Don’t Be Author Shy: 5 Tips For Talking To Authors At Events

Posted August 13, 2015 by Cristina (Girl in the Pages) in Features / 14 Comments

Don't Be-1

Recently on Twitter, the lovely Nova from Out of Time Book Blog asked for advice on talking to authors at events. While I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject, I immediately set about crafting a post because I’ve recently had quite a few author meet and greets. At the beginning of 2015 I hadn’t met any YA authors, and by August I’ve met dozens: Morgan Matson, Marissa Meyer, Leigh Bardugo, Stephanie Perkins, etc (Thanks YALLWEST and ALA for the opportunities!) I’m sharing some of my go-to conversation starter tips when meeting authors that help when you’re dealing with a limited amount of time and potentially starstruck and at a loss for words!

1) Location, Location, Location

My first go-to author conversation starter is to thank them for visiting the area, and asking them how they’re enjoying it so far. I live in an area that’s not quite as popular as many other cities for book signings, so I like to emphasize that readers really appreciate when they deviate from the more “normal” cities on tour routes, and that they have a fan base in the area. I also like to ask them what about the area they’ve enjoyed so far, as local attractions/sights are a great conversation starter, and you can recommend places to check out!

2) A Specific Element from One of Their Books

When you’re meeting an author who you’ve read multiple books by, it can seem like an insurmountable task to condense what you want to say about an entire body of work into just a handful of minutes. I recommend choosing just one element from one book that you really want to talk about. Whether that’s gushing about the love interest that made you swoon or a particular plot twist you can’t stop thinking about, having a specific subject to broach can lead to a more meaningful conversation than just the typical “I love your books!” “Thanks!” exchange. *cue awkward silence* For example, when I met Stephanie Perkins I had several books for her to sign, but I decided to focus on the setting of Lola to talk to her about. I told her how I loved that Lola was set in San Francisco and how I wish more YA books were, and asked her what inspired her to write about that city in particular. We had a lovely chat for a few minutes where she told me why she loved the city, and she actually spent her first year of college there! (See? I found out a fun fact about her that I may otherwise had never known!)

3) Have a Writing Question in Mind

Another great tactic is to ask a question about the author’s writing process, influences, and distinctions. When I met Morgan Matson at the Bay Area Book Festival, I asked her what the main differences were between the books written under “Morgan Matson” (which I’ve read) and those written under her pen name “Katie Finn” (which I have not read). It’s something I’ve always been curious about, and what better way to get an answer than straight from the source! (In case you were wondering, the Katie Finn books are more plot drive, while her other novels are more characters driven). If I were to meet Cassandra Clare or Leigh Bardugo (again), I would probably ask them about the process of writing different series set in the same universe, and how they connect subtle threads between the novels while still holding the integrity of a separate story.

4) Feel Free to Venture Outside “Book Talk”

Authors don’t exist in a vacuum where they do nothing but read and write. So even though it may seem important to talk books with them, if the conversation goes in another direction embrace it! Morgan Matson complimented my outfit and wanted to know where I got my necklace, and we talked about the chunky necklace trend. When I was in line for Leigh Bardugo, me and a few others complimented her on her nail polish design she talked about the pros and cons of gel manicures with us. When I talked location with Jandy Nelson, we shared our mutual love of Lake Tahoe and things to do there. Sometimes it’s special to have those more random subjects crop up because they’re the things you most likely won’t hear them talk about in interviews or online, where the emphasis is on their books.

5) Don’t Be Afraid to Mention Social Media

At YALLWEST, my first author signing event, I was a little shy about mentioning my book blog. Why? I have no idea. Most likely because it’s something I’ve put SO much of myself into and it can be scary to put it all out there and admit you’re the blogger behind the content. Yet I’m so glad I did mention it, because I received such positive and friendly reactions. When I met Robin Benway and mentioned I had a blog she asked me the name, and remembered chatting with me and Lauren @ Bookmark Lit on Twitter! I mentioned my blog to Abigail Haas and we got into a fun conversation about her love of posting cat pictures on Instagram. And Morgan Matson remembered me and when I tagged her in a pic after meeting her she left a lovely comment on my Instagram! I have yet to meet an author who wasn’t super supportive and enthusiastic about book bloggers and so appreciative of how they help to spread the word about their books, so if it feels right don’t be afraid to mention your blog!

And when all else fails: REAL TALK

Sometimes you may be too nervous, or tired, or anxious to think up a great conversation starter. That’s totally OK. Sometimes it’s been a long day and you just want to say “Hi” and “I love your work” and move on. And sometimes you just can’t keep from fangirling all over the place (which may feel embarrassing to you in hindsight, but I’m sure the authors are very flattered!) Saying the first thing that comes to mind is sometimes the best approach, especially if you’re nervous. As long as you’re polite, genuine, and sincere I’m sure the author will love engaging with you. As is the case when I met Marissa Meyer, the first signing I attended at YALLWEST and which I had gotten to the venue 3 hours early in order to make sure I saw her. When she asked me what I was most excited for that weekend, I literally blurted out: “You! You’re my number one priority!” Blunt? Yes. Sincere? Definitely!

Do you find it easy to talk to authors or do nerves get in the way? What was the best conversation you’ve had with an author? Was there an author you didn’t really know much about but hit it off with them immediately? What are your author-signing conversation tips? Let me know in the comments!

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14 responses to “Don’t Be Author Shy: 5 Tips For Talking To Authors At Events

  1. I’m very appreciative for this post! Being a naturally awkward person socially, I know I’d have difficulties when meeting an author. I have yet to meet any, to my dismay, but I plan to and this post definitely helped me out in the conversational department! xoxo

    Josephine recently posted: The Nostalgic Book Review | TAG
    • I’d LOVE the meet Rainbow Rowell! Yes, it’s quite hilarious that Morgan Matson is also Katie Finn, because when you look at the covers of the Katie Finn books, the author endorsement is by Morgan Matson…she’s endorsing herself. Too funny!

  2. When I met my very first author (Veronica Roth) I had no words for her. I practiced what I was going to say in line a million times and when it was finally my turn do you know what I said? “You look pretty.” Yup. That was it. I rocked that one. hahahahaha At least she was nice about it.

    I love your talking points and I will have to keep them in mind. No matter what I will probably just word vomit when I am near an author. At least I only say nice things! When I met Meg Cabot I just squealed a little and then told her how I have been reading her books forever and that I was super excited Mia was getting another book. She was super sweet. I as proud of myself for at least talking a little more than with Roth. šŸ˜€

    Kay @ It's a Book Life recently posted: Bout of Books Read-A-Thon: Sign-Up, Goals, & Updates
    • Veronica Roth is pretty, so I totally understand! I actually met her at YALLWEST but her line was so swamped (I waited three hours) I pretty much just said hi and thank you. I think I would definitely be squealing if I met Meg Cabot, so no judgement there!

  3. These tips are great! I haven’t met too many authors (Actually I can list all of them. Ernest Cline. I said “I really liked Ready Player One.” he said “Thanks” and it ended. But it was also really late and I was tired.) but I’ll definitely keep this in mind next time I go. I can see myself complimenting the author on what they’re wearing and I can definitely see myself gushing over a character so I guess it’s just a matter of finding the right thing to really propel the conversation when you get up there.

    Kelly @ Dancing Through the Pages recently posted: Blogger Recognition Award
    • Thank you, Kelly! It’s definitely taken some trial and error coming up with these tips, but having a rough outline of what I want to say prior to meeting the author (even if it’s a vague idea or I think of it while waiting in line) really helps utilizing the precious time I get with the author!

  4. Ohhhh these are some great tips Cristina! I remember my first signing and when I met the authors, I literally made no effort to have any conversation. Maybe it was because I didn’t know what I was doing or I got shy. Since then, I have always made an effort to talk to authors and ask questions during their Q+A and when they are signing books. I ask them questions about the ending of their book, tell them how much I love their writing, all that jazz! It’s super fun to talk to authors because it’s not everyday you can put faces to their words. You definitely ask very interesting questions when at author events and I admire you for that. Can’t wait to see you at another event. šŸ™‚

    ~Kaitlin

    Kaitlin @ Next Page Please! recently posted: Bout of Books 14 Sign Up Post and Goals!

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