

My inner monologue:  Don’t laugh. Don’t bang my face against the table. Don’t pick up this guy’s “Christian Thriller” and bonk him on the head with it.

Instead I said, simply, “I love editors.”

Author 2, later:  “According to my publishing agreement, I had to buy 1,000 copies of my book, so now I have a good stock of books in my garage. You really should consider self-publishing.”

More smiling. More nodding. More screaming from my inner diva:  Are you kidding me? You didn’t self-publish. You vanity published! And who on Earth is going to buy 1,000 copies of your book out of your garage? Good job with that whole not-sharing-your-money thing.

Toward the end of our time together, I asked my tablemates if they are members of the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop. They both nodded “no.” Then Mr. Double-space proposed the following question:

“I mean, what could a writer’s group actually do for me?”

“My chapter, Columbia II, makes me a better writer,” I told him. “They are my first-line defense against bad writing.”

“That wouldn’t work for me. I don’t need other people judging my stuff,” Author 1 told me while straightening his unsold stack of books.

I smiled. I nodded. Then I turned forward in my seat and stared at my own untouched stack. No more talkie-talkie. Let’s play the quiet game.


Jodie Cain Smith spent her childhood exploring the shores of Mobile Bay with her three siblings.  As a teen in Mobile, AL, Jodie’s grandmother told her the gripping story of an adolescence spent in 1930’s rural Alabama, the rumors surrounding her parents, and the murder trial that would alter her life.  The tale took root in Jodie’s memory until at last it became The Woods at Barlow Bend, her debut novel to be released January 2015.
While attending the University of South Alabama, where Jodie earned a BFA in Theatre Arts, she met her husband Jay.  They began their life on the Army road in 2001 and have not stopped moving since.  As an Army Wife, she has lived in six different states from the extreme heat of Texas to the blizzards of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where she earned a MAE in School Counseling at Northern Michigan University. 
No matter where she has lived, Jodie has been fortunate to hold on to two of her favorite passions:  tennis and live theatre.  Even in the smallest of towns, as she uses her childhood explorer skills, Jodie has been able to find a community theatre to play amongst the local artists and a tennis court for herself and her favorite opponent, her husband.
Jodie Cain Smith’s feature articles and columns have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Military Spouse’s Soul, The Savannah Morning News, and the Fort Hood Sentinel.
To learn more about Jodie Cain Smith and her thoughts on ruling, renovating, and escaping her corner of the world visit her blog The Queendom at http://thequeendom.org.



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5 Responses to Worst. Author event. Ever.

  1. Beth Crosby says:

    What a hoot! Anyone can call himself an author these days. That doesn’t mean it’s true (unless you read it in the internet!).

  2. Jodie, this is hilarious, mainly because I’ve heard some very similar statements over the years. Bless you for managing to play the quiet game. It’s a sad, sad truth that self-publishing opened the floodgates to this kind of thought process. I know there are good, even great, self-published books out there, but the majority are like your lovely table mates.

  3. Craig Faris says:

    Hi Jodie,

    Loved your article and the little wakeup moment at the end. I’ve been a member of the SCWW since 1999 and I owe ALL of my literary success to this organization. I was an art major in college and only “discovered” that I could write 21 years ago. Unfortunately, I spent the next 6 years writing a 226,800 word novel, before joining the local chapter of the SCWW where I quickly learned that I had no idea what I was doing. But that has since changed. All the best, Craig

  4. Rick H. Veal says:

    I tried to read your blog … you do think you could change your font to one that is readable or at least increase the size? I have found that script fonts have to be at least fourteen or sixteen point t be readable. Thanks so much.

  5. S. Jane Gari says:

    Oh, I feel your pain! Thankfully, I have been blessed to be a part of the SCWW and my Camden Chapter who are an accomplished and humble group of folks. But all too often people put the cart before the horse and publish without editing. They waste their time on figuring out how to get published and not enough time actually doing the hard work of slogging through a draft and then polishing it until it shines. My condolences on sitting through that day, and kudos for handling it with grace. I hope your tongue wasn’t too swollen from biting it so much.

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