Book signing etiquette

I suppose this goes here, dealing tangentially with books as it does.

I’ve found that Chuck Palahniuk is going to be in DC on the 1st of next month, when I’ll also be in that area. Of course, his signing and such is at a book store. The problem is, I’ve already bought (and devoured within the day) Haunted. Is it considered to be in poor taste to bring a copy of the author’s book not purchased at the host store? I’ve also got a few of his older books which haven’t been signed. What’s the etiquette on bringing those?

It all depends on the rules of the book signing.

Some are more strict than others. I think that most authors are just fine with signing the book you purchased elsewhere, but there are a few that won’t sign anything that wasn’t bought at the signing. I don’t really know if its the author that puts that restriction out, or the host store.

Every book signing I’ve been to, I’ve attended already having read the book and I can say the same for most of the other people who attended as well. Bringing past material from the author is almost never a problem, at least not that I’ve noticed.

I wouldn’t have any problem with bringing along a copy purchased elsewhere. Maybe, though, you have someone who’d like an autographed copy so you could buy that copy there?

As for other books, take them and ask.

O.K., this will be at the National Press Club, sponsored by Olsson’s Books:

It really helps if you give as much detail as possible when you ask questions like this, since there is some variation between bookstores. I’ve always been able to bring along books that I didn’t buy at Olsson’s and I never had problems getting them signed, but I’ve never been to a signing at the National Press Club. Bring along the books you want signed. They will have copies of some of his books available for sale there. The worse that can happen is that they will say no.

I went to a lunch where Anthony Bourdain spoke and signed books afterward. I bought his new one which he signed and when I pulled out my well read copy of Kitchen Confidential he grabbed it and drew a picture of a chef’s knife dripping blood and the quote “Feed the bitch” and signed that. Very nice 5 second drawing too.

I second “call the store”. The signings that I’ve been to at bookstores usually required that you purchase the book there in order to have it signed (some made you show a receipt before you got to the author’s table). This is because they paid the author’s expenses and it is how they recoup a part of their promotional cost. If the author is speaking at a college or a church or other non-profit organization, it’s usually a more liberal policy on what can be brought in.

My main book signing etiquette note: please please please (this isn’t to anybody on this thread but a general plea based on past signings) don’t try to have a conversation more prolonged than “I’m a huge fan” and “thank you”. Unless you have something that is just really of interest (e.g. “Hi Mr. Mailer… I loved Executioner’s Song and my mother says that you’re my biological dad!”) please just graciously move along- I know it’s frustrating because there are a hundred things you want to say and you’ll probably never see him/her again, but the same is true of everybody else in line and you’re holding us up.

I went to an Anne Rice signing once (this was so long ago that I was an Anne Rice fan- was I ever that young?) and I was only about the 20th or so person in a very long line. It was over an hour before I got to the table because everybody was having to stop and talk to her and ask her questions or try to impress her or gush (and the woman L-O-V-E-S to be worshipped). I just wanted my book signed. I understand it took 4 hours to clear the line and that was with no more admittance after the first hour and with them speeding it up towards the end. (OTOH when I went to an Alice Walker signing recently it irritated me that she spent about 2 seconds on everybody- she didn’t sign but initialled and her assistant moved people along as she did it.)

There really is a lot of variation between stores. Olsson’s has never objected to my bringing books not bought there. I have a couple thousand signed books and I very seldom find that bookstores care where the book was signed.

I would say it depends on how many people actually show up as well. I’ve been to two different types and each was different. I went to one at Boarders for Tom Clancy and you had to buy the book that day and at that store then you got in line.

The other one I went to was for Stephen Hunter at a Walden Books and I was the only one there. I had already bought the book a few weeks before and he had no problem with signing all of my books. We even talked for a bit.

I also went to an Ozzy signing once, which was a nightmare. You were supposed to have the album bought from the store. They were not checking until near the end of the line and it took a long time. At first people were talking to him and everything, by the time I got there it was just sign it and go. There was a riot because some people were not getting in.

I’ve been to a ton of signings and at most of them. neither the store or the author/artist care what you want signed, old or new. I can’t imagine WHY someone would refuse to sign one of their own works, even if it isn’t their current promotional item. I once had TMBG sign my computer case, and they were more than happy to do so too. Personally, I try to avoid signings where the store FORCES you to buy something. It is a sign of really bad character on their part and I don’t like to support that. Losing a couple $25 sales which they wouldn’t have gotten anyway won’t put them out of business, and they might bring in some other sales while the fans are there anyway.

The other points made are proper etiquitte though. If there is a long line then don’t tell your life story and keep the number of autographs to one. If you can’t resist, at least get to the back of the line so that you don’t hold as many people up.

OT - this is my first post from my Treo, on the train on my way to work. It took me 5 minutes to post, but I am loving it…if the board craps out when I hit submit, I will SCREAM!

I second (or third) the suggestion that you limit the number of books you have signed at any one time. Nothing pisses off a line faster than someone wheeling up a wagon of books to be signed, especially multiple copies of the same work.

Generally, there are no restrictions on bringing books to sign. A smart bookstore manager knows that the signing is primarily a reason to get you into the store. Even if you don’t buy the author’s book in the store, you’re still likely to buy something else while you’re there.

There are occasional exceptions, so you might want to ask, but most of the time, no one is upset.

I agree, though, that it’s common courtesy to keep the line moving. If there’s no line, there’s no problem conversing with the author, but if people are waiting, don’t hold them up.

I had the honor of escorting Civil War historian and novelist Shelby Foote when he came to town for a speech few years ago. He refused to sign any of the many books thrust at him. Said Foote: “An author shouldn’t be touring and autographing his books… he should be at home, writing the next one!”

(Please excuse the slightest of hijacks.)
A few years ago, I attended a Borders appearance of Robert Earl Keen, Jr. I took along his first album, (yes a vinyl album), and got his signature on the black label with a gold flake pen. Way cool.

In general, I would suggest calling the bookstore ahead of time and asking what is permitted.