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Convention Signing Strategies

World Fantasy is coming up, and, unsurprisingly, I'm a little over-excited about the collecting possibilities. As well as pretty packed schedule of launches and signings and a dealer room that doth overflow with treats, there's a "mass signing", meaning I'll have (theoretical) access to all the authors attending

Kind of overwhelming, isn't it?

Golden AxeGetting signed books at conventions.

For a convention or event of this size, I need some sort of strategy. There are a few factors to consider:

  • I don't live in Brighton. The amount of books going to and fro WFC will be limited by how much I can schlep in my luggage.
  • I need to balance 'books to bring' with 'books to buy'. The former are heavy, the latter are expensive. 
  • I don't really want to spend the entire convention author-stalking. There's important stuff to do, like, um... I dunno. Really, there isn't (a benefit to not being a 'professional'), but still, I'd rather not spend the weekend chasing authors around like Elmer Fudd. Another reason to be choosy.
  • Authors with paperback firsts are the best. And proofs are better than hardcovers. Again, it is about weight and space... not just hauling stuff to the convention, but around it.
  • Always worth considering: how often do I get to see this author?

That last point is particularly critical. There's no point in using a once-in-a-decade convention experience to harangue authors I can badger on a regular basis. Which narrows it down to a list of, oh, about about six or seven dozen. 

What I'll be doing over the next two weeks is piling books on the floor... then reluctantly unpiling them. Deliberating is a messy process.

Of course, there are always creative solutions:

  • Bookplates. Which is a nice idea - and they can look really pretty. And I've picked up some author-signed bookplates in the past... but then I never paste them into books. ("Which book?! What if I get a better book?!")
  • An autograph book. I did this for a few years, actually - and I'm pretty proud of the results. But ultimately, I'm not collecting autographs - or even authors - I'm collecting books. I want my signatures in context.
  • Ephemera. Kind of a mixed bag. I don't really like the special souvenir 'convention' books that come out at things. They're essentially autograph books, except there's something about their focus to a time and place that makes them even less appealing. That said, some of my favourite "books" are actually goofy signed ephemera: a menu, some sunglasses (William Gibson, naturally) and even a wooden doorstop (long story). But I think I like these so much because they were impromptu.

In conclusion... despite my best efforts, I have no strategy at all - just a collection of tactics and peccadillos.

So, equally obsessive collectors, I turn it over to you: what tips do you have for conventions? What do you bring? What do you buy? Do you have any tricks you can share? (Please?)