I don’t know about you guys, but one of the things I most looked forward to as a published author was signing at book conferences. I mean, you’re in a room with other authors—some of them famous—and readers are wandering around, stopping by tables and discovering new books to read.
So, when my agent suggested I try to sign at YALSA’s Lit Symposium, I jumped on the chance and emailed the foundation. To my pleasant surprise, they invited me to join!
Now, I have to admit, I was pretty darn nervous. The Lit Symposium was my first big signing; I didn’t quite know what to expect. I thought I’d be sitting there while readers waited in lines for the big authors before wandering their way to my table when they couldn’t decide who else to see. I imagined carrying 25 of my 50 books on the airplane with me because not enough people knew what my book was about to bother snatching a copy. And I pictured myself stuck in the back corner of a room because I wasn’t with a large publishing house.
I was surprised—and thankful—when none of those were the case.
There were maybe 40-50 authors seated in alphabetical order around the ballroom, and the moment the doors opened, the crowd rushed in, and some even stopped by my table right away! It was so surreal. Yes, I may have signed less copies than Lauren Oliver and Julie Kagawa, but my pen was moving at the same time. It almost felt like being part of a team, where we authors fed off each other’s fans and just made sure the readers were excited to fill their arms with books.
And I didn’t have to bring home a single copy of CATCH ME WHEN I FALL.
So, what did I learn from my first signing event? Here are five tips for those of you who aspire to be one of those authors at conferences:
- First and foremost, remember this: You are no less valuable than any other author in that room. So, carry yourself with confidence (not arrogance) and make friends with the other authors—who are always so kind and supportive—and just have a great time.
- Bring swag, like buttons or pens, etc., to display on your table! Readers love to pick these up, and if you run out of books, it gives them a way to remember you and your title(s)!
- Meet as many of the other authors as you can. I’m still baffled by how kind and friendly the writing community is. You’d think that authors would be snobby toward their competition, but it doesn’t work that way at all. Instead, they welcome you with open arms and encourage you. So, don’t be afraid to fangirl (I did; I even brought books for the other authors to sign!) and connect with your fellow novelists. They really aren’t scary. J
- Always, always double check the spelling of people’s names when you personalize a book to them. Otherwise, you might be buying a copy of your book.
- Smile and interact with every reader who comes to see you. I want to use Maggie Stiefvater as an example: When I stepped up to her table at BEA to have her sign a copy of SINNER (and SCORPIO RACES, ‘cause I couldn’t help myself), she was genuinely friendly and getting to know me on a personal level. It made me feel special, like I wasn’t just another reader. And when I stopped to take a picture with her, she was super goofy and just having a blast. I walked away from her signing with a huge smile on my face. So, I aspire to be like Maggie at my signings, because, if my readers are like me, they’ll walk away with such a fond memory that they’ll want to tell all their friends—and strangers—to read my books.
I’m sure I could go on and on about conference signings, but I doubt you want to read that long of a post. So, instead, I’ll leave you with this:
Signings are essential, but they don’t have to be scary. Have fun, relish the moment, and remember that the readers are probably more afraid of you than you are of them. J
And as proof that I totally fangirled over the other authors—and that they weren’t super scary—here are a few pictures from YALSA’s 2014 YA Lit Symposium.
With Julie Kagawa
With Amalie Howard
With Jennifer Nielsen
Meeting my agent—which was super cool!
About Vicki Leigh
Adopted at three-days-old by a onstruction worker and a stay-at-home mom, Vicki Leigh grew up in a small suburb of Akron, Ohio where she learned to read by the age of four and considered being sent to her room for punishment as an opportunity to dive into another book. By the sixth grade, Vicki penned her first, full-length screenplay. If she couldn’t be a writer, Vicki would be a Hunter (think Dean and Sam Winchester) or a Jedi. Her favorite place on earth is Hogwarts (she refuses to believe it doesn’t exist), and her favorite dreams include solving cases alongside Sherlock Holmes. Her YA debut, Catch Me When I Fall, released October 23, 2014.
You can find her at her website or on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, and Instagram.