It comes back to me sometimes: a young guy at an anime/scifi/comics convention peddling his self-published book. It's a scary thing to do and nobody's paying him much attention, so I stop for a moment and flip through a copy, because right now I don't know any better. It was this sort of fantasy world where all the characters were anthropomorphic animals. It followed the usual algorithm for young adult adventure novels. I read the first or second chapter and put it back down.
"A lot of action in that first chapter." I pick up a business card, to be nice.
"Do you... want to buy one?"
"I'll have to think about it."
And I quickly scuttle away, because I'm no good at these awkward confrontations. Would I have done that guy a favor by sticking around--the snobby English major to tell him that she didn't like the cliches and repetitive speaker tags? Maybe I should have asked him questions about his audience. Who he wanted to market to. His goals. Where he came from. Where he saw himself going. What HE thought of his book and whether he was collaborating with anyone on it. He could have told me a bit about the story. It might actually be a decent story, as far as teen fiction goes. My prime gripe was that the writing style wasn't engaging. I could have offered some advice on that. I could have had this whole conversation, for better or for worse, but instead I got out of there as fast as I could.
I thought this was the sensible thing to do, because I wouldn't have bought his book either way. Me? You can tell me anything you want about my book as long as you buy a copy. I mean, I could probably have the conversation regardless, but it's a show of good faith if you at least buy a book. I have this ideal scenario where someone comes up to my booth, reads my graphic novel, has tons of problems with but packages it in a civil review, and actually buys the book in the end because they think my next few books will be better. I wasn't about to have a development session with some teen start-up author without at least buying one of his books; some show of faith in his future as a self-publishing teen anthro fantasy writer. It wasn't necessarily because I didn't have any faith... I just didn't have any money.