I'm not a Big Name, okay? People's eyes don't exactly light up when they happen to fall on my name tent in a signing situation. But I've had some experience with signings, both in and out of conventions.
Let's go OUT of cons first.
There's a reading-and-signing situation, and there's the signing alone situation. I've done both - and I can categorically say that I will NOT do the signing-alone thing any more. Unless you're Neil Gaiman and they're selling tickets to let people in and they sell out the event a month before you get there, it just isn't worth it - nobody knows who in blue blazes you are, and although I've had incredible efforts put into such events by friendly bookstores it's more often than not a soul-destroying thing to just SIT there. By yourself. For hours. One time, I remember, they had a HUGE flower arrangement specially made and sat me there right underneath it with water, and coffee, and what have you - and maybe ten people came along to the table in question for the entire time I was there, which was four HOURS, and maybe two books were sold in that time. Nuh-uh. If I want to sit quietly and contemplate slitting my wrists I can do it in a place that's less public, thank you very much. Reading-and-signing usually works better - but there's a huge range of those, too. My best outing so far was one where I got close to a hundred people at the reading, and I did do quite a few autographs there - both people who wandered up with their own copies and people who actually BOUGHT the book at the reading, which was gratifying. I've also done a reading-and-signing gig where there was ONE person in the audience, aside from the people who worked in the bookstore. I'll still do these - it's a crap shoot, but sometimes you actually win, and the potential payoff is still worth the dregs of the poisoned chalice of a large dose of being publicly humbled.
At cons... well... I've done the bright glassy-eyed smile thing, actually, while sitting beside a Lois Bujold or across the table from a Jane Yolen. The thing is, if there's a chance of picking your spot I tend to try and get a "good" placement - and that involves being on hand to someone with huuuge lines. I sat next to Patricia Mckillip at a World Fantasy Con mass signing - and I got to talk to some of her fans, and I got to talk to HER (I even snagged her a snack from a passing waiter because every time the guy came past she was swamped by someone who had brought their entire library for her to sign), and when people took pictures they inevitably got ME in the frame, which may or may not matter in the long run but *I always have copies of my books on the table in front of me* and someone somewhere might have got mildly interested, after. And I may not get the Gaiman or the Le Guin lines, but I *AM* starting to get a few people who wander in with a copy of "Jin Shei" in their hands and actually LOOK for me. It's still not that pleasant spending the best part of that signing hour twiddling one's thumbs, but there's a payoff in there somewhere. And I'll do signings at cons. Even if NOBODY comes, they'll have seen me sitting there with the books beside me, I'll hand out a bookmark or seven, and possibly, just possibly, someone might be wandering through the dealers' room afterwards going, oh, why is this name familiar, should I buy this book, okay why not.
I can't rely on name recognition to sell books to people who don't know what I write. I haven't GOT there yet. So I do signings, and hope.
All this by way of inviting anyone reading this who is contemplating braving the airport chaos-du-jour and actually turning up at WOrldcon in LA in a couple of weeks to come by and at least say hello at my signing. Preferably with a book in your hand [grin] but I have bookplates to give you if you don't have a book with you or don't want to get one right at that moment and I have bookmarks and there WILL be chocolate. If I'm allowed to bring it with me into the plane, that is.)
Where to find me: SIGNING at 3 PM on Saturday August 26. Other occasions where you can come say hello (not panels as such) are teh READING (Saturday, 4 PM, straight after the signing slot) or the Kaffeeklatsch on Friday, Aug 25, also at 3 PM.
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A few highlights from the handful of years in which I've actually been involved in book signings:
- a girl launching herself towards my table at an East COast con and reaching for the copy of "Jin Shei" in front of me with a squeal: "OOOH! I'm a librarian, we have these, I've just read it it's BRILLIANT!" (no she didn't buy a copy. She'd READ IT already. But the warm fuzzies were worth the price of admission)
- a visiting New Zealand author at last year's Wiscon telling someone who had stopped at her table (next to me): "you should buy this lady's books, she's brilliant." The person so addressed... did. I don't know whether the book lived up to the hype - I sure hope so.
- in the aftermath of that signing next to Patricia McKillip, running into her again in the ladies' room not too long after to be greeted with a brandish of the paperback addition of "Jin SHei" and Patricia's bright, "Look! I got your book!"
- SOmeone who had the "Changer of Days" books and said, "I don't usually buy books before the full trilogy is out, but I bought these because they look interesting... when is the third book coming out?" TO which I was able to reply reassuringly that there WAS no third book, that she held the full story in her hands, and she walked away a happy camper.
There's more. I truly enjoy it if someone stops by and starts talking to me - especially if it's about my own work, of course, but in a mass signing there's been occasions where someone stopped off to look at the display stuff that I had and stayed to chat for a bit - that's the advantege of NOT having a line.
Sure, when I grow up I want to be Ursula Le Guin. Who wouldn't? But in the meantime - come by, I'll be glad to see you, and we can talk about sealing wax and cabbages and kings and possibly even one or two of the stories which I have made up and had cast into book form over the last couple of years.