Friday, June 08, 2001

American Gods Blog, Post 75

Dianna Graf (a very nice Tasmanian lady who used to have fuchsia hair and
work as a fairy but currently doesn't) posted this on the Well today,
apropos of me coming to Australia to sign books...

Are the bookshops supposed to wait for the publisher to
contact them? Or are they supposed to contact the publisher first to
express interest? i debated this with my local friendly bookstore owner
yesterday and i hope i have convinced him to just take the plunge and
make the call rather than wait

And this was what I wrote in reply...

Dianna -- well, obviously any bookstore can sit back and wait for the
publisher to contact them.

But if the publisher has the budget to send me to (say) five cities,
and they've received enquiries from five cities, then a bookstore in
the sixth city may sit by the phone for a long time.

And it may be that the publisher might phone a different store in that
city. Or that another store in the same city has already phoned to

Publishers like to send authors to places that they know are
enthusiastic and interested. Unless your store owner is the *only*
bookstore in a city you know I *have* to go to then it's much smarter
for him to call the publisher...

I got some fanmail today grumbling about evil Harper Collins not
sending me to the US southeast on my tour; but I'm pretty sure that if
stores from the southeast -- from Florida say -- had made a noise about
how much they wanted me, I'd be signing there.

I'm going to be signing in Seattle mostly because Duane at the University
bookstore made sure that Harper Collins knew that he wanted me for this
signing two years ago, kept after them, pointed out how many books
he'd sold on my last signings there, and he'd book an auditorium for me
to speak and sign in... And so HarperCollins said yes. I'm going to San
Diego because the guys at Mysterious Galaxy were so keen on getting me
there, that, at a point where I wasn't going to go there, they offered
to fly me in to do a signing on their own dime, and the enthusiasm they
showed meant that Harper rejigged the schedule to send me.

I'd add to that that there are only so many places you can go on a tour,
and so many weeks on a tour, so you're never going to please everyone. And
just asking and being enthusiastic doesn't mean that a store will
definitely get a signing -- but it certainly increases the chances of me
turning up and sitting and defacing books...

I said here a while ago I'd post the advice to stores I wrote for Andy Heidel (who was
the publicist at Harper before Jack Womack) to send out to stores for the
Stardust tour in 1998. I cunningly wrote it in the third person so people
would think Andy wrote it. I don't think I fooled a soul.

(Anyway, I went and found it on the hard disk. Incidentally, if you're
planning to come to a signing, I already wrote a list of helpful things like this
for people attending the signings. It's in the archives.)

So you're hosting a Neil Gaiman signing...

Here are our suggestions for the Neil Gaiman signing tour. Many of them are
self-evident, but you never know...

Before the event:

Neil will sign books for any members of the staff who need them signed, and
any books that people have bought and left to be signed or phone-ordered,
before the reading and the signing.

Neil will use his own pen for signing most articles, but even so, have some
black felt tips, some silver and/or gold pens (thin felt-pen type), and a
Sharpie or so on hand. You never know what he'll need to sign.

The Reading:

Neil will do a 15-30 minute reading first, followed by a short Q & A
session. (He‚ll do a longer reading in those stores which are organising
events in auditoriums). Please do your best to ensure that there is space
enough that all attendees can hear the reading.

If your store needs to have a microphone for the reading, please have one.

The Signing:

We strongly suggest that if you‚re expecting a signing of over than 150
people that you issue numbers to the attendees. Blocks of numbers can then
be called to queue up as needed (ie. "Now signing for 75 and below...".

In the past this has proved the most successful way to run large signings,
as it allows those with higher numbers to browse the store (and, in the
case of a really big signing, even to go and get something to eat) while
waiting for their block of numbers to be called.

It helps prevent a stampede after the reading, keeps people good-tempered,
and allows you to sell merchandise to the people in your store for the

(Some stores would also use the numbers for a raffle, as well as for
gathering names and addresses for mailings.)

Some common questions:

Can people take photos of Neil?


Are there going to be limits on what can be signed?

Common sense is the watchword on this. Normally Neil will sign 3 items that
people bring, along with anything of his they buy in your store for the
signing. If 600 people show up however, that might well be cut to one item
plus what they buy, or something like that. It depends on how many people
show up, and how much time there is, and when your store closes.

He will also try to sign for everyone there for the signing.

If the line is short enough, people with extra things they want signed can
go round again. If the line is long, then they can't.

Will he personalise books?


Does he want little post-it notes with people's names written on
them, then?

No, he figures asking people their names is an automatic icebreaker. But he
does want things out of plastic bags before he signs them.

How long will he sign for anyway?

As long as it takes. He'd like to take a break every 90 minutes or so, for
the bathroom, to snack, to flex his hand, or just to spend 5 minutes not
signing anything. Check if he needs a break, but don't push it if he says

Does he want someone with him at the signing table?

There should be someone around there to keep an eye on the line, to make
sure it keeps moving, and that if someone seems to be trying to make Neil
read their novel, look at their whole art portfolio, or discuss philosophy, to
move in and say "Sorry, there are lots of people waiting..."

By the way, no interviews during signings. Every now and then a journalist
or would-be journalist decides that the middle of a signing is the best
place to turn up and try to do an interview. It's not.

Incidentally, Neil says that if the Mad Fan with the Gun shows up he would
very much like it if a member of staff would take the bullet; but he
appreciates that this is a lot to ask.

Is that likely?

Not at all. It was a joke. Actually, on the whole, Neil's fans are
remarkably nice.

Would he like anything special to eat or drink?

Clearly Canadian (one of the berry flavours) to drink; no real preferences
as to snack food, but Neil still says nice things about the stores on the
last tour who had sushi rolls there to nibble on.

After the signing:

Neil's fans often give him gifts. Whoever is looking after him will
probably take care of posting them back to him; if not, he'll give you an
address to send them to.

After the signing is over, is the time to get shop stock signed, if there's
enough time, and he can still hold a pen. Reasonable quantities of stuff,


(I picked Clearly Canadian -- a bottled, fizzy, sweet water --
because I figured it was really easy to find, and it's not caffeinated,
which can be useful if you really have to sleep as soon as you'll get back
to the hotel at midnight, and have to be out of the hotel by 5:30am. I was
wrong -- there are lots of parts of the States where Clearly
is impossible to find, and there were indomitable booksellers
who worked miracles, or were broken hearted because they hadn't managed to
work miracles, to get me some sugary fizzy water. I didn't have the heart
to tell them that ginger ale would have been fine. I think on the current
version of the thing that Jack Womack actually did rewrite himself, it just
says something like fizzy water.)

And -- pretty obviously -- the above were guidelines for stores. They are
free to -- and can -- set their own rules about how the signing runs, what
gets signed and so on. If you have any queries, phone the store. If the
person answering the phone doesn't have a clue, ask to talk to someone who


And talking about Stardust, I saw the Harper Perennial edition
today, and it made me very happy. The mass market edition was kind of
unfortunate -- it tried very hard to look like a generic fantasy book,
which it really isn't. The trade paperback edition looks like a fairy tale
for adults -- the cover is a photograph of a wood, with something strange and glittery happening on it. It looks cool. More to the point, it looks appropriate.

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