Conversations | A Guide to Book Signings

Hello, everyone! As we get so very close to BookExpo and BookCon, Katie and I thought it would be fun to do some how-to posts on author events, surviving conventions, and even how to unhaul and trade books that you want/don’t want.

This week we are going to start with a little guide on how to get through book signings and author events in general. Keep in mind, each author event is different, so I’m speaking from my personal experience, most of which have taken place at differing Joseph-Beth locations. However, BookCon looks different and different locations treat signings uniquely. Hopefully, this guide will be helpful to other locations, and you can check out our convention survival guide later this month.

So for about 3 years or so I have been going to book signings for authors that I absolutely adore. It’s become a bit of a hobby for me; once I realized I could actually meet these people, I’ve made it a goal to go to every one possible. I’ve picked up some tips that have made things easier and more enjoyable and have really allowed me to make the most of the opportunity to meet these amazing writers.


1. Start early

Depending on the bookstore that is holding the signing, buying your tickets earlier is
better.* From my experience, when you buy a ticket (which usually means you are buying the book the author is promoting) you will get a line or group letter. This indicates when you will line up to meet the author, ‘A’ will go first, then ‘B’, then ‘C’, and so on. The earlier you buy the ticket, the earlier in line you will be. **

Now I have been to a Joseph-Beth signing where it was a smaller event (surprisingly it was a Julie Kagawa, Victoria Schwab, and Gwenda Bond signing, so I don’t understand how) and there were not line letters, but the lines weren’t long. Like I said, all events are different.

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**Some places, like Joseph-Beth, will offer a VIP line for membership holders to their bookstore to go very first. I recommend buying the membership if you plan to go to a lot of their events.

2. Prepare your books

When you get to the signing, whether the books are being personalized or not, those running the event will either turn the dust jacket flap or put a sticky note on the page that will be signed. If you are getting the books personalized, they will write your name on the sticky note. To prepare, I usually do this myself at home or at the signing. I remember going to that V.E. Schwab and Julie Kagawa signing, which between the two is a lot of books. I sat down before the signing and labeled and tabbed them all myself. That way, when the employee got to me in line, it wasn’t a cluster of opening and tabbing books. I, personally, always use a sticky note and leave the dust jacket at home. I don’t like the risk of damage.

Also, a little cheat I have personally discovered is that even if only one book is being personalized, always write your post-it the post-it notes anyway (if you want them personalized). Maybe it’s wrong, I don’t know, but sometimes authors are so caught up in talking to you while signing, they will personalize more than one. Not to mention, the events I’ve been to don’t tell you before the start of the event how many will be personalized, so it’s just a way to be prepared.

3. Arrive early

This brings me to my other (*) from number one. Usually from my experience, the earlier you buy the ticket the earlier your line letter. This has been the case for every signing except one I went to (Sarah J. Maas). We were running late because it was an almost three-hour drive and when we got there, I got line letter C, even though I was one of the very first to buy a ticket to the signing. They gave out tickets by when you arrived. I recommend calling and asking to be certain. But show up early anyway. You can pick up your book, get the layout of what activities might be going on, and pick a place to near where the discussions will be happening. You beat the crowd and get the chance to relax a bit.

4. Ask questions and participate

I usually refrain from raising my hand and asking questions. That’s the anxiety in me, I don’t like all the attention. It terrifies me. But if you have a question, ask it! When I went to a Ransom Riggs/ Tahereh Mafi signing, they had a station set up where you could write questions on index cards and they might answer it. This was perfect for me, so I took the opportunity and Ransom actually answered my question during the discussions. It was something I was really curious about, too, so I was excited. So if you have questions, raise your hand or write them down (unless you’re anxiety-ridden like me). It’s a great chance to get to know the author and their stories better.

Sometimes signings will have activities, trivia, or contests you can enter in and participate. I will always recommend these! You can win some swag, artwork, or even ARCs (Marissa Meyer gave away an ARC of Heartless and V.E. Swchab gave away an ARC of This Savage Song). Join in, have fun, and hopefully you walk away with a prize!

5. Take pictures!!

Some authors don’t have time to stop and take pictures with every person. Some will have an employee of the bookstore take your phone and snap pictures while they sign the books. And then there are the ones who will pause and take a picture with you. You can always get pictures, whether of just the author or you and the author. Sometimes it’s just me taking pictures before it’s my turn, sometimes I give my phone to that bookstore employee who usually takes a ton of pictures to choose from. Pictures are always a great keepsake!

***Extra Tips to Consider***

  • Bring a friend! When I have a lot of books I will be getting signed, I have someone come with me to lessen the load. But sometimes, authors will limit the number of books you bring through the line, and in order to get them all signed, you might have to buy another ticket and bring someone to stand in line. I usually buy a second ticket and then use the second book for a giveaway. I try my hardest not to have unsigned books by the authors I see.
  • With that being said, I always bring all the books I want to get signed, even if the limit is stated beforehand. I’ve had authors change their minds once the event started. I’m also usually able to find a random stranger in line who hasn’t reached their signed limit and will take some of mine to help me out.
  • I know I said this briefly above, but it’s important, call the bookstore that is holding the event prior to. They can (sometimes) answer your questions on things like; how many books they will sign/personalize when you should arrive, what to expect once you get there. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to make the most of your experience.

-A (3)


Did you find this guide helpful? Were there any other questions or tips you had about book signings? Share in the comments!

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