A Wee Bit of Booksigning Etiquette

3 Apr

Rant hat: ON.

So, you’re looking at your local newspaper, or your favorite author’s twitter feed, or at a newsletter to which you subscribe.  Huzzah!  Rejoice!  Exult!  Said favorite author is coming to a bookstore near you, to do a reading and sign copies of his or her newest book, and by gum, you’re going to attend.

I mean, why wouldn’t you?  You own everything he or she has ever written, and could probably recite half of The Awesome Book of Awesome from memory.  While hanging upside down.  And being attacked by angry goats.  Such is your dedication to Favorite Author.

Let’s say the event isn’t ticketed, so it doesn’t cost you a penny to get in.  Let’s say you know that it’s cool in the author’s book if fans bring older or non-book-related things with them to be signed.

And since you’re a Super Huge Fan, you bought the new book the day it came out, so you can bring that with, too.

Still, though.  STILL.  You’re going to an event held at a bookstore to see an author you, y’know, probably otherwise wouldn’t meet out in the wild.  The bookstore has worked to promote the event, brought on extra staff for that evening to ensure that things run smoothly, and done all the pre-event tasks that the general public never even knows about because, well, they’re good at it.

They might even have provided snacks.

You… you are going to buy something from the store, aren’t you?

Aren’t you?

Believe me, free entertainment in a rough economy is an awesome thing.  I can absolutely dig that.  But bookstores depend on the support from their community to stay open and to be able to continue hosting author events.  This might be a no-brainer to you.  I hope it is.  I hope I’m preaching to the choir here.  However, I’ve seen this happen, time and again, and it floors me that people will show up to a bookstore event and not purchase a book.

Back in my bookstore days, we had a signing with a Well-Renowned Children’s Author.  This author probably had fifty books under her belt at that point, and lordy, did her fans ever show up with stacks and stacks of them.  The line to see her was out the door — not just the store’s door, but the mall itself.  She signed for two, maybe three hours straight, chatting with children and families, and still had people in line when she needed to leave to go to her next signing at another store. Hundreds of people came to see her.  The only time I ever saw it more crowded was for the Harry Potter release parties we threw.  That day’s register reports, though, only reflected slightly-busier-than-average sales.  Many — maybe even most — of the people who came to get their books signed didn’t buy the new book from us, or pick up one of her backlist titles.

It was frustrating and disheartening, and this signing occurred nigh on twelve years ago, when the store was doing well and people still had extra cash.

Nowadays, you might not be able to throw down $25 or $30 for a new hardcover.  That’s okay.  The bookstore will understand.  Can you afford a trade paperback?  If you already own the book, do you have a friend who might like it?  Snag them a copy and make a new fan! 

Even trade paperbacks are starting to creep up in price.  If that’s not possible, how about a mass market paperback?

Doesn’t even have to be a book by Favorite Author.  Hell, it doesn’t even have to be a book. Pick up a magazine, some bookmarks, whatever nifty little sidelines by the register catch your eye and you can afford.

Then, after the event’s over and the ink is dry on your autographed copy, go back and shop at that store again. Continue supporting them.  Most bookstores have online presences these days.  If getting there isn’t easy, order through their website, or call the store directly and see if they’ll ship to you.  (Hint: yes they will.)

Because if you don’t do these things, if you don’t support your friendly local bookstore, they might not always be there for cool authors to come visit.

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6 Responses to “A Wee Bit of Booksigning Etiquette”

  1. Verdus April 3, 2011 at 1:00 am #

    Slightly off-topic question: what’s the difference between a trade paperback and a mass-market paperback? I didn’t even realize that they were separate things until you mentioned it in your post. I feel kind of foolish for not knowing this as a book addict, but I’ve always just thought of hardcovers and paperbacks.

    • falconesse April 3, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

      Mass markets are the size you see on spinner racks at the supermarket. Trade paperbacks are the bigger ones, closer to hardcover size. It’s really probably an industry term more than anything. 😄

      • Verdus April 3, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

        I thought it might be, but it’s still good to know. Thanks! 😀

    • Anna April 3, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

      I actually just explained this to a customer today, who wanted to know why we had those “normal paperbacks” all together in one set of shelves and these “big ones” in with the hardcovers.

      (I’m a die-hard Trade Paperback reader myself – if I can’t afford the hardcover, I buy a big paperback. The teeny mass-market ones get on my nerves.)

      • Anna April 3, 2011 at 7:39 pm #

        Also, this post is SO MUCH TRUTH. The bookstore I work at no longer really does much with author signings, because it simply wasn’t paying off – people would come in and see the author without buying even a book. When people come in on a normal day and don’t buy something because they really wanted THISONEBOOK and we just don’t have it yet, that’s fine. But if we’re throwing a special book-y event that costs us money, please toss us a bone ❤

  2. mister April 7, 2011 at 10:26 pm #

    actual conversation i had today-

    Customer “It says you need to buy a book to get into the event and get a book signed, but I already bought a copy somewhere else.”

    “Well, the publicists have set the rules for this event, and the book sales here today are what indicate that the event is successful for them.”

    “But I already bought the book from Amazon!”

    Of course. Of course.

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