Authors who are "Differently Expertised"...

Authors who are "Differently Expertised"...

04 August 2011

Book Signing Etiquette

Common courtesy isn't all that commonplace. We have become a terribly egocentric society, from the rudeness of making cell phone calls during meals in restaurants to not holding doors open for people behind us to ignoring yield signs on the road. Unfortunately, this self-centered attitude is all too rampant among authors.

Multiple author events can be awesome. The opportunity to network and learn from others is quite valuable. But when it goes sour, it can be an excruciating experience.

Here is my Top Ten List of Gracious Group Author Event Behaviors:

10] Arrive on time, or if you are delayed, slip in as unobtrusively as possible. You are not as important as you think you are. I don't care if you think you're God's Great Gift to the Book World, being disruptive doesn't endear you to others.

09] Ask about the format of the event ahead of time. Will there be readings, are you expected to talk, or is it simply a group of tables where folks come up to speak with you?

08] Share the wealth. If someone doesn't like your genre, steer them to an author who writes what they might like. They aren't going to buy your book today anyway, so let someone else make a sale.

07] Readings. Please oh please oh please KEEP IT SHORT. The purpose is to entice folks to buy your book, not bore them to death. And on that note:

06] Preface your reading with a SHORT  set up. Like an actor setting up a clip on a  talk show, just give a little explanation of what the characters are doing in your selection. Make them buy the book for the full story. Nothing jolts an audience harder than you stopping in the middle of a sentence to "explain" what happened in a previous section or give the character's life story. It's an annoying slap in the face and will turn your audience off faster than a lizard crosses hot concrete in June.

05] Practice your reading. Make your family or friends suffer through it first. Don't be afraid to change the pitch and volume of your voice as you read. Keep the audience hanging on your every word by whispering where needed, shouting if necessary. If you want to do different character voices, practice them repeatedly.   
04] Help the bookstore staff or owners if you see they need some extra hands. "Yes, they sell greeting cards right over there," or "Were you looking for the book signing? It's right here."

03] Do not EVER correct another author in public. EVER. Firstly, to embarrass another human being in front of others is incredibly rude, and secondly, it makes you look like a smartass jerk. Even if you are an obnoxious know-it-all, don't open your mouth and confirm everyone's suspicions. If someone's facts are in error, take them aside later and tell them--gently. This is an author event, not Jerry Springer.     

02] Join Toastmasters. Seriously. There is no one--myself included--who cannot benefit from attending Toastmasters meetings. "Um, uh...well, uh...and like..." Get those crutches out of your mouth completely. Unless of course, your plan is to intentionally bore people to death. Trust me, there are enough people out there already working that angle.    

And the Number One Rule of Gracious Group Author Event Behavior:
 If you're expected to talk about your work, time it to less than five minutes and then sit your butt down. When in doubt, memorize the back cover blurb of your book until you can deliver it in your sleep. The audience is not captive; they can--and will--walk out if you hog the podium.

Be courteous to others at these events and karma will come around with flowers and candy. If you insist on being The Big Dog Author, karma will be a real female dog in return.

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