Coming to one of our events, and wondering what the etiquette is? Here are the answers to some of the most common questions and concerns, from the blogs of international best-selling authors Neil Gaiman and Patrick Rothfuss. As booksellers, we think they've covered just about every angle, between the two of them, that we think author event attendees ought to keep in mind.
This is going to be my first booksigning and I don’t know the etiquette. Do I need to buy my book at the bookstore, or can I bring a book from home?
Honestly? The polite thing to do is to buy your book at the bookstore hosting the event.
You see, the bookstores hosting me put a lot of time, energy, and money into events like these. They order a BUNCH of books. They bring in extra staff to manage the crowds, set up chairs, and sometimes reorganize parts of the store. If the signing goes late, they have to keep the store open after hours.
Also, you have to remember that while the bookstore loves you, they are also, you know, a store. A store that sells books. They need to sell books to stay in business.
But there are other reasons too. Let’s say I do a signing and the bookstore sells 500 books. That bookstore is happy. That bookstore likes me. That bookstore wants to have me back for future events. Also, my publisher is happy, and they feel like spending the money to fly me out to events like this are a worthwhile investment.
But if I do a signing and sell, say, 20 books, odds are the bookstore won’t be inviting me back in the future.
Ultimately, buying a book at the hosting store is just good manners. They’re putting a lot of work into the event, and buying a book is the best way to show that you appreciate that.
- Don't worry. You won't say anything stupid. It'll be fine. My heart
tends to go out to people who've stood in line for hours trying to think
of the single brilliant witty erudite thing that they can say when they
get to the front of the line, and when it finally happens they put
their books in front of me and go blank, or make a complete mess of
whatever they were trying to say. If you have anything you want to ask
or say, just ask, or say it, and if you get a blank look from me it's
probably because I'm slightly brain dead after signing several thousand
things that day.
Can I get more than one book signed?
The number of books you can get signed varies from store to store. Some stores will let you take three items through the line, some stores will let you bring five. If you want more books than that signed, you’ll have to get back in line.
For specifics, I’d suggest calling the store and asking them.
What if you’re picking up books for eight of your best friends? Well, odds are you’ll still be able to get them signed. The main reason I’m doing this tour is to sign books. My intention at each event is to sign books until there are no more books to sign.
I will only stop if I need to catch a plane, if the store needs to close, or if I collapse from exhaustion. That’s my plan.
- If I sign it in silver or gold, give it a minute or so to dry before putting it back in its bag or closing the cover, otherwise you'll soon have a gold or silver smudge and nothing more.
Can I get my picture taken with you at the signing?
Normally, my answer would be an unqualified yes. Anyone who’s glanced at my facebook page, has seen ample proof of the fact that I’m not camera shy.
However, there are certain logistical problems with me taking pictures with everyone at these bigger signings. Simply said, photos make a long signing even longer. But what usually happens is that you hand your phone over to someone else to take the shot, then we pose, then the person can’t figure out how to use your camera. Then you explain to them that it’s the button on the side….
You know what I’m talking about, right? We’ve all been there.
But let’s do some simple math. Assume that 200 people show up to my signing, and I take *just one minute* with each of them to shake hands, exchange a few words, then sign a book. 200 people at a minute each means that the signing is already more than three hours long.
That’s not even counting if people have more than one book. Or if people ask me for personalizations. If we add another 50 people taking pictures on top of that, the signing will suddenly be five hours long.
So my answer to this is… Maybe. We can probably snap a quick picture. But don’t be offended if we have to skip it if the line is really long.
- You may own everything I've ever written. I'm very grateful. I'm not
going to sign it all, so you had better simply pick out your favourite
thing and bring that along.
You may be in that line for a while, so talk to the people around you. You never know, you could make a new friend. I've signed books for kids whose parents met in signing lines (although to the best of my knowledge none of them were actually conceived there). And while we're on the subject, bring something to read while waiting. Or buy something to read, you'll be in a book shop, after all.
- Remember your name. Know how to spell it, even under pressure, such as being asked. [If you have a nice simple name, like Bob or Dave or Jennifer, don't be surprised if I ask you how to spell it. I've encountered too many Bhobs, Daevs and even, once, a Jeniffer to take any spelling for granted.]