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Saturday, March 30, 2002

Neil...I read on the Dreaming that you're going to be in New York for BookExpo America to sign Coraline. Are you also going to be doing a signing/event for those of us who can't afford the $110 entry fee?...Mike

The simple answer is, no. The only signing I'll be doing that weekend will be at Book Expo America. And unless you're going to be there anyway, which would probably make you a bookseller, librarian or publisher, it's not worth spending the money just to attend one author's signing.

Often "official" bookfair type signings are done, for an author, against the clock. This is because, in an hour, the next person to be signing will be sitting in your chair, in which case there's no stopping to chat or be sociable, just a frantic attempt to sign for as many people as possible. (In the US and at Frankfurt often freebies will be given out, which means that the signing line won't just be composed of fans, but also of people who have picked up a free book/proof and want it signed.) And if the line is longer than the time to sign for people, then you can't go over, you just have to leave people disappointed. Which I hate.

On the good side, you get to sign for a whole lot of booksellers, librarians, and "er I don't know who you are but I've got an assistant manager back in Denver who has told me that if I don't get you to sign a book for her then when I get back she's going to be poisoning my coffee..." people.

And that's fine. I'm very happy to be there signing for librarians and booksellers. Very happy to meet a few of the people who will be, very literally, hand-selling my books to people over the next few years, and to say thanks, and sign an advance copy of Coraline for them.

The signings for the readers will come after the book comes out and is available to be bought in shops. That's not happening yet: first of all the publisher wants the author to encounter the booksellers and the keepers of the books.

The only trouble is that those people will also be going to another hundred signings, and passing a thousand tables, and filling their bags and suitcases with proofs and upcoming books... and there's no guarantee they'll ever read the books they've grabbed, as opposed to, say, putting them on a book shelf and hoping to get the time to look at them, or auctioning them off on ebay. But you hope they will. And some of them will.

...

Ah, that took up the time I was going to spend talking about taking Maddy down to the Humane Society yesterday, saying hullo to various animals; and organising the 16 pages of extra material for the Diamond signed limited edition of Coraline -- it'll be Dave McKean illustrations that didn't make it into the finished book, pages from the handwritten first draft, and bits and bobs by me about Coraline, children's books and so on.

This one's for Easter. I hope she's having a great day, wherever she is.

Enough people have asked for a "Can you recommend books/authors for kids?" list that I'll try and put one up over on the FAQs sometime this week.

Am currently reading two biographies -- Brother Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist,a collection of biographical, philosophical, historical and scientific essays by Guy Consolmagno, an astronomer at the Vatican Observatory, a gift from Gene Wolfe, and The Attempted Rescue, the autobiography of Robert Aickman. Two more different books -- or lives -- would be hard to find, and I'm enjoying them both enormously.

And yesterday I finished reading Diana Wynne Jones's marvelous Dogsbody to Maddy yesterday. When I finished she didn't say very much. Then she looked at me and put her head on one side and said "Daddy? Was that a happy end? Or a sad one?"

"Both," I told her.

"Yes," she said. "That was what I thought. I was really happy, but it made me want to cry."

"Yeah," I admitted. "Me too." It also made me try to figure out why and how Diana had made the ending work so well, triumphant and heartbreaking at the same time. I want to do that.

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