There's nothing more exciting than getting the chance to attend a book signing and meet an author you love. Book events and signings are magical for a myriad of reasons: they get you excited for a new book, you can get the author's perspective on their work, and you can meet the brilliant person that created the world and characters you love so much. Plus, you can nerd out with other fans and rejoice in the reading community of your city.
As a bookstore employee, I've worked a countless number of book signings, and I've attended dozens more as an attendee and fan. In my time working these literary events, I've seen authors share some incredible moments with their readers. But I've also witnessed some not-so-great behavior.
So, here it is: my insider's guide for meeting authors. Of course, every author has their own boundaries and preferences, so pay attention to what the signing staff tells you. The number one rule is to respect the author and the rules established by them and the bookstore. My hope is that this article will help you have positive, engaging interactions with the authors that you meet. Here are 11 do's and don'ts of meeting an author at a book signing:
1. Do: Tell them how much their work has meant to you.
I haven't met an author yet who doesn't like hearing this. Most authors will be grateful and energized to know that you connected with their work. You may feel cheesy for saying it, but I promise you, they will really appreciate it.
2. Don't: Make critiques without an invitation.
This should go without saying, but I still see it all the time. This author has worked very hard on their writing, and it's not really your place to tell them what you don't like about it. Keep it positive and friendly. Give them a compliment. There's a time and a place for criticism, and a book signing or meet-and-greet is not it.
3. Do: Thank them for their time.
Many times, authors are making appearances and doing signings without getting paid. They are often on long tours. They're probably very tired. They probably have writing or editing to do after the signing. Be sure to let them know that you appreciate their effort.
4. Don't: Ask for a picture with the author if instructed not to by the bookstore staff.
Usually, guests will be instructed not to take photos with the author at signings. Sometimes, guests will ask the author anyway. Please don't be that person. Authors feel bad declining your request, and you certainly don't want to make them feel uncomfortable. These rules aren't in place to make you suffer. It's simply a matter of time. If everyone took a photo with the author, the signing would last for hours.
5. Do: Buy their book.
Authors put in a lot of pro bono time to do signings and talks, partially in hopes that they'll be able to sell books because of their efforts. Most bookstores asks that you buy the book from them in order to get it signed, instead of bringing one from home. Don't try to play the system on this one: support the authors and bookstores you love!
6. Don't: Hug an author without permission.
You may feel like you know this author inside and out, but respect their space. Think about how uncomfortable it would be for you to have a bunch of strangers hugging you all the time. A handshake is a nice alternative. Or a smile!
7. Do: Show them your fan art.
Many authors do get a kick out of seeing the art that their work has inspired. Don't bring your whole collection, but one or two cute things will likely put a smile on their face.
8. Don't: Give them your manuscript.
Most authors have a reading pile a mile high. As much as you may want them to read it, bringing them their manuscript is a little presumptive. Authors are not literary agents or editors, and they probably don't have the time to read it anyway. If you think it's something they really need to see, ask them if they're interested and they'll let you know.
9. Do: Have a conversation with them.
I get it: sometimes, it can be hard to find something to say when face-to-face with your favorite author. But try your hardest to reach out to the author as a human! Maybe think of a question beforehand, or a the very least ask them how they are or tell them something you liked about their book.
10. Don't: Take up too much of their time.
Some authors are very gracious and spend a lot of time with fans in their signing line, which is amazing. However, be aware of how long the line is behind you. The longer you take with the author, the longer they have to stay out.
11. Don't: Insist that they sign something they don't want to.
Some authors have exceptions, but many will only sign books. Be sure to ask politely if you want them to sign something else, and don't be upset if they decline. Make sure you're not making any requests that will make the author feel uncomfortable. (Like signing a body part. That's awkward.)