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Signing Tour Etiquette

The Big Question:

How many books should you take?

The Short Answer:


The Long Answer:

There are different guidelines and suggested etiquettes, but at the end of the day, if you bring just one book and look happy about it, you'll get it signed and improve your odds of seeing a much happier Terry Pratchett (and perhaps even manage to engage him in a brief conversation). If you bring a dozen books, it is very likely that there will be mutterings from the queue. It is also possible that either only one or none at all will get signed and the brief conversation stands a good chance of being replaced with a Very Pointed Look.

Really Only One?

Okay, maybe you could have two or three books, but it definitely depends on the conditions of the day; size of queue, mood of bookshop owners, pain in Terry's wrist. So, if you can't decide between your limited edition Last Hero and your tattered, old, first-ever Pratchett novel (in addition to the new release hard cover on sale on the day), take all three along with you and prioritise their importance (eg. if it turns out to be a long queue and you can only get one book signed, which book will it be?). The following from Terry may in fact help you decide about old vs new:

"I'm getting pissed off with signing much-repaired copies of Mort or GO 'because they're my fave book and I'm a poor student'. Serious offenders will get the rubber glove treatment."

Pack your treasured 2 or 3 items in a backpack and make a thorough assessment of the book signing conditions once you arrive. Remember that you are not the only person in the queue that might want more than one book signed!

"This tour has blessedly seen only a very few of the Fans With A Huge Box of Books." - Terry Pratchett

What it should always come down to is the size of the queue and the attitude of the staff in the bookstore. Also, take a look at Terry; does he look tired and have icepacks on his wrist? If so, then it's definitely a one book only day. Is it a long queue? One book only. Is it a short queue and everyone looks happy? Trot out all three books and you could have a good day and get all of them signed.

"...after about four and a half hours a certain amount of concentration was needed to remember things like my name, how to hold a pen, etc..." - Terry Pratchett


Of course, there are exceptions, there usually is! Whilst, out of our deep respect for Terry, good fan behaviour is encouraged, there will always be those that bring the big piles of books - and occasionally get very lucky. As Terry explains following a 1993 signing tour:

"On this tour I think that, despite my warnings, I signed everything. Most of the time people with a big stack were asked to wait until the end. I'm loathe to let shops decide how many books I'm going to sign so they're told that I'll sign everything if there's time -- otherwise, in an effort to be helpful, they'd make their own rules."

However, as displayed on this same tour, accidents can happen:

"It definitely was a busy tour. I would like to apologise to the relatives of the fan who gave me 29 books to sign in Odyssey 7, Manchester. I'm a little twitchy towards the end of a day of signing and did not mean to kill and eat him." - Terry Pratchett

So, it is suggested you stick to one book. Just to be on the safe side.

Something a little different

Terry has been known to sign other items. If your other item is something a little imaginative, then your odds are improved of getting them signed (for example, Terry once signed the server that lspace resides on).

"So far this tour I have signed, in addition, three leather jackets, one plaster cast, one hat and a scythe blade." - Terry Pratchett

Useful Hints

"Bribes are not necessary. I particulary recall some variations on the theme of the banana daquiri -- the banana G&T at Reading in particular. " - Terry Pratchett

Are you sure I can't bring all my books? I'm a really big fan you know.

It's all about being a considerate fan, remember that there are others in the queue that might want more than one book signed! Not forgetting that Terry is only human, and gets physically tired on these tours.

"I should add that signings don't do a lot for me, either, and after every tour *I* doubt if I'll do it again. I'm amazed that I do. Tours gouge out big lumps of my life, but everyone seems to think they're essential." - Terry Pratchett

At the end of the day, Terry is always friendly and he will always sign one of his publications. It's just a matter of respecting him as a person instead of merely adoring him like a fan. Book signing tours are tiring and draining. Do you really want to be that one fan that adds to the burden? What is it that we most want Terry to be doing? Writing books. It's that simple. Let's keep him happy and fit and in front of that computer.

"Yes, yes, that means there's a zillion places I'm not going. But it's that or give up writing." - Terry Pratchett

Okay, that's what you think, but what does Terry say?

Terry has a lot to say on this matter, but the following couple of quotes capture his general feelings quite well.

"I have my own (flexible) rules, which are interpreted according to the time available, the number of books, how long since I had a vodka, etc... I don't differentiate between new and old books, although manky copies held together with Sellotape attract irony. Besides, all the books are in print, and they all sell in quantity, and I can't police receipts and stuff even if I was inclined to. So we tell the shops that *as far as I'm concerned* I'll sign anything of mine and the only constraint is time." - Terry Pratchett

"I don't mind signing dog-eared old books or ones fresh bought that day. It's just that I don't think it's *polite* when a bunch of people up front get their complete collections signed while others are hanging around with one book. I mean, it's great that they've been fans for so long, but when signings are sometimes touching the three-hour mark, with a load of pre-orders to do later, something's got to give...

Like I say, if there's time I'll put a signature in everything; I've found most people don't mind leaving their bag for me to do at the end of the queue." - Terry Pratchett

Successful Book Signing

The basic formula for an enjoyable book signing for all is :
Short queues = 2 or 3 items
Long queues = 1 book.

Keep it sensible and enjoy the day!

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