Authors are much more accessible these days – at least online. We can friend our favorite authors, follow blogs and Twitter feeds, see photos of them with friends and so on. But now you’ve decided to attend an event. Real life, three-dimensional authors will be there. (Gasp!)
The time spent face to face with your author quarry can be limited at larger events. You might see them on a panel or at a signing. Other events are geared toward allowing readers to interact with authors. Though the setting doesn’t matter too much – you’ve spotted the author on your personal safari card. (Squee, jump up and down, gird your social loins, whatever it is you do in these moments.) Now what?
A few things to remember about approaching your authors:
- Remember that authors are people. They have good days and bad days. If the author is less responsive than you would like, they could be trying to get to the next event on time or they could have just heard about trouble at home or they could have anxiety issues and are out of resources to deal with another new person.
- Do mention work that you liked. This is perfect author bait it you want to get them talking. Mention specific things. Ask those questions you thought about while reading.
- Please don’t take photos without asking. Or if you have already, don’t post them publicly without asking. Not all authors are out (either about their sexuality or about their writing) and there’s a chance that you could be putting someone at risk emotionally, professionally or physically.
- If it’s a party or casual setting, introduce yourself. Yes, everyone’s probably wearing nametags, but you’d be surprised how many authors would have to squint and lean way too close to read your chest.
- Think before you say something like “you don’t look at all like I pictured you.” (Inside the author’s brain: I’m too fat? Too old? Too frumpy?) Worse yet is “you don’t look *insert ethnicity here.*”
These smaller social events are great places to meet new authors, too. Hooray! More books to read! Some of these authors will be brand new, nervous as heck authors and some will simply be authors who’ve been knocking around for years, but you’re finding them now.
- Please don’t say “I’ve never heard of you.” You’ve just crushed an author heart and stepped on it. Even if it is true.
- Please do engage authors sitting alone at tables or at parties. Even if you don’t pick up any of their work, you’re going to meet some really cool people that way.
- Ask what sorts of things they write, what they’re interested in.
- Pick up some swag – swag is cool but it’s also a reminder of who you met. (I love to pick up postcards. These remind me of things I want to read or look into later because my memory is, as our British friends say, pants.)
Be respectful, be yourself. Authors in the wild can be strange and beautiful creatures. But they seldom bite and will only charge when seriously provoked.