Since I announced my 2012 book tour, a lot of people have been asking, “What goes on at a book-signing?” The following answers apply only to MY events, book-signings by other authors are different. For instance, while there is no real “appropriate” attire for one of my events, if you’re at a Chuck Palahniuk event, you’ll want to wear your best bondage-wear (leather or PVC), and carry plastic sheeting. Chuck’s events are very much like a Gallagher comedy act, except in place of watermelons, human body parts are splattered on the audience, which is why Chuck is America’s most beloved author. That said, while you may have to stand in line unattended at one of my signings, at Neil Gaiman events there are “line monitors,” burly security guys who are there to catch Goth girls (and boys) who faint over Neil’s dreaminess. At a Lemony Snicket event, you might be entertained by Toccata and Fugue played on an accordion and encouraged to murder your parents (or at least frame them for embezzlement, ) while at one of my events, the closest you’ll come to being entertained is watching me swig Nyquil while spooging hand-sand on myself and others in a series of anti-viral “money-shots”.
So, to your questions:
1)What is the most important thing to consider in coming to one of your events?
1)ans: Parking. This is doubly important if you are driving.
2)Do I have to buy a book to attend?
2)ans: Most stores, now, require you buy at least one book per group, or a ticket, which usually includes a book. This varies from store to store and you should call the store and ask before betting your whole afternoon or evening on it. I’ve listed all of their contact information on Google.
3)Can I get your other books signed, my older books?
3)Yes, but often I have to limit how many I can personalize, especially if there’s a big crowd. The store my require that you buy the new one there, but most are okay if you bring your old books, and I’ll sign all that you bring. It helps if you have them turned to the “title page”, which is the first page on which my name appears. Collectors and dealers who have a bunch of books are asked to wait until the end and — access to the author for dealers is up to the discretion of the event store. (If you’re a dealer or a collector, you probably know this.)
4)I don’t know what to say. It’s my big moment, I’ve been waiting in line, and I don’t know what to say…
4) Most authors have been on your side of the table and know what that is like. I remember being terrified to speak to Ray Bradbury, and later Harlan Ellison. Hell, even now I get nervous when I meet authors. We get it. We also have all done events where no one but the bookstore staff was there, so we’re grateful you’re there. No author doesn’t like to hear that you love his or her books, that you share them with friends. It doesn’t get old, and it’s exactly the thing to say. I appreciate it. On the other hand, don’t pitch your idea for a screenplay or novel. I am powerless to help you and there are people waiting.
5)You like pie. Can I bring you pie? Or, you know, a meerkat?
5)Presents are very sweet, but an author on tour usually has one carry-on bag and his or her version of a computer bag – for the whole month, which means things are packed to the max. We just don’t have room to take along gifts, nor the time to send them on or even eat snacks. (I’ve even run out of room to carry my receipts and had to ship them home mid-way through the tour.) I’ve left a multitude of thoughtful gifts in hotel rooms because I couldn’t get them into my bag. That goes double for books and regional delicacies like bar-b-que sauce or maple syrup. (We’re getting on a plane in the morning, remember?) We just don’t have room for them. I have had many dinners consisting entirely of goldfish crackers brought to me by readers, and I really thank you for that, but it’s probably not the best policy. CDs and Manuscripts are out of the question. First, I can’t read manuscripts even if I want to, agents orders, and I don’t travel with a CD player, not even in my computer, so the discs often have to be left behind a stop or two down the road, anyway.
6)What can we expect? Do you read your work? Give back-rubs? What’s up?
6) The main thing to remember is, LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS. I’m a writer, if I was a people person they wouldn’t lock me in a room by myself to do my job. I don’t read my stuff. I suck at it. That said, there’s some variation in how events proceed– especially this tour, since some events are in theaters, but usually a bunch of you sit down, someone introduces me, I talk about writing books and stuff for about 20-40 minutes, take some questions, and then I sign books. Each book store has a different way of managing the line. Some have tickets, or bookmarks, or wrist-bands, other’s go by the “dog-pile” approach. At some events, I will have signed all of the books in advance so you’ll get a signed book even if you don’t have time to stand in line. We started doing this a couple of books ago when I’d get letters from people who had come but had to leave because of a baby-sitter or something before they got to meet me and get their book signed. You can still stand in line and I’ll personalize your book, but usually in these cases, the line is shorter because those people who just wanted to hear me talk or get a signed book can bolt.
7)What sort of questions should we ask?
7)Not “Where do you get your ideas?” (Now that I’ve told you that, I know that the first question will always be, “Where do you get your ideas?” because, let’s face it, my work appeals to the smart-ass demographic, but I’m going to just tell you “From Jules Verne”, or “from Bazooka Joe Comics” or something equally absurd, so whatever…) The one thing I ask is that as the tour proceeds, and you’ve had time to read the book, is you not ask something that’s a “spoiler” for those who haven’t had a chance to read it yet. Oh, no movies are being made of my books. If that changes, I’ll let you know. I’ll always talk about craft — I like that, and I like questions about research because the answers usually lead to some story wherein I reveal myself to be a doofus.
8)What else do we need to know?
8)Most anything else should be addressed to the specific book store, because they really dictate the policy for events. Call them. They’ll know about parking, places to eat near-by, stuff like that. My advice, on meals, by the way, is on an evening event, eat before you come to the book store. I do. Sometimes these things can run late.
9)Will you sign other stuff?
9)I will, but it’s limited. It takes quite a while to sign fabric items, I have to go slow, so be considerate of your line homeys when you ask. Fucksox are nearly impossible, so let’s not go there. Body parts are also really tough. (I can’t believe I’m actually typing this.) I know you’d love to have a tattoo on your uvula of my signature, but as I cherish the fun of poking you in the uvula with a Sharpie, may I suggest getting something else signed, like tracing paper or clear plastic, and taking that to your tattoo artist. That way, too, you can sober up and think it through.
10)What about pictures?
10) I’m fine with you taking pictures with me. Sometimes the store will have someone who will help – take your phone or camera so you can get in the picture—but sometimes, not, so you’ll want to have stuff ready. If the store doesn’t have someone, then make friends with the person in line behind you to take the shot – show them how to use your phone, get it all set up. The we’ll all dogpile into the photo and it will be tons of fun. After the last tour (Serpent of Venice) everyone in Denver was at the bookstore until nearly 1:00 AM because I was posing for pictures, so we had to change things so the pictures were taken on the run, and I couldn’t stop to pose. You’ll still get your picture, I just may not be giving you the full brilliance of my insincere goofy-ass grin.
11)Should I bring my kid?
11)If you read my books, and I assume you do, you know I like salty language. I’m that way in person, too, so if you don’t want your kids hearing adult-themed stuff, you’re going to be uncomfortable. As far as little kids, well, as before, sometimes the event goes on for a pretty long time, and a lot of little ones are not going to be happy in line for a couple of hours. When we can, we do try to move people with little kids to the front of the line, but that’s not always possible, so don’t rent some kid for the night just to get to the front of the line. Definitely no rental kids.