I’ve been going to book events for years. I’ve been going for years even before I became a book blogger in May 2012. I love meeting authors. They are my heroes, they are my rock stars.
They do say not to meet your heroes. Over the years I’ve had great experiences, good experiences, okay experiences and bad experiences and over the years, I’ve become kind of jaded about signings, especially when I feel like a lot of YA authors have sort of become jaded as well.
Let me explain.
Last night, I went to my very first Brandon Sanderson signing. I read my first Sanderson book over five years ago; Steelheart, the first in a YA trilogy. I LOVED it. I thought it was incredibly unique, I thought it was well written and I immediately was hooked. I eventually went on to read Mistborn. At the time, my blog was super new and I was trying to get some notice and I emailed him and asked if I could interview him via email. He wrote back and gave me an awesome interview and I posted it.
That’s when I realized how HUGE this guy was. I went from getting roughly ten views a day (most of which were probably family members haha) to getting over 2000 hits in just one day, all because I interviewed Brandon. I was flabbergasted and did some research and ended up being totally schooled at what a prolific, incredible fantasy author he was (and is).
I am still insanely grateful to this day that he let a little ol blog like mine profile him when I was barely starting. That right there earned him a TON of respect in my book. He’s consistently working on several projects at once, some of them in the upwards of 300K words (I’m looking at you, Oathbringer), on top of him being a husband and father and professor! The fact that he took time out of his busy life to do an interview for a nobody YA blogger? Meant and still means the world.
Fast forward a few years when my then-best friend, now-boyfriend Daniel kept bugging me to read The Way of Kings. He swears by the Stormlight Archive and I’ve had it on my NEVER ending TBR list ever since. I’m a little over halfway through and I’m loving it. I was excited to hear Brandon was coming back to California, especially for my boyfriend who has never had the opportunity to meet any of his favorite authors.
Here’s a brief summary of how the event went. We arrived at 11 am and picked up Daniel’s book and then waited til 12 to get my end of line ticket (I unfortunately could not afford Oathbringer). The staff at Mysterious Galaxy was amazing, answering all the questions anyone had and they had made it clear that they expected a lot of people to show up for the presentation portion of the event. We ended up spending most of the day exploring San Diego since we don’t get down there often and came back at around 7 pm to wait for the signing. We were literally going to be the last people in line. We did not meet Brandon until almost 130 am.
And it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had.
Brandon did a presentation, which included a reading from a new book, from about 7-8 pm-ish. He signed from 8 pm to nearly 2 am. He talked to every single person, signed as many books as a person brought, posed for pictures and answered an individual question from every person. We are taking hundreds of people. It was insane. But it was 100% worth it. It was insanely well organized and I know that I was grateful for Mysterious Galaxy and their staff for staying open and up so late. Daniel and I were second to last at nearly 130 am but it was so so worth it. He was incredibly kind and genuine, gave awesome answers to our questions (he’s writing a new YA sci-fi!!) and this is all after five flipping hours of this! Without taking a break!
I already liked Brandon a lot, partly because of the interview from years ago and partly because he’s just such a great writer. This experience only increased my respect and awe for him. I was blown away by his commitment to his fans and readers, especially after hearing he’d signed til 5 am the night before in Utah before traveling here…the guy is a rockstar, 100% genuine about it and my new hero.
Here’s the thing: I’ve been doing YA book signings for years. Obviously. My passion is YA. And I’ve found more and more over the years that I want to go to signings less and less. It’s just not the same experience anymore and it breaks my heart.
Without using names, I’ll give you an example. I met one of my absolute favorite authors back in…2011. It was the first time I’d met her after her books had basically saved my life the year previously. It was an amazing experience. The presentation was fantastic and she signed and personalized a ton of books and even added a little extra to her autographs. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had meeting an author.
Nowadays, she has capped signings. Usually she’ll only sign her most recent release, no back titles and you’re lucky if she’ll personalize it (I want my book personalized. If I didn’t, I’d just order it from a bookstore). Don’t even think about asking for a picture or even 30 seconds to talk to her. It has become little more than an assembly line.
And she’s not the only one! It’s happening all the time with YA authors, even ones that are popular but most people wouldn’t know who they were outside of YallWest/Fest or BookTube. It’s become so impersonal to meet your favorite author and try to get books signed by them.
Another YA author put out a book recently, and went on tour for it. They didn’t even meet their fans face to face, just charged a ticket price for a presentation that came with a pre-signed book. No personalization. No personal interaction. Oh! But you did get to take a picture with a cardboard cutout of the author.
I had sort of come to an acceptance about this sort of thing. YA events and signings have become a sort of Hunger Games, fighting over limited seating and limited tickets to get into the signing where you don’t get a personalized book or a photo with the author that you’ve been waiting to meet all day (literally). The only one to guarantee a seat in the front row, a photo, a personalized book is to be an over exuberant, attractive BookTuber.
Never mind being a passionate defender and lover (and writer) of YA since I picked up Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries when I was 12 years old. Never mind sharing that fierce passion for nearly six years on this blog.
I stopped going to signings unless they were for friends or for authors that I had a particular liking for. It just didn’t seem worth the effort to get up early, to get a wristband or to wait all day in line, for something that didn’t even feel worth it, for something that I could’ve simply ordered online. I had accepted that this was basically the way it was now and I figured I’d skip out or go to indie or smaller published author’s events to support them.
Side Note: I do want to make it clear that I know that this sort of thing isn’t always the authors fault. There is usually a time constraint with a venue, or other similar restraints that keep an author from being able to do anything other than one signed, not personalized book, no conversation, no photo. I do understand that.
That being said.
Brandon Sanderson showed me that this practice plain sucks and is overdone and makes me lose a lot of respect for authors.
Look, an author is nothing without their readers. Nothing. If I had a line of people for five hours, I might cry. There’s nothing more that I want in life than to write books and have people read them. That is all I truly want. I have already made a commitment that if I ever reach a level of having a long line for a signing, I will do what Brandon did.
He’s freakin Brandon Sanderson! He is an IT player in the adult fantasy game. He finished the Wheel of Time series. His Stormlight Archive is revered by fantasy lovers. He is not a no name, indie author. He had nearly 600 readers trying to meet him last night.
And he stayed all night to meet every single one of them in a personal and genuine way.
It makes all the excuses I’ve heard at these other signings seem incredibly lame and weak. Because if Brandon can do it, so can a lot more. But now I feel this sort of…irritation and Disappointment in these authors who have gotten “too big” to put in the time and effort to get to know their fans, to give them the kind of experience that Brandon gave us last night.
Who are you without your readers? Who? You’re no body. NYT Bestseller means nothing if you don’t have people who buy your books, who love them. And to not spend a little more time and effort to show appreciation and gratitude for that disappoints to me so much. It reminds me again of the sort snobbish, clique-ish the YA community has become since I threw myself head first into it nearly six years ago.
I’m speaking as a fan. I am an indie author with very little fans and I’ve never had a line out the door. But I would hope if I ever did (and I’ve made my boyfriend hold me to this for the future), that I would take the time and stay all night the way Brandon did. Not the way all these other authors no longer do.
Because I can tell you…after last night, Brandon became one of my favorite authors and I’m not even close to having read all of his novels. But the kind of person that he showed he was two nights ago in Utah and probably tonight in San Francisco and all in his future tour stops makes me respect and love him more than authors that I’ve read for years.
I tip my hat to you, Brandon. You are my hero, as a reader, a blogger, and a fellow writer. Thank you for being the amazing person you are!