Okay, he didn’t actually sit down and give ME advice. Not intentionally, anyway.
Sunday a week ago I volunteered at a book signing for Nicholas Sparks in Greenville, SC. Fiction Addiction is a fabulous, independent bookstore that has been gracious enough to host me for a signing.
Let’s just say FEWER people came to my event.
My job was to help make sure each fan’s book got in front of Nicholas Sparks, open to the correct page, and with a minimum of fuss. I was also key in keeping that line moving since we estimated around 600 people came out. Some as early as 8 a.m. for a 3 p.m. signing.
Here are some of my takeaways (you know, for when 600 people come to see me):
- If there’s a long line and people are waiting, start signing early. Nicholas started signing around 1 p.m. and we finished up around 4 p.m. That means early arrival fans had a two-hour shorter wait than otherwise. I call that thoughtful!
- Set parameters. Only one book per customer, only the current book, no personalizations, and only books purchased from the host store. This not only keeps the line moving, but gives an independent bookseller a significant boost. Nice!
- Be flexible with the parameters. Like, say, when a 98-year-old fan waits in line–she TOTALLY gets a peronalization. And when four generations of one family come together because they’re all fans, they’re getting their photo on the Nicholas Sparks Facebook page!
- Remember the people who got you started. I was amazed by how many people Nicholas knew. He asked about family members, jobs, and illnesses. He called people by name and he gave them hugs. There were several fans who’d been to a signing for every single one of his books. He recognized them right away.
- Be nice to the volunteers. Once the line dwindled to nothing, Nicholas personalized a free book for each volunteer. He also complimented the lady who supplied dried roses that perfectly matched the ones on the cover of See Me.
- Be real. He took bathroom breaks. He drank Mountain Dew. He joked and he might have been just the teensiest bit tired after three hours of interacting with fans. At which point he put on his jacket and headed for home.
I’m always a little cautious when I meet someone with a degree of fame. Will they be nice? Will they be a disappointment? I’ve met a few authors who left me less of a fan. Not Nicholas Sparks. I’ll probably continue to avoid his “sad” books just because I like happy endings, but after watching him interact with readers for three hours I have to say, I’m a fan, regardless.