Saturday, April 17, 2010

Book Signings: What Should We Expect?

Tomorrow, I plan on heading over to Houston's Murder by the Book store and pick up Duane Swierczynski's latest novel, Expiration Date. I'll have it on hand when he visits Houston in June and I'll get him to sign it. That's perhaps the best part about being a reader of a particular author: the meeting, the greeting, and the attending of a talk. Swierczynski's talk on the Severence Package tour was very good and it was my first brush with a published author I really liked. What was even neater was that he had read my review of SP and he thanked me personally. That's some awesome feedback, let me tell you.

Back in January 2009, Charles Ardai visited Houston. He bought prize giveaways (I won nothing), a PowerPoint presentation, and a nice, solid prepared speech where he talked about Hard Case Crime, cover art, and the then upcoming Gabriel Hunt books. I walked out of the bookstore that night completely satisfied. I received something I could not get in any other way.

Other authors have failed to impress. They show up, no presentation created, take a few questions, sign books, and get out of the store. And I'm enough of a book geek to know many of the answers being asked of the author. Rather disappointing, all things considered.

The talk. As readers, what do we really expect from authors at book signings? What should we expect? I'll admit, I prefer the prepared speech variety. My mother recently attended an author talk with one of her favorite authors. The author (I forgot the name) spoke about the writing life, what it's like to research and write multiple series, and gave sneak peaks at upcoming works. Then she took questions and, later, signed every book. My mom had a blast!

Book signings don't need to be rock concerts. But I do think they should provide the reading audience with something special, something they can't get in any other medium. What do you think?


Naomi Johnson said...

I absolutely prefer it when an author comes prepared to talk about an aspect of his work. That said, I know that book touring is a grind and since I don't have to buy a ticket to see the author (usually), I don't quibble if all I get is a smile and an autograph for my money. I probably won't attend another of his signings is all. But authors who are prepared to bring something more to the gathering are the ones I will usually go and see each time they tour. If I've never read a certain author's work, I'm more likely to when I find him interesting and articulate. And sometimes even the shyest and most ill-prepared author can be brought out of his shell when the audience is enthusiastic and asks good questions.

Dana King said...

I at least want a talk or reading (optional) but definitely some Q&A. After that, it's all on the author. Some are fun, some are a drag, and some make you wonder not just why you read him, but he ever wrote anything. The author doesn't have to be a stand-up comic, but should at least be personable.

Signings that come to mind were RObert B. Parker, Robert Crais, and Al Franken. (Okay, he was a stand-up comic, but you get the point.

Steve Weddle said...

I think the take-away is the key.

I'm more interested in what I can take with me than I am with watching the author read. I know how to read, but I might not know how the author decided to write using only a typewriter or start up a blog on fish.

I want to support authors I like (personally like and/or their work) and also see what they have to say about the business or about other ideas.

The Jeff Vandermeer reading was good because, even though he was pimping FINCH, he spent a good deal of time going over BOOKLIFE.