Since I began writing my own book two years ago, I’ve attended author talks, author signings, and meet-and-greets. They range from buy a ticket a year in advance at the Warner Theatre to sixteen people in the bookstore, of which at least two are authors.
Believe it or not, some authors can be introverts who dislike crowded places in general. They might even cringe at the possibility of being the “star” of their own book signing event.
Because writers write alone, they tend to be less famous and more mysterious and even… intimidating. Yes, intimidating. They have written a book! It’s popular. It’s well-known. Readers love the story. Readers love the characters.
“Wow, an author!” a non-author is thinking, intimidated. However, non-author, don’t be intimidated. The following suggestions are topics a person can raise at a book signing or meet-and-greet, especially if the crowd at the event is milling around, strategically avoiding the author. Yes this happens, especially if it’s a small event and there are only a few people in attendance. I have found that it only takes a little courage to be kind, and I hope you will seize an opportunity to offer a little kindness if you can.
Most authors are just like you and me. They prefer to talk to someone in a social setting, just like you and me. Easy topic: Their book. For starters, only tell them if you liked their book. Authors pour their heart and soul into their work and they do not want to know someone hated it, or if a certain part “could have been a bit more [fill in the blank].” Since you came to get a book signed, let’s assume you liked it. Start with, “I really liked/loved your book.” Maybe you haven’t read it yet. No problem. Try instead, “I am really looking forward to reading your book.” Easy.
Then you can go anywhere from there. Where did they get the idea for the book? What setbacks did they face? Do they have a blog? What about Twitter? Do they like social media? Why or why not? Are they working on their next book?
Should time permit, you can also engage them on other topics, also just like you and me: Where do they live? (In general, not their home address, would-be stalkers.) Do they also have a “day job?” Do they have a family? What about kids? Schools? What did they do before they wrote this book?
A maxed-out book nerd super-reader might have a different relationship with authors. We follow our beloved authors on social media (if possible). And we would recognize them on the street, and we would drive a long way to meet them at a meet-and-greet or book signing. And we might still have to figure out what we are going to say to them so the meeting isn’t amazingly awkward, beyond, “I love your books so much.” That’s why I’ve provided these tips if you’re ever in need. This doesn’t apply to the 3-hour-line book signings, this is for the smaller ones, for the authors you might not have even heard of.
I encourage you, if it’s appropriate and possible, go to the event. Talk to the author. They’re thankful you’re there even if they don’t know how to say so.