With the British International Comics Show on the horizon (see you there!), here are a few more tips - carefully gathered from the geek community. I got most of these from die-hard collectors, interviewed while they were standing in line at comic conventions (MCM and BICS).
Although familiar with the conventions of book signings (pun intentioned), the different rules for comic book signings & artist sketches took me by surprise.
More tips to share? Suggestions? Disagreements? Horror stories?
1. Bring your own paper. Most fans bring portfolio books, and collect all their sketches in the same place. If you’re attending a big convention, bring more than one. Some artists will collect the books and work overnight. Have a pen handy as well, just in case.
2. Be line-conscious. Sketches can take a long time - don't drag it out longer than necessary.
3. Have a plan for conventions, but be flexible. You should always be early to signings in order to avoid disappointment, but sometimes a few thousand people will be there even earlier. (An excellent time to start supporting indy publishers...)
4. Avoid the awkward silence. A sketch can take a long time, so take advantage of it by striking up a conversation. This may seem obvious, but don't assault them with a monologue - ask questions! You have them captured, this is a great opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes view of your favorite comic book series.
5. Do your research. Know who the artist is and what they do. If you’re after something in particular, it helps to have a reference with you. Offer it, but don’t force it on them.
6. Most artists sketch for free, but if they don’t – or if you’re purchasing a commission – don’t haggle.
7. Most artists also take requests, but don’t expect them to do something impossible, unpleasant or awkward. If they don’t want to draw Psylocke (with or without her pants on), don’t press the issue.
8. If you’re getting something signed, artists and writers often prefer to do inscriptions. An inscription means they’ve created a keepsake. A flat signature means you’re selling on eBay.
9. Don’t ambush. Signings are scheduled for a reason. If you spot an artist or writer away from a scheduled signing, there’s nothing wrong with approaching them and saying hi, but don’t expect (or really, even ask) them to stop, drop and sketch.
10. Don’t be a dick. Don’t tell them Alex Ross was better. Don’t ask Alan Moore if he’s seen his movies. Don’t correct their continuity. Don’t lecture them about the state of the industry. All true stories...