So you've decided to stash some books in a bag, hop in the car, and drive to the bookstore where OSC is going to sign. What will happen? How many books can you bring? Do you have to buy a new book at the store?
Expect a Pleasant Wait. You'll have a good time even if you wait a while in line, because only nice people read OSC's books and therefore only nice people come to his signings.
Which Books He'll Sign. OSC is perfectly willing to sign every book you want him to sign, as long as (1) it's a book he wrote and (2) it hasn't had its cover stripped (paperbacks with the front cover ripped off are supposed to be destroyed and are counted as "unsold," so the author received no payment and the book becomes, in effect, stolen goods).
He'll Try to Sign Them All. If the schedule allows, OSC will stay to sign everybody's books - and he makes every effort to make sure there's plenty of time between events for him to sign everything.
You Don't Have to Buy. You don't have to buy anything at the bookstore on the day of the signing. The one time a bookstore tried to insist that only books bought at that store would be signed, OSC walked out and signed books in the parking lot (in 20-degree weather, no less). If he wrote it, and you own it, he'll sign it. There is no charge for a signature.
How Many Books? The first time through the line, OSC will happily sign and personalize all your books if you have only three or four (at most). If you have more books than that, you have a couple of choices.
a. You can get three or four signed the first time through, then come through the line again. The second time through the line, he will sign all the rest of your books so you never have to wait a third time.
b. If you want signature only, he will sign all your books the first time through.
Half-Title Page. You don't need to "prepare" the books in advance, but if you want to be helpful, don't mark the title page - he doesn't sign that. Mark the "half-title" page - the page before the title page that has only the title and not OSC's name. That page has far more room for his signature. (Red Prophet in hardcover has no half title, and so he signs the title page on that one.) Don't bother trying to mark the signing page in paperbacks.
Bookmarking Stories. If you want a signature on an OSC story in an anthology or magazine, please do bookmark the page - he doesn't have the locations of all the stories memorized and it speeds things up enormously if you bookmark the page.
Odd Surfaces. If you want something like a t-shirt or poster or cd or audiotape signed, bring a pen that will write on that surface.
Let the Other Guy Have a Turn. OSC tries to give his undivided attention to the person whose book he is signing at the moment. Therefore it is very helpful if you do not try to engage him in conversation before you reach the front of the line; and after your book is signed, please do not linger or try to join in with other people's conversations with OSC.
No Gifts or Treats, Please. OSC usually is traveling with only one suitcase and his computer bag, which he carries through airports. Therefore he does not have room (or strength) for anything else - please don't bring him books or manuscripts or gifts or souvenirs. Especially do not bring him food - he will not eat it.
Unexpected Turnouts Might Change Things. It is possible that the turnout may be large at some locations. So we hope you will understand if OSC has to place tighter limits on the number of books signed. Usually the turnout is between 50 and 150 people; but if the turnout is more than 200 people, it may not be possible for him to sign more than two or three books per person, period. If that is the case, it will be announced in the line.
Spelling of Names. If your name is not a very common name or you have an unusual spelling, print your name clearly on a card or slip of paper and lay it down on the table so OSC can see it. Generally, OSC personalizes books using only your first name, so you don't need to bother printing your last name.
Don't Be Shy. Even when the line is long, these autographings are not really about the signature - they're about an author and his readers having a chance to meet. There's always time for a comment or question. Speak right up and don't be shy. At the same time, do understand that with other people waiting in line, the conversation cannot be long.
No Memory Tests, Please. If you have met OSC before - even if you're an old friend or schoolmate - please don't expect him to recognize you or to be able to come up with your name. Meeting hundreds of people and the dislocations of travel are mind-numbing activities, and OSC's memory for names and faces is not very good in the first place. You only embarrass him and yourself if you greet him with, "I bet you don't remember me." Why not just remind him right away of your name and where you met? Then nobody has to be embarrassed.
Criticisms. OSC has no illusion that everybody likes all his books equally. But he likes all his books. So perhaps a signing is not the occasion to tell him which of his books you did not care for. After all, you would hardly say to a parent you just met, "I really love all your children except Bucky. He's ugly and he smells." It might be true, but the parent does not want to hear it. (Besides, what exactly can OSC do about it? The book you didn't like has already been published.) If, on the other hand, you found a specific typographical error, internal contradiction, or historical or scientific error in a book, it would be kind of you to write a note about it and give it to him so that he has it in writing and can pass it along to the editor of the next edition.
You're Welcome! Remember - you're the person that OSC flew there to see, the person the bookstore opened their doors for, and you're part of the good experience the other people in the line will have. Enjoy yourself and let the other people enjoy having you with them. If it isn't fun, why go to signings anyway, right?
on the art and business of science fiction writing.
Over five hours of insight and advice.
Recorded live at Uncle Orson's Writing Class in Greensboro, NC.
Available exclusively at OSCStorycraft.com