I’ve gotten a lot of messages and asks about what to expect/ do/ not do at one of my signings, so I thought I’d do a big post about it. Many of them strike me as the questions of shy introverts — I could be projecting, as I’m still an introvert, and used to be quite shy myself, but I think not. Back in the day, I used to dread speaking on the phone and hated to go to any sort of social event where I might inadvertently violate some unspoken social code that everyone else somehow knew but I had missed. I’d do as much research as I could before the actual thing, and then, if I still couldn’t figure out if I’d feel embarrassed not knowing how to get in line or how to get a drink or where to park my car or whatever, I just wouldn’t go.
Readers are often shy people — that’s why they like books, I mean, is a novel going to LAUGH AT YOU BEHIND ITS HAND? No. Books do not have hands.
So this is a guide for my shy readers (and perhaps useful to not-so-shy newbies).
1. Pack all of the books you want me to sign. I’m happy to sign copies of all your other books — just remember to buy at least one from the store sponsoring the event. If you have a lot of books and you feel awkward about it, feel free to hang back to the back of the line. You’ll usually find a handful of other people with giant stacks and perhaps you can bond over your large collection of novels written by people with the last name Stiefvater. Or, if you’re both painfully shy, you can just stand close to each other and avoid making eye contact.
2. Arrive at the event. If you want a seat up front or to be early in the signing line, you can get there early, but you don’t have to go crazy with the earliness. I sign for everyone who comes, no matter how long it takes, so you’re not going to miss out there. Last year, the events ranged from 20-200 people, so the worst case scenario is that you’ll be at the end of that line. Usually the events last two hours from beginning to the very bitter end of the signing line.
3. Buy the book. For the painfully shy, this is also a good excuse to ask any questions you might have about the event structure. Also, sometimes the events give out numbers to attendees to reward the people who arrive first and get them closer to the front of the line. Usually if they’re going to do this, you get one of these suckers when you buy a book. If you’re confused about the format, remember that everyone else there is probably confused too, because there’s no standard-issue-book-signing-protocol, so everyone is just playing along.
4. Poof — I arrive. I’m driving Loki my ’73 Camaro to all of the Sinner tour events, so I will manifest in a cloud of exhaust fumes and gasoline odor. I shall have my sister with me for all of the events through Omaha, and then in Denver I will pick up Brenna Yovanoff, and then for the Utah events all the way through L.A., I’ll have Tessa Gratton and Brenna stuffed in the car. I’m telling you this because if you also enjoy Tessa’s or Brenna’s novels, they will be loitering aimlessly in the store and will be happy to sign their books too, if you ask them or just wave the copies in front of them.
5. I talk. Probably for ten or fifteen minutes, I will say something enlightening about Sinner or the writing process, or perhaps just give readers a status update on my goats. Then I take questions from the audience for another fifteen-twenty minutes. I’m happy to answer questions about any of the other books, but if it’s super spoilery, it’s better to whisper it in my ear as you come through the signing line.
6. Giveaways. At the first event and last event of the tour: Charlottesville, and Los Angeles, the store will raffle off one of the electric guitars I doodled on. You have to be there to be eligible for those, and they’ll hand out the raffle tickets there — probably when you buy a book. Sometimes the stores have other giveaways, too, but they’ll all sort of go like this.
7. Book wrappers. Everyone who buys a copy of Sinner at the tour events will get the custom book wrapper I did — you don’t have to do anything special to earn one, and you don’t have to ask for it, and probably they will be set up on the table beside me for you to just take one. Before you ask, you can have one for every copy of Sinner you buy. So that means if you want one for a friend, you’ll have to buy her a copy of the book as well. That’s just fair to everyone else who bought a book in order to get one.
(and for those of you who can’t get to a tour event, do remember that if you pre-order a copy from Fountain Bookstore before July 1, they will send you one of the book wrappers).
8. Post-it notes. While you stand in line, the booksellers will often ask you your name so they can write it on a sticky note. This is not because they want to call you later. It’s for the personalization in the book. It’s often loud, and names are hard to hear, and this makes it easier for me to not write a really embarrassing spelling of your name in your book. It’s totally okay if you don’t want your book personalized, too. Sometimes people ask me to write something long and complicated in the front and I stare at them, not because I think their face is weird, but because it’s hard to think of something clever on the spot.
9. Meeting my face. I know this can be the nerve-wracking part. Dread slowly seeps through your bones as you get closer and closer to the table where the author sits like a hulking vulture. Trust me. I know it. People often get flummoxed or embarrassed or sometimes they just stare into the middle distance as I sign. Here are some things that I like to hear if you can’t think of anything else: a) which of my books you like the best, b) where you first read my books, c) things you’re hoping I’ll write about some day. Or, if you don’t want to say anything, that’s fine, too. I will not think that you’re socially awkward. The painfully shy can always just smile and avoid eye contact and possibly slip an index card with a song recommendation on it over the table. I’m sorry that this moment is sometimes anti-climactic, too. Because it only is a minute or two after standing in line.
10. Photos. I’m always happy to take photos with readers, so long as the flash is off. Usually there is a bookseller who can take it for you, or you can ask the person behind you in line. I have never seen anyone in line be annoyed about having to take a photo for someone else, so don’t feel bad about this.
11. Giving me things. Sometimes readers want to bring me things. I am very flattered by this, but it also makes me feel strange to accept gifts when I am giving you nothing in return but books that I hope will make you cry in public. Also, I’m always traveling by small car or plane, and so drawings and whatnot usually get crushed. And ever since I heard the story about what a deranged reader once baked into author brownies, I won’t eat any food that’s brought. So if you want to bring me something, just write your favorite line from a book, song, or poem onto a slip of paper and give it to me. That’ll be more than enough. I just like your shining faces.
12. Ta-da! It’s over! You have signed books. You have heard me talk and possibly asked me a question. You possibly have made eye contact with several other readers. You have totally survived.
Does that answer all of the questions? Here are the tour dates in July, in their entirety. You can see that I drive from right to left across the country.
7/2: Charlottesville, VA, 5 p.m. NOTE: this is a guitar stop!
7/3: Baltimore, MD, 4 p.m.
7/5: Pittsburgh, PA, 4 p.m.
7/7: Chicago/ Naperville, IL, 7 p.m.
7/8: Chicago, IL, 12 p.m.
7/8: Milwaukee, WI, 6:30 p.m.
7/9: Madison, WI, 7 p.m.
7/10: Iowa City, IA, 7 p.m.
7/11: Omaha, NE, 4 p.m.
7/14: Denver, CO, 7 p.m.
7/19: Salt Lake City, UT, 7 p.m.
7/21: Reno, NV, 7 p.m.
7/23: San Francisco, CA, 7:30 p.m.
7/24: San Francisco/ Menlo Park, CA 7 p.m. NOTE: This is a group event with Brenna Yovanoff & Tessa Gratton — we’ll be talking about working together as critique partners.
7/28: Los Angeles, CA, 7 p.m.
7/29: Los Angeles/ Montrose, CA – 7 p.m. NOTE: this is a guitar stop!