I’m so sad that I won’t be making it to ALA Midwinter this year. As an English teacher and amateur librarian (a few friends and I curate small collections of favorite books for libraries/schools in need around the world), I like to keep tabs on the library world and mingle with like-minded book lovers. And I tend to be an author lecture/signing junkie. That said, I thought I’d give a list of my observations/preferences for lucky authors who will be promoting their books at ALA this year.
1. Keep the lines moving. Or not. I’m on the fence about this one. I hate waiting in line for an hour to get an ARC signed, but it does build suspense (also good friendships with other librarians/teachers). And there is something visually exciting about a long line. It’s the “what’s that? Who has a long line? Must be good. I want in.” Phenomenon. If ALA is a place to build buzz, a long line can do that, I suppose.
2. Ask each person’s name and quickly try to find common ground. Look at a nametag. Talk about a place. Give a compliment specific to the person. As book advocates, we want to connect to the authors behind the books so that we feel excited to hype their books. But, as stated in #1, if you spend too much time talking to any one person we might leave the line figuring we won't get to the front of the line in time to meet you, especially if we aren't die-hard fans of your work yet.
3. Something special in the signature. I often read the books first then give them away as prizes in my classroom (good opportunity to talk about upcoming books/authors and get kids excited to read) so I don’t get a lot of them personalized to me. That said, it’s nice to have something special in the signature. Many authors opt for taglines (often some form of pun on the title), which is fine, but my favorite generic signatures feel more alive. Recently my friends and I purchased Beck’s new sheet music “album” as signed first editions from Mc Sweeneys. When they arrived, we compared signatures and died laughing. Each version was different. Mine had a backwards “C” and my brother’s trailed off to nothing by the “k”. Even in his signature, Beck seemed “over it” (his brand). We loved it.
4. Giveaways? I’ve seen a lot of them (bookmarks, nail polish, and the like), but my favorites were the ones that really matched with who the author is. I have a slightly creepy picture from a garage sale from Ransom Riggs that I treasure as my bookmark to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and one day I brought my mother to see Joanne Fluke speak on a mystery writer’s panel. She’d gone to hear one of the other authors, but Joanne Fluke made cookies for everyone from one of the recipes in her book. My mom is now a huge fan of Fluke’s series and talks about it to anyone who will listen... "and you know, the nice woman made us all cookies! Probably took her all night..."
5. Forget about yourself/ tips one to four. It’s often said that the most charming individuals are the ones who make others feel good about themselves. Don’t think about how it will go or what people will think of you. Instead, think of connecting with a fellow human being who also happens to be a book-lover! What a great gift that is. :)
PS Remember: Our contest to "win" a teen beta-reader is open to both published and unpublished writers. Want to see how reluctant teen readers will react to your new work? Send it on in. Contest details are in yesterday's blog posting. :)