Question for those who like to get their books signed

Scott and me are having a wee bit of an argument. He thinks I sign too slow on account of I like to chat to everyone and make my dedication as personal as possible. He thinks that’s fine with a very short queue but when the line is long you owe it to the people standing in line waiting to go as fast as possible.

The argument arose because I had a big line at NCTE1 on account of the lovely Professor Nana talked very enthusiastically about How To Ditch Your Fairy. Bless you!

In my defense

  1. Where I was sitting I couldn’t see the queue so I didn’t know how long it was.
  2. English teachers are interesting and I wanted to know what grades they taught and where they were from.
  3. Just signing a book is boring. I like to talk to people and figure out why they want their book signed.
  4. Scott is a hardened pro; I’m still a (relative) newbie.

What do youse lot think? Would you prefer an author who rushes to make the line go quicker? Or would you prefer an author who takes the time to chat with everyone?

  1. National Council of Teachers of English []


  1. Brent on #

    I prefer an author who is willing to take sixty seconds to know who they’re signing for. Collecting autographs isn’t really the point for me, standing in a queue for however long to get my book signed is a way of telling the author I love their work.

    Of course I have also enjoyed lending out the books YOU signed for me and tossing an offhand: “Yeah, I met her last January at a convention.” πŸ™‚

  2. Rebecca on #

    I’m willing to stand in line forever if it means getting to talk to authors. You can buy signed editions in a lot of bookstores without going to an event. But getting it personalized and talking to the author is extra special. To me, that’s the whole point of going to a signing. πŸ™‚

  3. marrije on #

    I’m with you on this one, Justine. It’s what Neil would do!

  4. Elodie on #

    There’s a fair middle point, haha! I wouldn’t want the author to get into a whole five minute conversation if it means half the line might not even have a chance to get a book signed, but I wouldn’t want the author to like… -glance at face- “who do you want it to?” -sign- “next!” Just, I dunno, a quick question about who they’re getting it signed for/how they like the books or found them or something would be good I think.

  5. robin on #

    Obviously, I would like my author of choice to whip through the line in a speedy, efficient manner, barely looking at the people whose books he or she is signing…until I make make my way to the front and make such a spectacular impression that the author spends the rest of the afternoon engaged in conversation with fascinating me. (The people behind me can buy their signed copies on ebay.)

  6. Nicholas Waller on #

    The ideal is, of course, for you (not you but authors in general) to whip through all the people ahead in the line but find me so fascinating you talk for 15 minutes (and no-one waiting behind). Mind you, this is a guess. I’ve never gone to any book signing by anyone.

    I did read an article by Nick Hornby on book signings once – his sentiment with a lot of the people, complete strangers of course, was bascially: “you could be my friend. Why aren’t you my friend?” I suppose most of us most of the time have a set of personal friends and acquaintances on one hand, and a distant “relationship” with the mass world-at-large through news, gossip, TV, celebrity culture and so on. I guess what Hornby was saying was that the mass world-at-large was actually full of real people who could – but for the chance of fate, timing and geography – have been personal friends, and there were loads of them, and it is only in situations like book signings that you actually meet a lot of them one on one.

    Ticket check-in staff and the like obviously also meet a lot of people one on one but there the transaction is purely functional, whatever the inner lives of the individuals, whereas with a book signing there is presumably at least some shared cultural mindset and shared inner life going on.

  7. Steve Buchheit on #

    I agree with the above, if it’s just about getting a signed copy, those are available elsewhere without waiting in line. Meeting the author and getting a minute of chat is what waiting in line is all about.

    Personally, I love those massive signing room events, mostly because the majority of authors I’ve had sign the books I brought don’t have long lines (or I wait for the opportunity) and then I get to chat for a moment.

    But then there are those for whom the dictum of “three books or less” was made. Nothing says, “I’ll come back later” like the person in front of you hauling a box of books to be signed.

  8. Owldaughter on #

    I’m midway between the speedy and efficient and taking the time to chat, myself. The reason I want to get a book signed is to demonstrate to the author that I appreciate them and their efforts, and that I value their time. I do this by making the trip and standing in line, and also by saying to them once we are face to face, “Thank you so much for your work. It gives me great pleasure to read your books.” I’m always asked my name, and sometimes they comment on it (it’s slightly out of the ordinary — best moment of this kind was having Guy Gavriel Kay tell me I’d probably see it in a book of his one day), they sign the book with a personalization, and I smile and thank them and move on so that the next person can have their turn.

    I figure most of the time they don’t want more than that. They’re trapped behind a table with a looming line of increasingly impatient people, after all. They certainly don’t want the life stories or the “Why aren’t we best friends? I know you so well!” thing as someone mentioned above. Unless it’s one of those unfortunate events where no one shows up other than a handful of people, at which time if the author seems open to chatting with everyone, then great! I’ve seen a couple of those turn into informal round table things where everyone grabs a chair and sits close and participates.

    So a moment of chat, a smile, and a request for my name is all I expect, really. But then, I’ve worked authors events for years in bookshops, and now I write too, so I have a sense of what it’s like from the other side. Even before that, though, I never wanted to overstep my boundaries or inconvenience the author.

  9. sylvia_rachel on #

    I don’t mind waiting longer if it means I get to have something resembling a conversation with the author when I get to the front. I don’t collect autographs, particularly; I go to signings because I want to meet authors and hear them talk and ask them questions and such.

    For this reason I tend to have more fun at smaller signings with less famous authors: the lineup (if there’s a lineup rather than a sort of amoeba-like group) tends to be short, and nobody feels much pressure for efficiency. But then there was the Neil Gaiman signing my husband and I and our daughter (she’s six now, but was a year old then and not quite walking) went to in 2003 (during but not at WFC), for which the lineup snaked around and around Chapters and out into the street. Eventually someone realized that there were people camped out in the lineup with babies — we weren’t the only ones — and exclaimed over our patience and hustled us up front; we then discovered he was talking to people and drawing things in everybody’s books. No wonder. My copy of Neverwhere now has a drawing of something peeping sinisterly round the flyleaf, and the notation “Mind the Gap!” — how cool is that?

    The difficulty for me with Meeting Famous Authors is that I instantly lose the ability to converse in a coherent manner πŸ˜› But I’d still rather have the opportunity than not.

  10. shannon on #

    I will willingly wait in a long line if it means that I get the chance to chat with one of my favorite authors. I’m not there for some autograph I could get on Ebay. I’m there to tell the author how much I appreciate his (or her) work. Meeting John Green was one of the highlights of my life because I felt like I met someone that I could be friends with in other circumstances (and I’m sure he makes everyone he meets feel like that.) And then when he signed my book it felt like he knew just a bit about me before he wrote me a note.

  11. Sara on #

    I’m in the in-between camp. I only went to a screening that had some semi-famous (at the time) music video directors that ended somewhere close to midnight and THEN they started signing DVDs. Through our own inaction we were at the end of the line and I watched with tearful, sleepy eyes as they proceeded to chat with the first couple people for almost ten minutes each. Luckily someone running the event stepped in at that point or I might still be waiting.

    I imagine you aren’t talking about a situation that extreme, though. I’m fine with waiting in line so that each person can have about a minute of time with the author.

  12. Amber on #

    What Owldaughter said. You go to get books signed to show that you like/appreciate the author’s work. It ain’t really about the squiggle. Maybe the squiggle is the reminder of the mini-interaction where you got to tell them why you like their book, or how much the person you’re getting them to sign it for will love it.

  13. Victoria on #

    Definitely prefer talking to the author for a while, or, really, any person that I stand in line to meet. I wouldn’t wait in line for hours just to say ‘Hi’, have them scribble something that contains the first letter of their name, and then move on. I want to talk to them, tell them I like their previous work, or how much I’m looking forward to their next work. I don’t mind waiting longer in the line if it means I get to talk to them too.

    I have some examples to, to show how much better it is to talk to people.
    1. On the Paper Towns tour, I waited in line to get my Paper Towns, Suite Scarlett and Latin book signed by John Green. Now, I had to wait a while in the line, because he was talking to everyone. But, at the same time, I got to meet some pretty awesome people in the line. And when I got up there, I got to talk to him. So the waiting was well worth it, and I highly enjoyed it. He even had to rush everyone to make sure he caught his flight, but he still made time to talk, and even take pictures with everyone who asked.

    2. However, I also went to see Rachelle LeFevre, Edi Gathegi and Taylor Lautner on their press tour for Twilight. Now, they had it in a mall, and you could only take pictures during the ridiculously short question and answer session. And there were many people blocking the view. Finally, they handed out a poster to everyone. That was the only thing you could get signed. They rushed everyone through. You couldn’t take pictures with them, and you couldn’t take pictures of them while you were waiting in line. The poster wasn’t personalized at all. It was just a scribble that looked sort of like their name. I got to say one thing to Edi, and nothing to the other two. Now, I’m happy I got to meet them, but because we were rushed through the line, I didn’t get to really meet anyone (except while we were waiting before it started) and I didn’t get to talk to some of my favorite stars of one of my favorite movies.

    Obviously, meeting John Green was infinitely more enjoyable than meeting people from Twilight. Why? because I actually got to meet John Green, whereas I got to look at the people from Twilight.

  14. Jennifer on #

    I really don’t know what to tell you. The lines are so damned long I will always think, “It’s not worth it to me to stand in line for an hour for an autograph,” and then I never do. And let’s face it, the author isn’t going to ever become my friend even if I chat with them for 30 seconds about how my name is spelled.

  15. lauren myracle on #

    You are right. Scott is wrong. But he is very manly in his wrongness. πŸ™‚

  16. Desdemona on #

    I love when authors talk to me. It makes me feel special and like they really care about their fans, unlike someone who just signs the book without even looking at me and goes on to the next person. Case and point: meeting one author it was one of the funnest things I have ever done. I wouldn’t have minded waiting in a huge line for her. However, when I met someone else, it seemed like she was just trying to get everyone signed and done.

  17. claire on #

    i only get a book signed if i want to talk to the author. but i’m sure there are lots of people out there who just want the signature.

  18. Emily on #

    I would rather have an author have a a quick chat with me. Most all readers would understand if you could only have a couple seconds with them but just signing the book is so impersonal! I love authors because they are so genuine and nice, but still, you need to show me you care! (Not you Justine, I already love you :))

  19. capt. cockatiel on #

    I’d prefer if the author talked to me a little. πŸ˜› Although if the line is SUPER LONG I would say that people should maybe stick to a semi-short chat. (I only say this because I never got to get my books signed by John Green or even get to anywhere near the front of the line, much less talk with him. I am bitter. But such is my life. Although now I do feel quite sad with everyone here talking about how they met John. D:)

    I have also been to a Twilight signing/event (with Stephenie Meyer) when people couldn’t say a thing to her at all, and that had to be the worst signing ever. >.< You couldn’t even get your own name in the book if you didn’t have the newest one. Jeez.
    So talking is basically a must… Otherwise, what is the point of anyone showing up? Honestly, just telling an author what my favorite book of theirs is would be better than nothing at all.

  20. Ju on #

    “I prefer an author who is willing to take sixty seconds to know who they’re signing for. Collecting autographs isn’t really the point for me, standing in a queue for however long to get my book signed is a way of telling the author I love their work.” <– I agree with this person!

    It’s less about the signing itself, though I treasure them as a nice memory of the occasion. But if there’s an opportunity to connect with someone you admire then yeah, I’d want to have that opportunity.

  21. E. Kristin Anderson on #

    You so win on this, Justine. I mean, it’s one thing if you have THOUSANDS of people waiting (David Sedaris, for example, chatted with everyone at his event this summer – the BP staff was at the store until 3am on account of it. Not to knock David, but that might have been a little nutty), but if you have a smaller line, I think most of your fans want to talk to you about your writing, about the talk you gave, etc. Scott is clearly being an old fuddy-duddy and is jealous of your new friends.

  22. Jessica on #

    I would much prefer an author who talked to the people in the queue, no matter how long it took, than one who got everyone done quickly. When I think of the thrills I felt actually talking to people like John Marsden and Robert Muchamore and Melina Marchetta who have signed books for me, there is no way I would exchange the conversation we had for less time in line.

    Stick to your guns, Justine, and chat more with your autograph seekers, Scott!

  23. Lissa on #

    I prefer the author to spend a little time chatting. If it’s someone who is famous, I expect to spend time in line. Usually, I have a book with me, so being in line isn’t really a hardship; it’s just more time for me to read!

    On the flip side, if you (as an author) are willing to spend the time to chat with people, you’ve got to be willing to stay there until you’ve seen everyone Otherwise, it isn’t fair to the ones in back who might not get to see you at all (for instance, if you knew you only had an hour to sign and it was a long line, then perhaps a bit less chatting might be in order).

  24. HypotheticalDystopia on #

    For me, going to a book signing isn’t about the autograph. Meeting the author makes it real.

  25. Jeanne on #

    So far no one has really addressed whether writers or readers are good chatters. I’m not. So I’m willing to stand in line for a 1-minute chat (of which how to spell my name always takes up 30 seconds), but don’t wish for more than that.

  26. Hillary! on #

    I love it when author’s chat with their fans. That way you get to know why they love you so much, and hopefully you remember them. When I met Neil Gaiman it was rushed, and although Neil Gaiman is awesome personified you just can’t get the same experience as telling Richelle Mead how much you love her and making her blush. It’s just awesomer that way.

  27. sara z. on #

    I like to take the time to say hi, how are you, notice what city is on the person’s name tag, and respond to anything specific they have to say about my books. Usually people getting books signed are aware there’s a line behind them, and they also do not want to hold things up. But there’s no reason to rush rush.

  28. jenn on #

    i would much rather wait in line a little longer than for my sole interaction with an author to be my name on a post-it and a quick scribble.

  29. Marisa on #

    I’d prefer someone to talk to me. It doesn’t have to be a huge drawn-out conversation, but a ‘how are you?’ or ‘where are you from?’ would be nice. I must say that Stephenie Meyer is an incredible author, but one thing that really bothered me about her signing was that she just kind of rushed everyone through line and didn’t really talk to me at all, I don’t think. If I’m going to have to wait anyway, I at least want the author to say ‘hi’.

  30. Meeks on #

    I’m with you–I always take forever to sign because I want it to be personal in some way. There’s probably a middle ground, but I’d rather err on the side of caution/taking too long for now.

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