I’m fine with the idea that, if I ever get rich and famous, I might have limited time and a lot of people who want to meet me. In that case, a signing-behind-a-table format might be the best way to achieve that. But I feel like when I’m getting started — and I’m still getting started, yeah, twenty years on, that’s how writing works — there’s no point in putting me behind a table so that people can ritually file by me like I’m handing out the Eucharist.
I’d rather shake hands with readers and shoot the shit, hear what they liked about my book or what they hated about it, or what they’re planning to like or hate about it, and graciously say “Thank you” when someone asks me to sign their book, the same way I do if someone comes up to me after a convention panel and does the same. It’s a huge compliment to be asked to sign my book (or someone else’s, if they’ve mistaken me for M. Christian). I’m always pleased to sign books.
But the idea of sitting behind a table reminds me too much of the many hours I’ve spent chatting with other writers behind tent cards at mass autographings. This is a great format for incredibly famous people, who have a zillion fans and only so many hours in the day. For me, it’s always felt isolating. I much prefer to meet people, rather than have them creep past me as if I’m a pharmacist handing out Xanotabs.
Readings, on the other hand, I love. They’re terrifying and invigorating…or they should be. I say this as the veteran of literally hundreds of readings over the years. I love them; they’re incredibly challenging and very scary. But mostly, they’re different than writing, and I cannot emphasize this simple fact enough. Think of a reading as basically going up there and reading this thing you wrote, and I believe you’re missing the value of performing in front of an audience.
There is a personality to every audience, and “working a crowd” requires lots of improvisation. I spend a great deal of my life listening to audiobooks, lectures, and podcasts, and a significant amount of it watching comedy performances. I’m the veteran of literally hundreds of readings, which means I’ve watched and listened to thousands of live literary performances. I’m very much a veteran of live readings, both as an audience member and a performer, and I can tell you, they require a whole bag of tricks that looks almost nothing like “writing a good book.” (more…)Read More...