Imagine walking into a ballroom the size of a small town. Tables stretch in all directions as far as the eye can see. Books stack two or maybe even three feet high on every single table. And behind each table sits an author.
No, this isn’t the promised land… it’s the Literacy Signing at the annual Romance Writers of America conference.
I recently attended the conference in Orlando. In July. Did you catch that part? Orlando in July? Even typing that makes my sweat glands amp into overdrive. Thank heavens for air conditioning. (And good deodorant.) Anyway, there were thousands upon thousands of authors and publishing industry professionals gathered together for days of education, workshops, networking and book signings. Ah, the book signings.
In addition to the massive Literacy signing that was open to the public, most of the publishers hosted signings of their own for conference attendees. Book heaven. No lie. I came home with enough books to read at least one a week for the next year. My daughter counted. Being among so many published authors can be overwhelming for a newbie like me and I imagine even more overwhelming for someone who’s attending a signing of that magnitude as a reader. With that in mind, here are some tips for you, dear reader, in case you ever find yourself surrounded by thousands of authors.1) Talk to us!
We don’t bite. At least not most of us. Most authors are massive introverts and are probably just as scared of talking to you as you are of talking to them. But typically, even if they’re at the top of the shy meter, if you ask a question or have something nice to say about their book they’ll love ya like a sister and best friend.2) Don’t be a time hog… oink, oink.
Odds are if you’re hoping to meet one of the more popular authors at a signing you’ll have to wait in line. When you get to the front, be courteous of those peeps still waiting behind you. Not that you have to just grab the book and go. But keep the conversation to a short exchange… the readers behind you will appreciate it.
3) Take our stuff!
If you’re buying a book or taking the time to have a conversation with an author, help yourself to a bookmark or candy or a piece of swag. Most authors bring little giveaways and don’t want to have to haul everything home. Obviously don’t stuff your purse with handfuls of their goodies, but they want to get their name into the hands of readers so take a magnet or a pen… please!
4) It’s okay to make eye contact.
You won’t turn to stone. At some of these massive signings there will be authors you’ve never heard of before. I used to feel bad about not having read a book by every author I talked to. Then I gave myself a headache trying to do the simple version of the math and realized that even if I lived to be a hundred-forty-seven years old I probably wouldn’t have enough time to read a book by every author in the room, especially at a signing as huge as the RWA Literacy signing. Authors don’t expect everyone who stops by their table to have read all of their books. Or even any of their books. So don’t be afraid… you don’t have to memorize the carpet pattern… you can look up.5) Pack light.
I realize you’re only going to a book signing, not backpacking the Appalachian trail. But definitely wear comfortable shoes… you’ll be walking and standing a lot. Bring a bag for your haul. Trying to balance a stack of books while searching a ballroom for your next author table is like stacking blocks on a boat. They will all fall down. If you have a special glitter gel pen you want authors to use, BYOP. And having a water bottle tucked in your purse or bag won’t hurt either. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
There you go. Some tips for surviving a book signing the size of a small town. And one final request…
If you pick up a book you love, write a review! That’s the #1 way to show an author your love.
Now, what are your top tips?