This past Sunday I went to Barnes & Nobles to hear Nicholas Sparks speak. (He's the author of numerous best sellers including "The Notebook," "Message in a Bottle," and "A Walk to Remember.") I had to park about a 1/4 mile away from the store and it was standing room only. Wall to wall people which, not surprising, were 95% women.
He'd been there signing autographs since 10 and his talk was at 2 and he continued signing after that so I can only imagine the wrist pain he must experience daily from a tour like this.
In order to be seen, he had to stand on a table in the already raised cafe seating area. To be heard, he was miked. (Compare this to a "normal" author signing where it's considered a stellar day if you sell 10 copies).
He gave us what I'm sure is a standard schpeal, but he was engaging and funny (and just as cute as his author photo) so no complaints. He talked for about 10 minutes and then took questions from the audience. I especially liked his answer to two of them:
One woman said she was a writer and how did she get an agent? For you non-writers reading this, this is like going to a paint store and saying, "I'm thinking of painting my bedroom. Where could I find some paint?" Any novice author worth his/her salt has done enough research to know the answer to this question. And I liked that Sparks handled the question by being polite, but blunt. "When I wanted an agent, I went to Barnes & Nobles and found a book called 'How to Find a Literary Agent' and I followed the instructions, " he said. "You write a letter and send it out. No magic. " Then he asked for the next question.
Someone asked him when the next movie made from his book was coming out and he said not for awhile, because New Line Cinema was trying to low-ball him. The audience laughed, and he did too, but then he said, "I'm not holding out because of the money. I don't need more money. I'm holding out because if I don't make them value the picture upfront by what they're investing in it, they won't give it the attention they deserve. If I sell cheap, someone may just say, 'Ah, let's just make a TV movie out of it.'" Sparks shook his head. "No. No. If you're going to do it, do it right. And that's why I'm holding out."
I took a few pictures but they didn't turn out, although if I had bothered to get the gentleman's name standing in front of me, I could send him a lovely close-up of the back of his head.
All in all, it was eye-opening to see how a big-name author handled his fans. And a glimpse into the "famous life" so many of us authors crave is not all roses. I thought his day sounded exhausting and not especially fun. Plus, there were 300 fans all trying to get his attention and talk to him and have a "moment" while he signed their book. I think that would just be completely draining.