I asked all the authors on the American Christian Fiction Writers loop and the Romance Writers of America/Faith, Hope, and Love loop how to best handle crowds and best serve fans at books signings. I thought you all might enjoy the compilation of answers.
The gist of responses on handling busy book signings are so far:
1.Pray first! Ask God's guidance with the crowd however big or small.
He needs to be the one giving us the energy. Going into something like
a large crowd or a small gathering is still in God's realm.
2.Always acknowledge the person in front of you. Eye contact is
crucial. If your attention is pulled away, try to ask one or the other
to wait with you. You can do this by a slight touch on the hand to
pause the person or a quick word like, "Wait with me a moment."
3.Do your best to treat everyone equally.
4.When questions are asked, answer if there's time.
If there is not time, do your best to answer later. You could even
have a question basket available.
5.Find a way to smile through the whole thing and be polite regardless
of how you feel. It is truly a servant issue of making others more
important that yourself.
6.If you don't like book signings, be creative and find another way to
7.Set time limits/breaks to handle fatigue.
8.Sign several of books ahead of time so you just have to add the name.
9.Address several people at once if possible by including them in the
interaction (as if you are addressing a group.) They'll feel like
they've had more time with you. Then shake each hand as you finish.
10.Realize that it is a blessing from God that you are being given the
opportunity to have anyone want your autograph or to ask you a
11.Realize that your interaction with these folks may be for a purpose
that you don't know. Try not to get in God's way.
12.Realize that whatever you do with one person must be done with all
the others. You set a precedent.
13. If at all possible, hang around a little longer.
14. Have fun.
15. When things go wrong, do your best to remain professional and gracious.
16. You cannot please everyone, solve everyone's problem, or spend all
the time with one person-but you can smile and treat them with respect
17. Remember to thank everyone for purchasing your book.
18. Preplan how you might handle tough situations so that your
courtesy and professionalism stays intact.
19. Some things will happen to whollop you, break it down into small
bites, one person at a time.
20. Build extra time into your schedule. If the book signing is one
hour, then schedule several minutes or more that is not publicly
acknowledged on the signage. That way you know you can at least take
the time to finish well. The line can be cut off, but you might be
able to go down the line shaking hands on your way out.
21. Be present. If your mind is on the next thing, the long line will
feel tedious rather than fun.
22. Have a helper (friend, hubby, assistant) that watches the time and
is aware of the plan for that signing. They may even be the one aware
of the next appointment. This can free up your mind, eyes, and worry.
You can look at each person with a clear mind rather than a stressed
one. They can help collect questions and clarify something if you get
These are some of the things that came from the cross-posted loop
answers. Thank you so much to everyone for joining the discussion. It
is a wonderful learning opportunity. I'm very grateful for all the
thoughts and ideas.