May 15, 2015

The Scoop on Signings

It's been really great teaming up with Hannah of So Obsessed With for The Picky Pledge, our pact to be accountability buddies when it comes to the books we acquire this year, whether by purchase or for review. We've really managed to help each other stay in control of our demanding TBR piles, and it's a trend that I hope is reflected in our reading stats next year.

As a reader + author fangirl, I love the fact that I live in a city where events are plentiful and accessible. I've gotten the opportunity to meet and chat with authors that I love, as well as getting my copies of their books signed - something I never could have imagined when I was younger! It was actually while I was at one of these events (held in one of my favorite bookstores, Books of Wonder!) that the idea for this post came to me. Plus, I just attended two more awesome events this week! So today, I wanted to share a few thoughts on author events, particularly book signings! (Hannah, on the other hand, will be brilliantly talking about acquiring books for review, so don't forget to visit her blog!)

There are a couple of things you can do prior to a bookish event, like a group author panel or a book signing or launch party. I've always thought it was best to be ready for anything (and it definitely helps you feel less intimidated or rattled during the event), and these are a few ideas for how you can best prepare in advance:

1. Find events in your city. I'm fairly lucky because I have a bunch of staple bookstores that I check for a calendar of events - Books of Wonder, McNally Jackson, Barnes and Noble, to name a few. Plus, the team behind Teen Author Avenue often updates their site with events of interest involving YA authors,which are majority of what I attend anyway. Other ways I find out about events? Twitter, author announcements + getting emailed by publishers.

2. Figure out the book policy for the event. When it comes to signings, particularly those with your favorite authors, the temptation to bring all your books to get them signed is strong. I know because I've been there myself. But you'll have to confirm with the bookstore what their policy is. Some bookstores require you to buy one book; others require that you buy one book per book you'll get signed; and still others don't mind you bringing an entire stack from home. Whatever the case, it's always best to know the policy before you figure out what books to bring or buy.

3. Fix your equipment. Are you planning to recap the event? Best bring a notebook + pen, or even a recorder. Need photos to share on social media or the blog? Make sure you've got your smartphone or camera, and make sure the battery is charged. There's nothing like the horror of arriving at an event and realizing that you have no way of recording what is sure to be a phenomenal night. (Thankfully, if you go with friends, this can easily be remedied.) Also, it won't hurt to prepare a question or two, just in case you get a chance to ask the author/s during the event.

4. Find friends to attend with (but don't be afraid to go on your own). I've always thought it was fun to attend events with friends who love books as much as I do! I usually attend events with Rachel & Estelle, though I often run into a lot of the other New York bloggers too. It's always less intimidating to be with people who you can chat with while waiting for the event to start or in line, plus you have a photographer handy! On the other hand, if there's an event you want to be at but nobody you know is going, don't let that stop you from being there. I've attended quite a few events on my own because I was excited about the author/s, and it's still just as fun. Sure, you might feel a little awkward, but that's what a good book is for! And maybe, if you have enough courage, you might strike up a conversation and make a new friend.

5. Finalize your fashion + finances + other fixings. No matter what the occasion, it's always good to look put-together! I'm often very deliberate about my outfit choices for signings, particularly if I know I want a photo with the author/s there. You'll mostly find me wearing dresses and cardigans (and sometimes, I try to be in theme with the author's book!), but my general policy is that I should be both classy and comfortable. Whatever works for you - embrace it! Also, you should definitely not forget to bring money (because how will you grab your new book/s otherwise?) and snacks (because sometimes these things run long and you'll get hungry). You might want to consider carrying business cards too (because sometimes, you'll meet people you might need to share your contact information with).

As a reader, I genuinely love taking the time to attend author events! There's something special about being able to show up to a launch party/panel/signing, and show my support for the author in question by physically being there. The events I've attended generally follow the same format: an introduction to the author/s, an introduction to their books, host Q&A or reading an excerpt, questions from the audience and the actual signing line. It's often an hour for the first four things, and another hour for the signing. Here are a few ideas of the do's and don't's at an author event:

Do listen to what the authors have to say. They often share funny anecdotes or words of wisdom, and it's always refreshing to really get to know the author via what they have to share with the audience. I've found myself feeling more inclined to check out an author's work if they impress me during this portion of the night.

Do not talk when the author is talking. This should be a given, really, as listening is a sign of respect. You came to the event to see these authors talk or read from their books, so you best act accordingly. It's very uncomfortable if your chatter is loud enough to draw attention away from the authors - awkward for the author, the audience and you.

Do ask a question. If you've got a question, don't be afraid to ask it when you get a chance! It helps move the conversation along, gives you a chance to get to interact with these authors and you get an answer to your burning question about their books or writing or lives.

Do not ask questions with spoilers. This is something that is more to be done out of respect for the audience, your fellow readers. There may be a select few that have already read the book or series in question, but what about those people who just learned about it tonight? Be wary of spoiling books for anyone, as it can often put readers off picking up a novel.

Do share quotes and photos. Whenever I'm at an event, I like to tweet my favorite quotes from the authors. It's a fun way to get your followers in on the action, no matter where they might live. Plus, it's a way to promote the author! The same goes for photos - it can be fun to share visuals of the event you're currently attending.

Because I often find myself falling in love with authors at their events, it's no surprise that I often find myself wanting to buy all of their books. The real question is - should I? Even though you've probably already considered the books you'll buy before the event, the moment of truth is when you're getting ready to check books out at the register.

There are two situations I've found myself in:
(1) buying books for all the authors at a group signing
(2) buying books because it feels like I should support the event

Both are common for event attendees, and more importantly, both have happened to me. But here's the truth: you aren't obligated to buy all of the participating authors' books. Personally, I'd encourage you to buy at least one book during an event (especially if it's an indie bookstore!). But technically, you're not even obligated to purchase a book at all! Sometimes, you're attending an event because you're curious about an author or their book and just want to get more of a feel for them or their novel - and that's perfectly okay.

Here are a few questions that might be helpful when deciding what to buy at an event:

Can you afford to buy this book right now? Finances are something that really ought to be considered before you make your purchase. Most of you are on a tight budget as students, or trying to be more conscientious of your budget as a working adult, and you should definitely make sure you can pay for what you're getting.

How genuinely important is it that your book is signed by the author? I usually just choose to get books signed by authors that I've really fallen head over heels in love with! Seeing their signatures makes me really giddy, especially because I love fangirling over my favorites. And, if you do get something signed, you can also choose whether or not to get them personalized. I usually only get mine personalized if I think a book will be on my favorites shelf for life; otherwise, I just have the author sign the book.

If you haven't read the book, how soon will you read it after you buy it? If you're not going to read it within six months to a year, then you should probably hold off on the purchase. Otherwise, go ahead and grab a copy!

If you haven't read the book, are you really interested in the story or just interested in the author? This often determines the difference between buy or borrow for me. If I find myself loving an author's responses or personality, I'm certainly more likely to check out their novels. However, if the story itself is something I'm not sure about, I'd borrow it from the library versus getting it at the signing. I can always buy it if I really fall in love with it!

If you have read the book, is this a book you would reread? If you say yes, then obviously, you should buy it. If you say maybe or no, then put it back on the shelf. There's no point in buying a copy that will just gather dust on your shelves.

There you have it, friends, a few thoughts on author events and how to decide if you really want to buy new books when you choose to attend one! Now it's your turn - tell me about your experiences at book signings! And feel free to share your own advice as well!

This was posted as part of The Picky Pledge.


  1. Alexa, this is so helpful, especially for those who've never attended a signing event before! I keep in mind the same things when I go to them. I love that you mentioned not asking questions with spoilers during Q&As because not everyone in the audience is all caught up with the author's books and it takes out the fun of reading them when you've been spoiled! Another tip, I'd like to add is to talk to the author when they're signing your books. Obviously we'll get a little starstruck and speechless for awhile, but a signing is a great event to connect with these fabulous people who write the books we read. :D

  2. The book policy is a very important thing if you're not familiar with the venue! Anderson's requires you to purchase one of the books that the author is (or multiple authors are) on tour for. I tried to purchase The Scorpio Races for Maggie Stiefvater's Sinner tour and they said no dice. Had to be one of the promo books. ALSO just important to know that you need to purchase a book in order to get a number for the signing! Some places don't require it and a lot of people who aren't frequent event-goers there don't realize that. I usually order my book online and pick up in the store so I get an earlier number but anyone can purchase that day OR not have a number and just wait until the end of the line.
    I've just gone in a Tshirt and jeans before but never sloppy! If it's a big event or any author I really like though, I'll try to look cute!
    YES if you want to recap, very important to bring the proper stuff! I don't really recap anymore because I find myself not paying attention when I'm taking notes and I really just like to enjoy the event (unless I'm asked to recap of course). But so much happens that it's impossible (for my at least) to remember everything that happened and what the authors said! :)

  3. Candice @ The Grown-Up YAMay 15, 2015 at 12:06 PM

    This is great Alexa! I've only been to 1 author event and while it was an outdoor festival, one of the local (and adorable!) independent bookstores pretty much supported/ran/volunteered/did everything for the YA stages. I felt like I needed to buy some of the books there, but wish I had been more selective about which ones I bought. Live and learn though! I've never actually thought about checking out stores' rules and whatnot; very helpful advice! :)

    Also, I'm 100% with you on not talking during the event... that's just basic common courtesy!

  4. Such a helpful and great post, Alexa! I'm actually pretty unlucky in author events because of the state I live in. And most of the time, they're an hour or more away from me. So I've only been to one, actually, but it was great! I'd love to go to more. I got to meet Bethany Neal, author of My Last Kiss, and get a signed book and photo with her. It was also a laid-back, chill atmosphere. I was nervous, but had no reason to be! I'll definitely keep all of this in mind though, for future events. And for BEA! I'm hopefully going to be meeting many authors I love, and I want to look nice and be prepared with a question or two. I'm so excited but nervous!!

  5. This is a great post Alexa! Wish I had this when I attended my first signing. ;)

    One thing I can relate to about is buy all the books to a multi-author signing. I have been to two and both times I get to the author I am not buying a book for and it is so awkward. It goes along the lines of telling the author I am broke and can't get to the book but will as soon as I can because I want to read it. Inside I feel sooo bad because this is their hard work and I am not able buy it, read it, and enjoy it. :/

    ~Kaitlin @ Next Page Please!


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