How not to be awkward at author signings

Having gone to many an author signing by now, I have learned a few tips and tricks about how to be the least amount of awkward you can while meeting an author. These tips come in handy especially during big conventions and things, when you’ll meet a whole heap of authors all at once. Conventions, like, say…ALA annual.

1. Prepare
If you haven’t read the book that you’re getting signed, find something else of the author’s and read that. Even if it’s their blog! Familiarity is key to non-awkward interaction. (Or maybe just extreme confidence.)

Don’t have time/can’t find anything? Which might happen at conventions where there’s a lot of newbie authors signing stuff. Here’s what to do! Ask them how their day is going, if they’re having fun at the convention, what their favorite thing is about their book. Easy questions, in other words, that are still somewhat interesting for you to listen to and them to answer.

1b. Prep your camera while in line
If you want to have a picture with the author, prep your camera while you’re waiting in line. Get it turned on, set to the correct settings, etc., and then maybe scope out and see if there’s any helper who can take the picture for you. The person behind you, maybe? A store employee?

Just don’t be that person who fumbles with their phone/whatever for ten minutes trying to turn the flash on, okay?

ALSO (and this is so important), don’t forget to make sure that you can a) take pictures with the author in the first place (sometimes you can’t) and b) that the author is cool with being in a picture with you. Ask them beforehand! “Can I take a picture with you, please?” Yeah.

2. Mentally script what you’re going to say
This is related to numero uno. Usually you only have MAYBE five minutes max to meet an author and get your book signed (even less if it’s super busy), so you have enough time for one medium-long sentence/question and the author’s response. Prepare what you’re going to say in advance so you have minimal stumbling of tongue once you get up there.

In settings where you’re meeting maybe 10 authors in the same day, I’d even recommend writing down the author’s name and the question you want to ask them somewhere and reviewing it while you’re waiting in line to meet each author.

3. Don’t be a conversation hog
If you’ve got a long story to tell about how you’ve loved their book since blahblah blah, ASK if you can tell them the story before you tell it. Most of the time they’ll say yes. Sometimes they’ll say no, because the line behind you is 200 people long and they don’t have time for long stories. Either answer is okay! Just use your judgment. Maybe if you can’t tell them the story there, email it to them later? Just be cognizant of your surroundings and how the conversation is going overall.

This goes DOUBLE if you know the author personally. Signing times are not the times for you to catch up– do that after, when there aren’t antsy people waiting for you to stop hugging and kissing and whatever. Okay?

4. Say thank you!
Well, duh. You ARE a polite sort of person, aren’t you? Why wouldn’t you say thank you?

Also, if you haven’t read the book before, maybe say something about how you’re looking forward to reading it. And that you hope the author will have a nice day. It’s just POLITE, okay? Sheesh.

5. Wait ’til you’re out of sight to squee
It’s makes you look like less of a dork.

What are YOUR tips for author signings? Got any that I haven’t covered here? Let me know in the comments!

9 thoughts on “How not to be awkward at author signings”

  1. This was very cute and funny. I always wait till later to squee and clap my hands like a two year old. I sooo agree with you about it not being the time to catch up. I actually had a woman but in front of me to catch up with an author with a “I know her.” I’m sure the author didn’t know what to do, but it still left a bad taste in my mouth and I ended up leaving and not buying her book.

    1. Ugh, I had that happen at BEA 2011. Luckily the line behind her wasn’t too long, but still. Catch up at dinner or something! Sheesh.

    1. If I can’t come up with anything particularly good (like a question) I just say that I loved their book and thanks for signing it! Not at exciting as a conversation about plot mechanics or what have you, but at least it’s not traumatizing.

  2. Ahahaha #5. Too true.

    So, #2. I met one of my favourite authors at BEA, and I had been scripting what to say for weeks. When the time finally came for the signing I had my bit down and said it with confidence and then he just SAT THERE, not signing my book, ready to chat more. But I had nothing more to say! I panicked and spouted out random answers to his questions. UGH. So awkward. I was so flustered that I’m just realizing now I may have forgotten to say thank you.

    It was still incredibly lovely to meet him and I was beaming for the rest of the day, but, oh dear, I am so not accustomed to authors being able to sit and chat with everyone in line.

    1. It IS a bit nerve-wracking whenever an author goes off-script, but at least you got a lovely memory out of it!

  3. I never do author signings because I never know what the hell I would say. Even if I gave myself plenty of time to think about what to say, I’m sure that what I came up with would feel really stupid later. And this is why I have met very, very few authors in spite of living in New York where all the authors come.

    1. Aw, that’s too bad! Even just something like “I loved your last book/this book/something” and then mentioning something specific (like the characters?) would work.

      Although, really, most authors are so used to awkward people coming to signings anyway I don’t think it’d particularly matter much if you WERE outrageously awkward. I don’t think they particularly mind. 😀

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