Book signings are a major artery of the book community, connecting and benefiting everyone involved: author, book distributor, reviewer, reader. Readers get to meet the person who took them on a journey and immersed them in a new world. The local bookstore gets a chance to build its clientele and cash in on an author’s celebrity status. And if you’re an aspiring author like me you get the chance to soak up inspiration from a fellow weaver of magic.
Yes indeed, a book signing is a rare and marvelous opportunity for all…Or is it?
To be truthful, a book signing isn’t all fun and games. The size and venue varies – from big box stores, to cafés and churches, even high school gymnasiums – I’ve been to them all and the experience is always, invariably, mixed: horrible yet wonderful, positive yet negative.
Just like when your favorite band comes to town, if an author you admire is doing a local signing, then you should go! Life is too short for regrets. Don’t miss an opportunity to meet your literary hero. Just be aware of the bad along with the good.
The lines you will encounter at a book signing are unusually and dreadfully long. The best way to handle it is to take a patience pill and be prepared. A book signing typically runs two hours, but the line to get in and the separate line to get an autograph can add hours to the typical run time. If you’re a die-hard like me you’ll want to show up at least an hour before doors open, rain or shine. Once the doors open the civilized line becomes a black Friday nightmare and it won’t do you any good to play nice. My advice: throw your elbows up and run for the front row. Getting up close and personal for the author talk and Q&A is the best part of a book signing. To score an autograph you’ll be forced to stand in yet another line. A well established author’s signing can take hours. Fans will show up with literal bags of books and many authors don’t have a signing limit. A signing I recently attended had a four book limit because the author had developed a stress fracture during previous signings! Yeesh…
Worse even than the dreaded queue is the realization that the other attendees are terrible human beings. I refer to them as the nightmare fans. At every book signing I am forced yet again into the uncomfortable realization that I have something sacred in common with complete assholes, the something sacred being love for a very specific book and a very specific author. These are the nightmare fans. They cut in line, steal your seats, and/or loudly say something blatantly racist/sexist/horrible. They are best left ignored. Unless they steal your seat. In that case you sucker punch them first and ask questions later. But don’t get me wrong, a book signing is not all bad. If you survive the nightmare fans and long lines you’ll discover the best parts of a book signing.
While waiting to meet an author I have often been sandwiched between nightmare fans and unlikely friends. The opposite of the nightmare fan, the unlikely friend is a sort of fairy-tale-love-at-first-sight connection. Discussing your favorite books and characters with a like-minded literary soul is a great way to pass the time while stuck in line, and after the nightmare fans it restores your faith in humanity! These days, most fans only chat online and a book signing is the best way to meet outside the virtual world. Books change lives and it’s inspiring to meet others who have been enriched by a book you love.
The only thing better than connecting with a fellow fan is connecting with the author. Connecting with the author on a personal level is rare and more often than not you’ll simply be exchanging trivial pleasantries as they mark up your book. Don’t be discouraged if you walk away with only an autograph. A meaningful conversation is unlikely when the author’s wrist is aching and the line is out the door. Plus, the best time to get a word in is during the Q&A. Most authors put on a great show and if your question is selected they will give a personal, and usually entertaining, answer. Author interviews are inspiring. Learning about why they write helps you reconnect to the initial passion that motivated you to begin writing in the first place. Seeing an author successfully promote a book can be galvanizing. If they have made their dream come true, then so can you.
Attend a Book Signing!
It’s an incredible fan experience and you never know who you’ll connect with. Authors put a lot of time and effort into building a community online and they bring that community to life on their book tours. You’ll connect with other fans and be inspired on your writing journey. If you’ve never been to a book signing you should check one out. I’ll keep SS Press updated with upcoming literary events in the Twin Cities, so stay tuned!