The Skinny on L.A. & One Big Question–Does Likability Matter?

Made it back from my trip to LA on Monday. Six days away from home, but it was a blast. It was a real treat to get to attend the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention, and I would recommend it for any author, even if you don’t happen to write romance. This conference, first of all, is MASSIVE. I believe someone said that there were 1500 attendees, and from what I witnessed, that number appeared accurate.

I arrived in LA on Tuesday afternoon, which was nice in that it gave time to get to the hotel, wind down and find a few authors to talk to. The Bonaventure is a leviathan, and I believe it was designed by MC Escher. Seriously. Like elevators that don’t go to every floor and stairs that seem to lead nowhere.  The inside of the hotel, while lovely, reminded me of the video game HALO…where, coincidentally, I spent most of my time lost as well.

I wore my Body Bugg the first day and I took almost 12,000 steps that day, mostly because I always seemed to be in the wrong place or the wrong floor. By the time I figured out what I was doing and where I was going, it was time to come home to Texas.

Sigh. Ah well.

My panel was Wednesday afternoon, and I have great news. Apparently, the lessons I have been giving you guys are spot on. As if you doubted. I was even quoted by the Los Angeles Times as an expert, and since then have not been able to fit my head through a door.

RT had a stunning array of experts to teach about EVERYTHING. Forensics, firearms, screenwriting, you name it. The wealth of training offered is worth the conference fee alone, and they hold some pretty killer parties, too (though I was too wiped to enjoy those to the fullest).

The best part of the conference, though, was that I was able to meet a lot of really talented authors of all levels. I even got to know some top-notch authors—those folk who live at the level I hope to one day see. The cool thing is…and don’t tell anyone that I told you…they are actually human and even very nice. Kathy Lyons (a.k.a. Jade Lee), Stephen Jay Schwartz, Allison Brennan, April Smith, Boyd Morrison, Brett Battles, F. Paul Wilson, Dianne Emley, Barry Eisler, to name a few. I hope you guys will check out their sites and their books. I bought books from each just because they were all such great people.

I  even got a chance to meet…

Are you ready for this???



I have read Dean Koontz since I was in middle school. Back when I was a kid, there was no such thing as YA, and so I read a lot of J.R.R. Tolkein, L. Ron Hubbard, Stephen King, David Eddings and, yes, Dean Koontz. I don’t tend to be much of a fan-girl as far as music or movie stars, but boy do I get silly when it comes to meeting some of the writers who have inspired my career choice. And my favorite of all time has got to be Dean Koontz, so to get to meet him was sublime. And, he is really interesting and funny and brilliant and at the end of the day I realized…I like Dean Koontz.

I find it interesting how I can preach this stuff all the time, and yet still be amazed at the truth the lessons I share with you guys each week. It is so critical that others like us. Being likable has tremendous power.

I came home with a suitcase full of books that I’d purchased for the simple reason that I liked the author and wanted to support him or her. It is strange how likability filters into how we spend our time and money as consumers.

I remember when I was growing up, there was a comedian whom I LOVED (won’t mention any names). I would rent his videos over and over and over and play them until I thought the tape would break. When I made it to college, I scraped up enough money to go see this comedian, and he happened to be signing autographs before the show. I stood in a line that went on for miles in the freezing winter weather all to get my 30 seconds to tell him how much I loved his work. Yet, when I finally got to talk to him, he was a nasty, sarcastic ass who was too good to be bothered with the likes of me.

I was crushed.

That night’s show was the last time I ever watched him. His career seemed to dissolve away after that. I wonder if his poor attitude finally caught up with him. Maybe all the people like me realized we could find another comedian to love, one who would be nicer and more grateful to have our devotion.

The authors I met at RT were all so wonderful, and I know that I will actively support them in any way I can. And it is for no other reason other than they were kind. Fame can make us weird. I know I am nobody and let me tell you, when I saw my name in the LA Times, it was easy to get a puffed up ego. But, I think we are always wise to remember that this…all of this writing and blogging and tweeting doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It is ALWAYS a team effort and we need to always thank our team, remember them and let them know we would be nowhere without them.

Authors only become best-sellers because readers are willing to part with their money to support us. Twitter only works if others are willing to help us spread the word. Yes, there are increasing numbers of self-published or indie published authors enjoying large sales numbers, but often that is due to the social platform who was willing to help spread the word.

I work very hard to post great content regularly, but it means nothing if you guys don’t take time to read. I am so very grateful for your support.

So what do you guys think? Today, we’re running a very unscientific social experiment. What makes an author likable? Am I putting too much weight on likability? Would you buy books from an author you liked as a person, but didn’t care for her novels? Conversely, if you met an author who was a real toad, would you still buy his books because his writing was superb? Same with movies. Do you find it harder to watch movies with starts known for poor behavior? Or? Does that not mean anything to you? I want to know what you guys think.

I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of April, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of April I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.


Last week in March Winner of Critique of First 5 Pages (approx.1250 words)–JM Cornwell

Month of March Winner of 15 Page Edit (approx. 3250 words)–Patti Mallet

April Week One Winner of 5 Page Critique (approx. 1250 words)–James Loscombe

April Week Two of 5 Page Critique (approx. 1250 words)–Jenyfer Matthews

Please send your pages, double-spaced in a Word Document to kristen at kristen lamb dot org.

Happy writing!

Until next time…

In the meantime, if you don’t already own a copy, my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.


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  1. I think too many authors focus on marketing instead of building community. The first turns people off– the second is slow and time-consuming but pays benefits in the long run. I’ve just joined Civil War Boards. I’m posting here and there with observations, but in essence there are people on those boards that have 10,000 posts and know a hell of a lot more about the specific subject of the thread than me. So I realize this is going to be a slow and long process to build my presence there. I can’t go walking in and go: Hey, wrote a book about the Civil War. Buy it.
    Which I see a lot of new authors do. I get DMs and FB invites all the time from writers I’ve never met or talked to promoing their books and it’s a real turn off.
    It’s about community.

    1. Thanks for always taking the time to comment on my posts. Among other reasons, that is probably why I own every book you ever wrote and have read most of them. Yes, even Dragon Sim13, :D…the early years. It does make a difference. I know I have authors who regularly e-mail me in disbelief that an author as big as you are would comment on a blog. It wins a lot of fans. I think sometimes these small efforts get discouraging because we cannot immediately SEE the effects. But they are there, and they are lasting ;).

      Thanks so much!

      1. I think Bob has your blog posts wired directly to his brain, lol. He’s almost always the first to comment on a new post of yours.

        One day, Bob, I shall beat you. Bwahahaha… 🙂

  2. I don’t watch someone I don’t like. I can think of a few “stars” that I don’t care for their attitude so I don’t watch or support anything they are in or have anything to do with. I don’t know enough writers personally to judge character, as of yet. But, I don’t support “things or people” I don’t connect with on a personal level or moral level is more accurate.

    I have already linked your blog and told the name of your book on my blog. I do enjoy your writings. Thanks for helping us learn more about social media.

  3. Leave it to you to make something involving that many people and meeting them and talking to them actually sound good. Thanks for the post.

    For me I don’t think likability is a make or break, unless there’s an extreme personal angle like the one in your comedian story. If I have a bad personal experience with someone, yes, it’s all over, but mostly, lack of likability doesn’t factor in.

    But when I’m already inclined toward someone, extreme likability will keep them in my mind and make me more likely to help them. Like…ok you. I loved WANA. Got it, read it, tried to apply it, loved it. Enough to tell people about it when the subject comes up and I think of it. But it’s because you’re awesome as a person and I really like you that I’ll take extra steps like going to find the link or writing a whole post and buying another copy to give away. Your likability has at least as much if not more to do with why I follow your blog and go out of my way to promote some of your posts.

    I can think of another writer who’s so damned likable that I promote him, and he doesn’t even have a book out yet! Because he’s just that awesome. And it’s not just me. So hopefully by the time he does release the book he’ll have a nice audience waiting for it.

    If someone’s not over the top in their direction, it becomes more just about their work and just when I happen to think of it.

  4. I can imagine how depressing it is to talk to a really horrible person that you always admired!
    I’ve had email conversations with two authors, Kate Thompson (The New Policeman; Creature of the Night; The Switchers Trilogy) and Chris d’Lacey (The Fire Within). Chris d’Lacey is my friend’s uncle, and Kate Thompson is just really nice and encouraging and even read a couple of my stories for me when I was about eleven. I mean, obviously they’re children’s authors and I don’t know if that makes a difference, but I’ve still felt more inclined to read their books since then! It’s such a shame Kate Thompson’s taking a (perhaps permanent) break from writing…

    • Terrell Mims on April 15, 2011 at 3:18 pm
    • Reply

    Well, I am glad you had fin at the conference. I believe likability is crucial to the enduring success of modern authors. Times have changed since the days of a hermit producing a book and it becoming a phenom…I am watching Quills about the Marqis de Sade. I don’t know if he was likable, but his books were salacious.

    I believe as we write good books, go to conferences, but more importantly do book signings and converse with people on Twitter and FB, we build up a base and as people know us as real human beings who can fit their heads through a door 😉 they will be more adept to do the best form of marketing…word of mouth.

  5. Love this post Kristen and…YOU MET DEAN KOONTZ?! OMG OMG OMG (fan girl here…) probably THE one author I’d most love to meet. He KNOWS dawgs. Loves them. It shines through everything he does, even when not channeling Trixie-isms (RB). Love thrillers anyway but he is why (with nods to a few others) I so want to try my paw at melding pet writing with thrillers.

    And yes, likability matters to me. I’ve been blessed to meet a few of the same authors you mention at other writer events and those are the ones who are “just folks” willing to be real, and relate to everyone. Yep, I’ve bought books from “unknown” first authors because I just LIKED ’em and wanted to support the efforts. And I’ve stopped reading one major best seller after I met him and was less-than-impressed at how he treated fans.

    As Bob mentioned, it’s a big turn-off to have the hard-sell approach anywhere, but esp on social networking platforms. I talk about and promo the authors I like–so it multiplies the benefits. I think people are much more willing to take a chance on a new title/author if someone they know/trust recommends, rather than the author themselves does lots of hand-waving and . . .

    OOOH, SHINY OBJECT! Sorry, gotta go ~~

  6. Kristin – I think likability is important because even though we’re smart enough to know that a kind word or a thank you doesn’t mean we’re best friends forever with a celebrity – if our time, money and devotion is met with cynicism and a brush off, we feel like schmucks.

    Not just for authors and readers. Once I went to a new hairdresser who spent the entire appointment talking to co-worker at the next station – never spoke to me. I felt totally optional and never went back.

    Talent and skill are a critical factor – but there’s so much available out there, that I’d rather spend my time and money where it’s appreciated ( or, at least feels appreciated 🙂

  7. I just came back from my first writing conference, so maybe I’m biased, but I agree with you! I was so humbled by how many of the authors there took time to talk with us, beginners! Some, like Josie Brown, were even grateful and said how energized they were getting to hear work from us. That meant a lot to me. How affable and available they were was just amazing. And I bought some books too because of that. It all became quite the reality check in a good way. It’s a business, but it’s a business of getting people to know you and like you and get excited about the same things as you. It’s all starting to make sense to me now. lol.

    My next endeavor is to flatter you into coming to next years conference in Wisconsin! I already put your name on the evaluation sheet for next year’s requested speakers and told several other writers struggling with blogs or social platform to check out your site, AND *bats eyelashes* I’ve listed you as the supremo reference for today’s blog about the wild wild west of publishing today.

    So, have you bought a ticket yet? I’ll buy you your first locally brewed beer!

  8. Great post and great questions. For some reason I will watch movies starring actors that do things in real life that are reprehensible. I don’t care if he’s having an affair in real life, on the screen he is the character to me. If I like the character that’s all that matters.

    Authors, however, are a different story. If I don’t like an author personally I won’t buy his books even if he’s a good writer. But I suspect that if a man is a jerk in real life, his bad attitude would come out in the books and I wouldn’t think he was a good writer, anyway. An actor becomes another person when he plays a part. But an author let’s his feelings show in the works he authors.

    If I like an author, I do buy his books sometimes, even if I don’t ever read them. If they are not in a genre I like, I’ll buy them and give them away, just to support the author.

  9. Before Twitter I paid a lot less attention to an author’s likability. Now it’s hard not to compare the “generous” ones (the ones who follow back or at least respond) to the ones who don’t. Also, too much about politics is a turn off. I’ve said in my Twitter posts and I still believe it’s true: for some authors, being on Twitter may detract readers instead of attract them.

  10. I think likability is a huge factor.

    I might buy a book from someone I dislike, but their writing had better be near perfect.

    But I’ll buy a book sight unseen from someone I do like. Even if I eventually don’t like the book, I still like the person.

    In regards to movie, how much I like the actor absolutely figures in. The more ‘real’ the person is in interviews, and the stories from fans who have met them, I appreciate the lack of ego, especially if they’re top notch.

  11. I’ve meet a few authors that sort of turned me off by the way the acted, etc, but if I loved their books, I loved their books and would probably continue to by them.

    There are a few authors out there that make me nuts — but I didn’t read them before, so not going to start now.

    I think the bottom line for authors is to be real. We’re attracted to authenticity. And be kind.

    I get the promotional aspect. I don’t mind the DM’s or facebook invites because if I’m not interested, I just delete. When it’s every day, all the time, in my face, then I unfollow, de-friend whatever. But an announcement their book is now released, that’s cool. I’m okay with that.

  12. Kristen, I share your fan girl squee over Dean Koontz, I was beside myself and am so jealous of your picture with him. I only got a pic of him signing my book 🙁
    I agree that liking someone will determine whether I buy their book or not. I don’t necessarily mean that we have to be friends, just that you are polite and approachable. I can think of at least one occasion where I met an author whom I LOVED and no longer read because when I finally met them they were rude to me. I was a little hurt, especially since I had bought every one of her books – even going as far as ordering her out of print backlist from used bookstores in other countries – and she dismissed me without even an ‘excuse me’.
    I also find I am influenced if I hear over and over again that an author isn’t a nice person. Thankfully those people are in a minority and I’ve met many other authors who are lovely. Even the ones who make me want to drop to my knees in a “We’re not worthy!” moment.

  13. Until recently I would have said that an author’s likability didn’t really matter to me. As long as they were talented and I enjoyed the words they put on the page, what difference did it make if they were schmucks in their personal life or not. But then a couple of months ago there was a kerfuffle that played out over one of my favorite horror author’s blog & twitter feeds between him and another, lesser known author, that just made my stomach turn. It was all over something relatively minor and while everyone can be forgiven for a bad response, or a bad day, or even a bad run of days, this fairly well known writer seemed to not only lose it over this, but kept hammering away at it, posting nasty comments while his supporters piled on and on and on, even coining an ugly word for their target who, IMHO, ended up showing much more grace by keeping publicly silent over the trashing she was taking.

    Since then, I’ve had to step away from anything to do with this author. I’ve unfollowed and unfriended him and every time I see any reference to him, or whatever current drama he’s embroiled in, the word he used to label the object of derision comes to mind to identify HIM. I can’t imagine that I will ever buy one of his books again and it’s a shame because he is a heck of a writer, it just seems that he’s somewhat less of human being.

  14. I’m a professional counselor by day, and this idea is actually empirically proven–for instance, whether or not therapy is effective is determined not by which theory or techniques we use. It is determined by the relationship formed between the client and counselor. Likability is essential in ANY type of relationship, and writing is, in the end, largely about our relationship with the reader. So I heartily AGREE!

  15. Likability is a huge factor for me when buying an author’s books.

    Sure, I’ll buy a book if I like the premise, and I’ll like it if it’s written well. But say I find that author on Twitter. I liked their book enough that I think, “I ought to follow this person and buy more of their books.” But then, when they do nothing but tweet about their book, or only promote themselves as a writer for events, or even if they don’t take the time to respond to @s from readers, I’ll unfollow them, and likely never buy another book from them.

    I don’t care when an author has a signing at such and such fancy place in NYC. I don’t care when they’re going to be featured on such and such television show… If that’s all they tweet about. If they tweet about how the grocery store was swamped, how they’re having a good writing day, or they burned the pasta again in addition to the promotional tweets, I don’t mind it because they feel like a real person, not a promotional spambot.

    There is an author whose books I refuse to buy because he only tweets about himself promotionally. He’s a fantastic writer, no doubt about that. But there’s no personality to connect with, and because his promotional nature turns me off, his writing turns me off.

    Conversely, I may read a book, find out more about the author, and LOVE them. Then everything I read by them seems like pure imaginative genius.

    That’s why I try to read a book before finding more about the author. Sometimes, authors come across the wrong way, and I don’t want that to seep into how I read their books. If I read first, find more about them later, I’m likely to enjoy the book more objectively.

    1. I know of several people who have more than one Twitter account. Typically one is used almost exclusively for publicity and self promotion. Then they use a second account for interacting with people.

  16. Unless I’ve interacted with them on some personal level, I don’t care.

  17. Hi, Kristen

    I get your blog in my mailbox everyday and I do enjoy reading it. How could I not comment after reading this blog. I get value out of the info you provide and I LOVE your sense of humour. You definitely have ‘likability’.

    Now, I have to go check out this convention for next year. Sounds wonderful.

    Have a great day.

  18. Dean Koontz must have a portrait behind a curtain somewhere, a la Dorian Gray – he looks the same as he did 20 years ago! Ooh. *shiver*

    Likability is what makes the world go ’round. We’re here to build people up, not tear them down. There are an unfortunate few who let fame go to their heads, but it’s reassuring to know that they are in the minority! And you, Kristen, are uber-likable and will never be in that category. Doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the compliments, though – you’ve worked hard to earn them! 🙂

  19. I think likability helps. I think it can sell some books for you. I think it can get you a lot of moral support. However, I know that the first thing you have to have is an amazing manuscript that blows away an agent, so you’ll have something for the people who like you to support.

    I sat in one of your classes at DFWcon. I attended because I hoped that one day I’d have a book published that I would need to support with social media and a blog. It knocked me into next week that I needed to get busy blogging and tweeting NOW – while I’m still out querying my novel.

    Then I attended DARA’s Dreaming in Dallas – not because I read or write romance, but for the chance to take your advice about networking at conferences and because it sounded like there were some good, useful classes. Over the weekend I bought several books and they gave away even more. I met some lovely people and the classes were all very good.

    Over the next two weeks I read the pile of books I had brought home with me – or at least I tried to. One was technically good and I loved the author’s class, but the book had more violence than I like to bring on board. A couple were sweet historical novels with romantic aspects that I’d bought from the darling author on the book-signing night, but I had a hard time swallowing the anti-slavery/anti-rascism messages in the candy coatings. I couldn’t get past the first 10 pages of the YA paranormal, even though the author was a real sweetheart. Even the book I liked most, a Texas-based romance about a rough and tumble rancher who is tricked into marrying a traveling Irish dance girl, was a little too R-rated for my enjoyment.

    So likability did get me to read these authors, but I won’t be buying any more of their books. At the same time, I do have friends who read these types of of literature and I will certainly pass the books on to them and because the books are good – just not my type – these authors will earn some new fans.

    Something else happened though, the readership of my blog doubled in the next week. Whether that was due to my networking at the conference, social media, dumb luck or a combination of all of it, I’ll never know. Bottom line – it all works and likeablity helps. Thanks for being so willing to share your wisdom with us. Now, I have to go send off more query letters or I’ll always be a very likeable, but never-published writer.

    1. Thanks Jane, and I see your point. One thing I do is that if there is a writer I really like as a person, but her books aren’t my cup of tea, I will buy them and give them as gifts to friends and family who love that type of book.

      What a great supporter you were! That was so nice of you to buy and READ so many books. Conferences are probably THE best investment. Yes, we get to meet agents and take classes, but the people are worth far more than that.

      Thanks for being so supportive of my classes and blog and I am thrilled to hear you are enjoying such success. Keep me posted :D.

    2. Jane, I think you have a point there. The likability of those authors got you to give their books a chance, even though they’re not your usual cuppa. And even though this time you ended up not finding a new “auto-buy” author or genre, next time, you just might discover a wonderful surprise that you didn’t expect. 🙂

      There have been a few authors that I’ve dropped over the years because either they didn’t click with me at personal meetings, or I discovered something about the author that I found personally disappointing. In some cases, not enough to make me stop reading quality stories, but enough to make me take them off an autobuy list, or skip some of their work. In a few cases, I started to see some themes in the author’s fiction that I hadn’t noticed before, but that extra context brought them to light. It changed the way I felt about both the author and the story in those cases, and it made me a little sad.

      Conversely, there *have* been authors I’ve picked up just because they share something in common with me that may have nothing to do with their fiction. But even then, some of that compatible mindset shows up in the stories, because the stories touch on elements that I respond to as well.

      As for actors, there are some whose personal lives overshadow their skill in roles no matter how good of an actor they are, and others whose acting skills make me pity the wreck of their personal lives.

      Most of the time, I’m totally okay with not knowing anything about an author. If I like a book well enough, I’ll go seek out that author and find out more, but I kind of like not knowing, so that the work can be judged on its own merit. I’m also aware that as a writer, when I buy a book, I’m both looking for something good to read *and* making a conscious decision to support a fellow author, so my purchase is colored by that, which maybe skews my responses.

  20. I’ve had experiences with musicians. Some are great and I go to a whole new level in supporting them. Some are DBs and I am done.
    With so many options out there (whether it be music CDs or books), why would I continue to care about someone who doesn’t care about me? I’m not saying I want every successful person to know who I am or tell fans they love them. I’m talking about being a performer or someone with any kind of platform who simply realized that despite all of their God-given talent they still need fans to buy their product. That’s all they need to realize, that every person has value.
    One of the myriad reasons that the Oscars are such a joke is that those blowhard actors who read lines written by other people for a living slobber all over each other and never once thank the fans who buy movie tickets!
    What we’re referring to here as likability is nothing more than focusing on something more than ourselves all the time.

    1. Clay,

      Have you been to a Walter Trout concert? Nicest musician I’ve ever met. He’s a blues and rock guy – GO SEE HIM. – I promise you will thank me. 🙂

  21. Put it simply, if I like the stories the author tells, that’s all I care about.
    However, I’d like to think that people who read my stuff, also like me!

  22. Hi Kristen! Another great post. I actually blogged briefly about this (and recommending your website/book) last week. You’ve given such great advice and it’s really hard not to notice when authors are more interested in self-promo than in being part of the community. And, it’s a big turn off to me. RT sounds like it was so much fun. I’m sorry I missed it. But, I am so glad you said Dean Koontz was such a nice guy. He is my all time favorite author and I’ve been reading him about as long as you apparently. I would just be crushed if he had turned out to be a “toad”.

    1. Me, too. When I realized I was going to get to meet him, I was so hoping he would be nice. It would have been almost impossible for me to support him if he’d been a jerk. And THANK YOU for all of your support. I appreciate it so much. I will drop your name in the hat a couple more times. Send me the link if you get a chance. I don’t always see when someone has linked to me. I do try to stop and comment :D.

  23. I’m right there with you on likeability, Kristen – whether an author or an actor or a comedian. It was great meeting you at RT – you’re just as warm and funny in person as you are here on your blog. Cheers!

  24. I grew up reading Dean Koontz, too. So glad to hear that he is a nice guy. Love his books (Watchers made me cry more than once). That converence sounds like it was an awesome experience.

    I think likability does carry some weight in my decision to read an author. Of course, all the authors I read I only really “know” from interviews so it is hard to judge. I have seen David Sedaris do live readings twice and seeing that he is such a warm, open, self-defeating (in such a funny way) and gracious person made me like his books even more.

    Now actors, if I don’t like them as a person I probably won’t watch anything they are in. Because in movies/tv (unlike books) you have to look at and listen to the object of your dislike. It’s easier to put an author out of your head while you are reading (if the writing is awesome enough) than it is an actor while you are watching.

  25. I have a hard time when celebrities overly lecture their policitcal stance, yet I still go see their movie if it looks good. A few times I have rebelled and waited for it to be on the movie channels that I already pay for versus paying money at the theatre. I haven’t really been turned off of any authors yet but it’s a very interesting question to ask.

    1. It’s funny you mention that. I had a romance author I quit reading because she blasted blondes in every book I read. Book after book, the brunette or redhead was the heroine and the vapid slut/waste of human being was a blonde. By the fourth book, I was annoyed and by the fifth? I was DONE. Stereotypes are not great writing. It took everything for me not to send her a letter. I am not a confrontational person, so I totally chickened out. I can say that I will never spend another penny on her books, will never promote her, and that’s sad. I was once a pretty devoted fan.

      1. Maybe you should’ve sent those letters. That way she’ll know and hopefully (maybe, maybe not) change. It doesn’t have to be confrontational but say it in a nice way. It depends on how you say it. My grandpa did get into arguments because he criticized his pastor but it’s also because of how he said it.

    • Kristin N. on April 15, 2011 at 5:08 pm
    • Reply

    Great thoughts in this post, Kristen. I think the ‘likeability’ factor boils down to a person’s moral character, which sooner or later will show itself. Talent and character are not interchangeable, although particularly Americans tend to have trouble differentiating the two. We are shocked when people of great talent or ability have no moral fortitude; when they are selfish, self-aggrandizing, openly greedy, dishonest, lack decent behavior towards other human beings in general or can be negative and just plain mean.

    Authors who have a modicum of humility and show it by taking the time to interact with their readers, whether it is in a social media platform, in conferences, or even referencing the reader in interviews, etc. give off that ‘likeability’ quotient. They have an understanding that the money a reader spends on their book is a monetary representation of time spent earning dollars that the reader CHOOSES to devote to what an author has invested his/her time and money into. It’s a mutual respect, and the way an author shows that respect becomes the ‘likeability’ factor for the reader.

    I prefer to support those writers who have reflected this likeability in some way, shape or form. Sometimes you can’t know, but when I do run across any who don’t, I tend to steer clear of their works, even though they may brim over with talent. I think it’s a little bit of ‘what you hang around, you become’ mind-set as well for me.

    BTW, Kristen, I think your likeability factor is off the charts. No worries for alienating this reader! Glad you had such a great time in L.A.!

  26. You are 100% correct. Likability is key. If I meet people who are a complete a$$ in person, no way am I going to read/watch/listen to/buy what they’re producing. On the other hand, if they’re absolutely the nicest people, I’ll spend my money even if their work is a little less than amazing simply because I know and like them. We all want to support the people we like; it’s the human connection that makes them important to us.

  27. Well, since you know I drove my non-morning person self up to the RT Conference for the day JUST to see you and Dean Koontz…you can surmise I find you likable!

    I like that you are helpful, give the straight scoop and, when teaching all of us newbies about branding, you don’t sugar-coat (lie, gloss…any of the things that would not push us to be better). I think you get across that this is a subject you care about passionately and that you want other authors to succeed.

    My writing chapter has a motto that the goal of the chapter is “One hand reaching forward and one hand reaching back, in a continuous chain.” Writers MUST support writers – it’s a lonely business otherwise.

    To answer your question: I do tend to buy more books from authors I like. Even if I don’t like a book I try (because someone is nice), I recommend them as nice people to others. Conversely, I’ve been known to pass it on if I met an author who was a Big B. I’ll still say they’re a good writer but I won’t be in line to buy their books the first day (helping them to hit the bit NYT list) and I wouldn’t be caught dead at their book signing.

    1. Ha ha ha…you are so giving me a big head. I love how you came to see me … and Dean Koontz, LOL. Flattery will get you everywhere. I so appreciated that you came. It was kind of lonely in that I was the only NF author. Fans were there to see the novelists, so it was wonderful to have the support and the great company.

      I like the idea of the chain, one hand forward and one hand back. Great way to be successful :D.

  28. I agree with you on the likeability factor. I don’t pay money to see actors I dislike or waste time watching them on television. Same for authors and musicians. I’ll go so far as to turn off the radio if a song comes on by an artist I’ve seen behave like a jerk. Why bother bringing them into my world? I’d much rather spend time supporting people I like.

  29. I think what makes an author likeable is – being likeable. (Nothing like a tautology to start things off right.) Seriously, though, in my book “likeable” means approachable, friendly, and the kind of person that I enjoy being around – pretty much the same thing it means to other people, I think.

    The best example of a “likeable writer” I can think of is James Rollins. I attended the Maui Writer’s Conference several years ago and Rollins was a presenter. I had read a couple of his books, and enjoyed them immensely, but he didn’t really stand out in my mind until after that conference – and since then I’ve been a huge fan. Here’s why.

    The night before his class (which was on character development) I stayed up late reading Ice Hunt (if you haven’t read it – and Kristen probably has so I’m speaking to others – it rocked). Just as I got to a very tense scene (involving the protagonist and an ice cave…won’t give more away than that) the full-length mirror in my hotel room fell off the wall and smashed on the tile floor. I almost had a heart attack.

    The next day, after the seminar, I approached James Rollins and asked him to sign that book. He agreed at once and asked me if I liked it. I told him I loved it, and then told him about the mirror incident the night before. When he stopped laughing, he made a joke about needing to arrange more special effects so people would like his books as much as I did. He then asked me what I write and actually seemed interested in the answer. When I saw him in the hall later on, he actually smiled and said hi as though he remembered who I was – and based on his behavior throughout the conference I think he did remember people and like talking with them.

    James Rollins is a likeable author because he likes people back. He values his readers as people. Like many of us still working toward success, he gets joy from hearing that we like his work, and he actually takes the time to stop and listen to what his readers have to say. What makes him likeable? He likes other people first.

    1. I am humbled and honored. And after all these years, I do remember the mirror story and still gives me a laugh.


  30. Traveling as much as I do, I run into recognizable people all the time. All but one of them were nice to people. Musicians, singers, and sports stars all alike. There has only been one exception in my experience. It was a star quarterback in the NFL at an airport who was wearing his own jersey, can you say, “I want to be recognized.” Then when a pre-teen got up the nerve to ask for his autograph his response was, “I don’t do autographs kid.” and turned away. What an @$$. I’m proud to say he was traded to another team last year and they benched him at the end of the season. I hope he never plays again. Then you have guys like Garth Brooks that sat in first class and bought an additional seat next to himself. Not so he didn’t have to sit next to anyone, but because he had the flight attendant bring every kid on the plane up to first class one at a time to talk with him and get his autograph. How’s that for country cool.

      • charis on April 19, 2011 at 9:52 pm
      • Reply

      I remember one time seeing a famous quarterback out for dinner at a local restaurant during training camp. A young boy was thrilled and wanted to run over and see him and get his autograph. HIs father convinced him to wait and not bother him while he was eating. Finally they finished their meal and the father told his son he could go see the QB. Unfortunately as the kid walked up, the QB said “out of my way kid, we’re leaving” and walked around the kid and out the door. I still think of that kid’s face whenever I hear the word “crestfallen”.

  31. I’m with Kerry. Garth totally rocks.

    I would never by a book from an author who was rude to me, and I hate seeing movies with stars who are jerks. I still haven’t seen Inception for that reason. I read years ago that DiCaprio arrived at a restaurant, paid them to shut it down, and then walked through telling the patrons which ones could stay for his party based on whether or not they were women he found attractive. I never want to give him another dollar, and I don’t care how good his movies might be.

    As for likeabiltiy, I like people who are genuine and kind. They don’t have to amuse me or pander to me. And there is no bigger turn off that someone who sends 5 straight tweets about his wonderful self, and then sends 5 more about wonderful WIP. A litttle, “Hi, how are you?” goes a long way.

    You have that likeability down pat, by the way. Thanks for being genuine and kind.

  32. If I like a person I would buy the book, even if it’s not my type of reading and keep it in my library, whether I will give it a try or not.

    Now, if I don’t like the person, there is not much probability that I would like the book he/she wrote. Usually writing reflects a person’s characteristics, it shows.
    Aside the prejudice I would have and not buying the book from start, even if I buy the book in some rare cases there is a minimal chance close to zero that I will like the book.

    Writers are not actors, IMO. So, no matter how much fictional a book will be, it will reflect the writer’s personality and character, at least for some traits if not more.

    Thank you for your post 🙂

  33. Now I want to go buy some Garth Brooks, Kerry. And I don’t even listen to country!

    Never been a huge fan of DiCaprio, Piper. Now I like him even less. (Inception rocks though.)

    Likability is definitely becoming a bigger factor now that everyone can interact with their favorite authors, musicians, and actors. It is increasingly difficult to rationalize supporting people who have proven themselves unworthy of it.

  34. I think likability matters a lot. I have a similar story to yours but with an author and a better ending. A couple of years ago I went to see David Sedaris speak. I am totally in love with his books and I had to talk myself down from bringing my whole stack for him to sign (I only brought two). I stood in line for over an hour, so I had plenty of time to sweat about what I would say to him. He took the time to talk to each person in line and even gave away hotel shampoos and soaps that he collects in his travels. By the time I got to the front of the line, I blurted out some random story from my childhood in the early 70s because so many of his family stories remind me of my own family. He laughed – yes I made David Sedaris laugh!! We chatted for a few more minutes and then I left, clutching my books to my chest. It wasn’t until I got into the car that I saw that he had written on one of the books, “Your story touched my heart.” So for the rest of my life I will buy every book this guy writes. If he had been a complete jerk, I know I wouldn’t, because I would never be able to look at the writing again in the same way.

    As another example, I found it so endearing that Judy Blume came on Twitter. Here’s a woman who does NOT need Twitter to sell books, but she came on and entered the conversation. It also reminded me that my 8 year-old daughter hadn’t read any of her books. So what did I do? I went out and bought a 5-pack of Judy Blume books. What are we reading together right now? Tales of a Fourth Grade nothing.

    Which is all a long-winded way of saying, yes, likability matters. 🙂

    1. Be as long-winded as you like. I’m getting the skinny on all the nice actors, musicians and authors :D.

    • Gene Lempp on April 15, 2011 at 7:44 pm
    • Reply

    Likeability is essential, or at least the appearance of such. When it comes to music and movies I like to know as little as possible about the artist, because, well, simply put, I don’t want the artist to ruin the love I have for their work.

    With writers, if I am interested in their work then I’m going to read up on them. Writing, conscious or not, includes the philosophy of the writer and I think it is prudent to know where that person is coming from. I’m never interested in their personal life, never interested in their public appearances (aka the photo op meet and greet), rather, I’m interested in what makes them tick. If that quality that makes them tick is great and understandable than I’ll like and support them even if they are a toad.

    All that may be a bit convoluted but then we are all complex characters are we not?

    You got to meet Dean Koontz!! I am so jealous, and what a motivator. Thanks for sharing Kristen.

  35. I definetly agree in the importance of likeability. I don’ t know many writers personally, but I’ve had experiences with sport athletes or musicians were I went from fan to totally campaigning against them for their character and asinine behavior.

    Yes, I support people just because I like them. There’s an actor whom I’ve been a fan since I was a little girl and just because I like him I’ve seen every single movie he’s made. Not all of them were good ones, but I still saw them all. It’s human to recommend what we like, a restaurant, a movie, a clothing store, so likeability joined by being genuine can go a long way.

  36. Nah. It doesn’t matter. I love the work of many authors who are total jackass jerks. I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere NEAR any of the Beat authors. They were murderers, drug addicts, pedophiles, liars, thieves, drunks…it’s hard to find a vice with which they were not directly involved. But I love much of their work.

  37. An excellent writer whom I’ve already come to enjoy will likely continue to draw my interest, even if they are an unabashed jerk. However, in choosing new authors, likability is a big factor.

    Authenticity is the real crux of the matter to me: Is this author as winsome as their writing makes it appear that they are? Or as sardonic as they appear in their latest book? The personalities of the author on paper and the author in person should match.

    (Oh my goodness … did I just conclude with the age-old thought of “Be yourself.” How cliche!)

  38. I think likeability is huge, especially in the memoir/narrative nonfiction world. And I’m talking likeability on the page, although meeting a writer that you admire and finding out that they’re totally nice, is like icing on the cupcake. (Hello Mary Roach and David Sedaris–both of them lovely, appreciative of their fans kind of people) I had kind of a big argument with a professor over a writer’s likeabillity on the page. I’m not going to name names, but I felt that the writer was kind of a bitch towards the people she was writing about–almost making fun of them. This was a big turn off for me. I think she’s a great writer. She’s smart. But, she isn’t nice. I’ve never read another of her books.
    And yes, I have several books that I’ve purchased (mostly self-published) by nice, likeable people that were very average writers. But, they were nice and I wanted to support them and their baby.

    • Patti Mallett on April 15, 2011 at 11:06 pm
    • Reply

    Fun times!! Thanks for allowing us to live vicariously through your adventures! You’re so likable, or I’d be long gone. Bob is likable, personable, and helpful during online classes. It goes a long way for me. I have bought books because of online connections, even with no time to read them (yet). If someone has been nice to me, I want to help them, pay them back. (Writers are such nice people anyway, way above the norm.)

    You have reminded me of something that has colored by opinion of Bill Cosby. A friend of mine was stranded at an airport. Now, she’s the mother of LOTS of kids, not a young woman, always looks tired and a bit frazzled. For some reason no one was around, except Bill Cosby, who strolls over to her, and puts his arm around her. She says, “Where is everybody?” (I mean, this was Bill Cosby.) He says, “You’re here,” and smiles sweetly. Who’s going to ever forget a moment like that? (Pure humility is what I love in my heros. Then you have me for life.) Burn me once, and I’m done with you. Life is too short.

  39. Sounds like a fun conference. I love Dean Koontz! Cool pic. Likeability…yes. We’ve seen a few disasters on the social networks and blogs recently where not nice has hurt authors. I posted a blog adding to your thoughts. With links back 🙂 There are a few authors I won’t buy now bec. of rudeness. But I have bought books I knew I’d never read bec. I wanted to support them bec.they were friends or so nice.

  40. There’s lots of people’s work I admire and sadly, I may never get to meet them all. The ones I have, that were cool to me, are burned into my memory. I think that’s an important lesson not matter the degree of fame. You may not remember everyone you meet, but the fan will take the experience home for the rest of their lives. In that sense, likeability is crucial.

    Recently, I blogged about a new comic book I liked and the creative team not only thanked me, but retweeted my post. So cool of them. Now they’re scheduled to be interviewed on my blog. That small amount of time they took to be nice to me has created a lifelong fan that will support and promote anything they do.

    1. I think it is especially critical now in that fans interact so much with us one on one (as writers). We can’t hide like the old days and the competition is steep. Sometimes that thing that might give a writer an edge (for me) is simply because I LIKE her *shrugs*. Thanks for being such a great peep and always taking time to comment :D.

      1. Now you’ve done it. Being all nice and likeable. I’m making it my mission to one day meet you.

  41. Likability is definitely a factor for me. There are certain actors and authors I can’t stand and I won’t buy their work because of it, they just leave a sour taste in my mouth. If someone has a personality that clashes with mine, that’s fine, it’s not like they’re auditioning to be my best friend. But if someone is rude or constantly negative, it grates on my nerves and there are too many other authors out there to read to bother with them.

    If I like you, I’ll try your book even if it’s in a genre I don’t normally read. In fact, that’s how I’ve found some of my favorite books :).

  42. I enjoyed this post. And I agree wholeheartedly that a persons ‘likeability factor’ DOES factor into whether or not i am able to appreciate their work. Shy and reserved is fine. But mean, nasty, arrogant and downright obnoxious will put me right off someones book/movie/art etc. There have been several actors who i ‘adored’ – that then got booted to the curb in my mind when they were awful to their spouses or children. Its a bit of a Catch 22 in todays overly connected world i think. In the past, we rarely met or saw writers anywhere. Just enjoyed their books. But now with all the need for social networking and author platforms online etc – writers cant be the hermits they used to!

  43. Great Post.

    I don’t have to ‘Like’ an author/actor/ect. to buy their product. But, there are some people out there that I can’t stand due to personality, or stuff they’ve done that turned me off.

    Because I DON’T like them, I won’t buy their book, or their movie.

    It’s a good reminder though. I always try to be nice. It’s just me. But with online applications, something said in jest or sarcasm can always be taken wrong. It’s important to remember to be clear. And if something is taken wrong, it’s not that hard to apologize.

    Thanks for sharing. ~ Amber

  44. I wholeheartedly agree- I had a similar experience. I take it further. When I see people who’s profession is dependent on the public for their livelihood displaying a less than gracious attitude, I stop supporting that person. There are just too many other talented people out there who deserve support and I don’t want to reward bad behavior. Just sayin’.

  45. I thought long and hard about this blogpost because it is a topic that had come up recently among some friends of mine.

    The bottom line for me is whether or not I like the authors’ work. If I like it, and I learn more about them personally and find that I like *them* as well, I’m likely to support their work even if sometimes it isn’t their best effort.

    If I discover someone through their engaging personality online, I am more inclined to try their work over the thousands of other options I have on a given day.

    I’m tolerant of those that are merely boring. I’m a fairly boring person myself most days! If, however, I do not like the person behind the work, it taints my enjoyment of their work–as it did you and your favorite comedian–and I am far less likely to buy any of their writings again. I recently commented to an author on a favorable review she’d posted on receiving, and stated how much I’d enjoyed the book as well, and her ‘whatever’ answer was such a turn off that I immediately put her name on the Do Not Read list.

    So I think this likability thing is a double-edged sword. I keep thinking, ‘What if they *don’t* like me?’

    In general, I’m a diplomatic person, so tempering my comments is something that comes naturally to me. But some days I feel that I’m being boring by muting my real thoughts on the subject. On other days, I feel as though I’ve been too personal. It’s a fine line to walk.

  46. I think likability is a huge and intangible part of the equation – more people should remember that when putting themselves out there!

    • Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter on April 16, 2011 at 2:53 pm
    • Reply

    Hal Clement (RIP) was one of the nicest people you could ever meet. I own every single one of his books. Harlan Ellison was far more talented than Hal, but after meeting Harlan I stopped buying his books. The JERK factor turned me off.

    Larry Niven is an Incredibly nice guy. Poul Anderson (RIP) was an incredibly nice guy. Fred Pohl and Judith Merrill were both really nice (I was up sitting in a room holding a sleeping baby at a Science Fiction convention in Toronto when the two of them walked in – they had been married at one point, argued and divorced, I’d read Damon Knight’s ‘The Futurians’ so I knew the back story – I was uncomfortable being there because I knew the back story but sleeping baby – I couldn’t move – so I ended up sitting through their entire conversation where they patched up their screwed up relationship from forty years prior – let me tell you how weird that was listening to two authors you idolize spending two hours working through their issues while you try to ooze through the floor in embarrassment) and after seeing them in Toronto I had a far higher opinion of them.

    So yes, Public Relations means that we have to be likeable in general. Which doesn’t mean we have to kiss AHEM. Readers don’t respect doormats either 🙂


  47. Congrats on meeting and LIKING Dean Koontz! And on getting quoted in the LA Times. Very cool.

    Would you buy books from an author you liked as a person, but didn’t care for her novels?
    NO. I only buy books that I want to read, in genres that interest me.

    Conversely, if you met an author who was a real toad, would you still buy his books because his writing was superb?
    MAYBE. If I already liked his books, YES. If not, I wouldn’t bother to try them.

    Same with movies. Do you find it harder to watch movies with starts known for poor behavior?
    YES. Because they are right there on screen. I’ve stopped watching Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen because I don’t want care for their antics off screen.

  48. Likability doesn’t bother me at all, partly because I don’t watch television. But I still watch actors who aren’t likeable. I don’t know them so they might be misunderstood.

    • D.J. Lutz on April 17, 2011 at 2:22 pm
    • Reply

    I can agree with you on so many different levels. I was in the music business for 20 years and ran across quite a few “stars” that had good, and best selling, music, but in person they were jerks. While they may have sold units, their reputation as being unfriendly was eventually for what they were remembered. The nice people always do just a little better, and quite frankly, seem happier with their own lives.
    True, the content must be good. A poorly written book authored by a nice guy is still a poorly written book. But in today’s world of instant community (FB,) readers have come to expect so much more. Be a jerk and soon everyone will know. Why sabotage your own sales?
    How nice you were able to meet Dean Koontz! Thanks for sharing your experience with us!!

  49. Hi Kristen–chiming in a little late here. But my vote is YES! In my book, likability counts. I don’t know if I ever thought about it that much but I love to support my writer friends and industry related folks. But like you said, if they aren’t so nice, I might not be inclined to pick up a book. And maybe this runs into all entertainment avenues — music, movies, etc. And yes, I have bought books from friends, even if it’s not my cup of tea, to support them. Guess that’s a yes all the way around. Sorry the comedian was nasty. Shaking head . . .some people.Thanks for sharing with us! Cool about Koontz!

  50. Welcome back from the City of Angels. I’m glad to hear you had an enjoyable and productive time.
    As to your question: Likeability is the tipping point for me. It determines whether or not I’ll stand in line to have an author sign an expensive hardcover edition, or buy a paperback at a used bookstore. Or, I may decide not to buy anythng at all from a truly unlikeable author.
    I’ve bought books from authors I’ve met at writers conventions because I liked them, even though I don’t know when I’ll get around to reading their works. (I promise to someday!).

  51. Woah, Dean Koontz! That’s awesome! I love him too, I’ve read him since high school. Fave book is “Twilight Eyes” fo sho!

  52. Wow, talk about a huge amount of responses to a great blog post. Kristen, I think that likeability is essential to any business, including writing.

    Will I buy something made by a complete a**hole? nope, I would avoid it simply on principle.

    There is nothing worse than following someone on Twitter to get spam DM’s sent to you, even if they are genuine… it can actually put me off from the get-go.

    Getting a “buy my book”, “check out my blog” the second that you connect with someone is an epic fail that will immediately set a bad tone.

    I wish you had a comparison photo to the HALO image, sounds like quite the sight.

    Your story about the comedian kind of reminds me of Eminem’s song, Stan, but is the truth for a large number of celebrities. One bad experience can put us off anybody for life, and the same can apply to social media, signings, performances (Charlie Sheen, anyone?), and beyond.

    I have bought books that I would otherwise never buy because I like the author, but I have experienced the opposite in return every now and then. There are times that you build a relationship with people and they don’t reciprocate.

    There is something profound which was said to me a long time ago; You can spend weeks, months, years, even a lifetime to gain the respect of others… but it only takes an instant to lose it all.


  53. There are a few gems among those whose fame has swollen their egos beyond sight. My friend’s daughter, an avid soccer player, just lost her leg in a freak car-wash accident. An NFL kicker from her hometown, but a player with a team thousands of miles away from her, read about it in the newspaper and called her in the hospital. He has stayed in touch with her throughout her 13 operations and entire recovery period and given her support and encouragement the entire time. When she graduated from high school, he took time off from his training schedule to attend her graduation. That’s a true hero.

  54. I guess I’m in the minority. If the writing or acting is good, I don’t care about the person’s likeability — it’s all about the artistic product. (Except if their objectionable worldview bleeds through into the writing, I suppose.) Then again, I can’t remember ever being snubbed in person by an author or actor. Maybe that would make me reconsider.

  55. My grandmother, bless her dear departed soul, used to have a handy aphorism for just about everything. “Good things happen to good people” seems to answer your question nicely.

    Congratulations on meeting Dean Koontz. I’ve enjoyed several of his books.

  56. For me, likeability is a factor if the person is out there with the purpose of meeting fans. I happened to be at a bookstore when there was a signing for an author I did not know. He stood and spoke about his books, answered questions, and interacted with everyone. I became a huge fan of him and his writing.
    I have also met other celebrities when they have stayed to sign autographs. They were all fantastic. If they hadn’t been it would have stayed in my mind and I would have lost some respect for them. I might have continued to listen to their music, but would not have paid to see them again.
    On the flip side, if you interrupt someone while they are working, plan on them being a little snippy. Did happen, but he still signed an autograph.

    Congratulations on meeting Dean Koontz. I used to have quite a few of his books.

  1. […] This is really nice as you can upload your own blog(s), too, so check those sites out, bloggers! The Skinny on L.A. & One Big Question–Does Likability Matter? @ Kristen Lamb – It does matter… Ever since I read an interview with Terry Goodkind I […]

  2. […] Does Likability Matter? Kristen Lamb explores this as she recounts her recent experience in LA at Romantic Times. […]

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