Reminder About Signed Books From Jay & Mary’s Plus a Plea to Those Going to My Tour Events

First: Remember that through April 28 — that’s this upcoming Sunday — you can pre-order The Human Division hardcover from Jay & Mary’s Book Center (my hometown indie bookseller) and I will happily sign and personalize the book for you. All the details are here.

Second: If you are coming to see me on my book tour this May (tour itinerary here) and plan to have me sign books for you, may I make a small request?

Please purchase your copy of The Human Division from the store you will see me at.

The reason for this is simple: I want the store to see some benefit to me showing up. If you show up to the store with copies of the book that you bought elsewhere, and don’t otherwise buy any books from the store itself, then you’re not making a good argument for the store to bring in authors. And that will be no good for me, or for other authors who might otherwise come through town.

I’m not saying you have to wait until I show up in your town to buy the book; go ahead and buy it from the store earlier and then bring it in on the day of my appearance. Likewise, you can always pre-order the book from the bookstore and they will have it for you on the day or release or on the day I’m in town.

But please, support the bookstores that are gracious enough to lend me their space and attention. Buy the new book there. And maybe some of the other books I’ve written. Heck, even buy a few books I didn’t write! But let them know you appreciate that they are there. It actually does matter.


34 Comments on “Reminder About Signed Books From Jay & Mary’s Plus a Plea to Those Going to My Tour Events”

  1. Sooo this means folks have actually brought previously purchased books to a book signing.. taking place in a book store.


  2. No worries, John. I come from an indie book store in Seattle. Not going to do what used to irk me about some customers as a bookseller. I’ll be buying HD at UW Bookstore that day.

  3. Happens all the time, Hogan. If I can’t wait and buy a book at the store before an appearance, I try to bring the receipt with me to show I purchased it there. And then try to buy something else while I’m there. Because I love bookstores. ;-)

  4. Cancelled Amazon order. It’s a little scary that I need to wait until 10 AM 05/14/13 to order the book from Mysterious Galaxy, Redondo Beach … but I’ll deal with it.

  5. Do the book signings usually have a limited number of attendees?
    I wouldn’t put it past bookstores in the UK to have more people turn up than they have copies of the book. Not through malice, just incompetence.
    BUT, moot point anyway. Maybe see you over here in 2014?

  6. Hogan, I went to a book signing at an indie bookshop once only to have the woman in the signing line behind me brag about how she’d gotten the book on Amazon and got a better deal. I couldn’t believe the gall of not only bringing that book (and not buying anything else there) but then talking about it. She was no callow youth, either. Perhaps she’s getting so many discounts because of her age that she feels it’s mandatory now? Maybe there are no age parameters on that mentality.

  7. I completely understand your point….and I can’t do it.

    I am a book addict. I come by it honestly through my mother. When an author that I like has a book coming out, I buy it immediately. Usually online so it is at my house that day. For authors that I love, there is no other option.

    Which is the problem.

    These are the same authors that I would want to travel to a book signing for. I live in DC so “travel” is anything over 10+ miles with our traffic. So if I am going to travel to see an author, I likely don’t like to wait to get the book.

    I need my fix.

    I also can’t be sure that I can get to the book store in advance.

    I CAN promise that I’ll spend money at the book signing. As I said, I am an addict. Letting me inside a book store with any form of money is bad for my budget (though good for my soul). As such I do make a purchase, usually of several books, and I try and make a point that the book signing was why I came into the store.

    Will that do? I hope so as that is as good as I got.


  8. I’m right with you, Hogan. I had no idea that people did such a thing. I thought the whole purpose of going to a book signing was to buy the book. Hearing the author speak and having them sign it in front of you was just lagniappe.

    But what do I know, I’ve never made the effort to actually go to such an event before. I hope you appreciate being my first, John!

    Uhh, that may not have come out right. You know what I meant.

  9. Pie:

    If you’re buying something at the store, that’s fine with me. My books would be better from my point of view (obviously), but any books will do.

    Also remember that books make great gifts, so you can always a friend a copy while you are at the bookstore.

  10. John, glad to hear. Have no fear, I don’t think I’ve ever walked into a bookstore without spending money. It is rare that I get away with buying less than 3 items…

    I’d buy more of your books as gifts except you happen to fall into that “Must buy NOW” category for everyone I know that would appreciate your books. We all own them already. I blame you for that. :)


  11. The policy at Books of Wonder in NYC strikes me as most sensible: as I remember it, you can bring in a book you’d previously purchased, but you have to buy some book in the store on the day of the signing.

  12. I like to at least start reading a book before a reading/signing when possible, but I try to buy it from the same store and I always buy more while I’m there.

  13. I always make sure to buy the book at each signing I attend, even if the store doesn’t require it. In fact, I now buy all of my books at Mysterious Galaxy, to support the store and help them invite as many authors as possible.

    Note for those who plan to purchase the book elsewhere and then plan to buy something else at the store: Most of the bookstores I know are fine with that, but I’ve been to some that require you to purchase the signing author’s book, even if you already have it. The main reason for that is that publishers won’t send authors to a store if that store can’t sell a certain number of books. And I personally don’t think that policy is unreasonable. Ask yourself: If the store would sell $25 tickets to attend the signing, would you buy one? In case of Scalzi, whom I have seen twice before, I’d say that would definitely be worth it. And with a second copy of the book, you can give it away, donate it to a library, or even wait a bit and sell it on eBay…

  14. You’re coming to one of my favorite bookstores, and I rarely leave without buying serving, so the big picture won’t be an issue.

    I buy all my fiction on Kindle these days. So, first, I plan to hold you to an earlier statement and bring a pen that will work to sign my device. (I’ll show you THD on said device if you like.)

    What I’m curious about is how eBook sales are changing the concept of book tour. Is there a decrease in percentage of attendees looking for autographs? Do people buy books they don’t intend to read just to have the autographed copy on the shelf?

  15. Having not yet read any of your books, yet becoming a regular reader of your blog soon after your pose-off with Jim C. Hines, and later the “Lowest Difficulty Setting” piece, I’m really hoping to make it to your San Francisco appearance and pick up a copy there. It seems like the best way for me to support good SF, the talented writers who create it, and the local bookstores who make it available to the public. Have a great time touring!

  16. Since you’re not going to be touring anywhere near me (Baltimore / DC metro area… oh and WAAAAAAAH!), my loss is Jay & Mary’s gain.

  17. “Do the book signings usually have a limited number of attendees?”

    If you mean, do stores limit the number of folks at the signing … I would expect it’s limited to the number of chairs and standing room. There are safety concerns. That said, if it’s Neil Gaiman, it’s probably going to be held off site at some larger location. When J. K. Rowling did one of her last signing tours in the US the local kid’s bookstore (quite small) here in had people line up outside, get the books(s) signed and out the back door they went. As I said , it’s a small store.

    “I wouldn’t put it past bookstores in the UK to have more people turn up than they have copies of the book. Not through malice, just incompetence.”

    Guess the right number of books to order for an event is not easy. I can’t imagine a store purposefully under ordering stock. Smart stores try to order more than they think they’ll need. The can sell signed copies in the store, and here in the US pretty much all books are returnable (even signed ones).

  18. I understand the sentiment, but as an author who’s done a number of in-store readings, I would never ask people to do this. Of course you have the reading to sell books, but I would never want it to be an obligation. People have occasionally asked me at signings, “I already bought your book. Will you still sign it?” Of course! I even had someone bring a very battered copy of my very first book that had come out over a decade before to a signing and I was very pleased to sign it, even though they didn’t buy the book I was promoting at the signing. One reason in-store readings are so popular is because they are free. I would hate to think there’s an obligation to buy something. I certainly don’t want people to feel that way about my readings. I would rather have more people attend the readings and make fewer sales, than have fewer people attend the readings and make more sales. If a bookstore doesn’t think they’ll be able to sell enough books, they’re free to say no when I ask if I can read there. If they want to require someone to buy the book, they can do that too. And one thing I do take time to do when I visit a bookstore and I don’t have a reading there is to offer to sign any of my books they might have in stock.

  19. What about at cons? Never been to one.. Do you offer any of your work for sale there or should I bring a copy with me?

  20. I have an etiquette question of a similar flavor. I have a lot of writer friends, and I simply can’t afford to buy all their books. (My book budget is also very low.) I try to buy their first books when those come out, but after that…it’s hard. When they have local events, I like to go to support them…but I feel bad if I don’t then, as you say, actually buy the book. So do I skip and make my friend think I don’t care? Or do I go and be rude to the bookstore (and probably my friend) by not purchasing? (Please understand, I’m not buying the books elsewhere at a discount. I can’t afford to buy everyone’s hardcover at all.) I’m never sure what the right thing is to do.

  21. The folks at Booksellers at Laurelwood in Memphis were very helpful when I called them about your event there. Not only did they go ahead and place an order for The Human Division and Redshirts for me to pick up the day before the signing (to avoid the rush of purchases the day of), but when I mentioned I was driving in from about five hours away to attend this signing, they even emailed me some hotel recommendations close to the store. I’m really excited to attend, and definitely glad to support a store with such a wonderful staff.

  22. i read most everything on my iPad or iPhone.
    John – next time you are in Beautiful British Columbia for a book signing I’ll buy the HC of the current novel at the store… but also bring along my well-thumbed copy of Old Man’s War.

  23. I can imagine if I went to a book signing of one of my favorite authors, I’d bring along a treasured copy of my favorite book for a signature. It’s nice to support bookstores, of course, but it’s also nice to keep books around, not make all the reading disposable and momentary. Still, bragging about getting a better deal online is bad form. Not, like, a war crime, but bad form.

  24. I worked 8 and a half years for an indie bookstore back in the 1990s. This was exactly during the time when ‘chains’ like Barnes & Noble, as well as the Seattle based company,, was squeezing many established bookstores out of business. Many independent bookstores have since disappeared as a result. Not only was there the use of massive capital from the chains to kill indies through attrition, but unfair trade practices like multi-tiered pricing schemes–one for the chains and one for indies–helped put the nail in the coffin for many of the less robust independent bookstores. This was rectified the following decade in court, but not after severe damage had already been done to the culture of the indie bookstore..

    Indies continue to see troubling times, though nowadays a lot of this is due to the changing nature of the media used for reading the ‘written’ word. I wonder if their days are numbered or if some twist in technology yet unseen will maintain books as the primary means for reading enjoyment.

    It’s a real bummer for a bookseller to see people at a book reading/signing who walked in with their own copies. It’s no small feat to host a reading/signing and takes a significant amount of organization to insure enough books are available. Large events require a bit of crowd control and appeasement, and all that is usually done by the very same book staff. Any indie worth their mettle will buy too many books for a reading than not enough, and that means a lot of times after a reading a fair number of those books will need to be returned to cut their losses (books are returned at cost, but that doesn’t include shipping fees and labor spent).

    If you can withhold buying the book until John’s reading, please do so out of respect for the store that has been chosen for the reading. Bookstore staff make very little money doing their trade in an industry that traditionally only sees about a 60% markup from cost (at least your average normal bookstore. I’ve no idea what sort of arrangement Amazon has with the major publishers). To put it simply, people don’t own bookstores to make lots of money. They own them because they love books. They love to see others with the same devotion too. Talking about and recommending books is what makes a bookseller’s day. Seeing it repaid with book purchases is the most pleasant sort of satisfaction as well.

  25. And don’t let John fool you. Indies will always want to bring in authors for readings. It’s what a good bookstore is all about. Where a bookstore will no longer bring in authors is when they have to go out of business. So, if you enjoy book readings, help keep it viable and buy their books. Sure, it’s not a point and click away, but there’s nothing quite like talking to someone who knows a lot about books and loves them as much as you do. You can’t find wisdom on the internet. People have that. Support your local indie bookstore.

  26. In this day and age, publishers measure the success of an event in the number of books sold for that event. Want more authors at your local store? Buy a book by that author at or for that event.

    Or, as I say when I’m feeling bitchier, why not just go to Amazon’s signings? Oh wait. They don’t have any.

  27. It’s great to see you take the time to do book signings, John. Would love to see you visit a bookstore in Norway (Maybe Outland in Oslo?).

    Do it for the trip and the Smalahove. Don’t wory about the polar bears; most of them have dull teeth and their bellys are plenty roomy anyways.

  28. The last time I went to a book signing, the store **didn’t have any copies** of the latest book by one of the signers. I was a bit miffed.

  29. I must admit I found it rather strange to read that there are sometimes rules about book signings. I just rather automatically figured it was simple human decency to buy a copy of the book at the store to be signed there. I would have never thought of buying it early and bringing it back to the store; taking merchandise back into a store just kinda makes me nervous.

  30. In regards to conventions, most of them should have a bookseller selling copies of their author guests/participant books. However, it sometimes is an issue at a smaller convention, though, so it would be best to check in advance if the convention doesn’t list any booksellers in their dealer’s room list.

    For John’s appearances in Phoenix, Mysterious Galaxy is handling book sales at Phoenix Comicon. If you can’t make it to the convention, Poisoned Pen will have plenty of copies at the signing there.

    As for bookstore signings, I am guilty of bringing in books not bought at that store for some signings, especially when it is an author I haven’t seen for a while or they have a lot of stories in various anthologies (like Cory Doctorow most recently). But I almost always buy the new book at the event from the store putting it on.

  31. One other note, for an author with a large backlist (which John is getting to that point), stores do not always carry everything, and as one of the other authors noted in the comments, coming in with a battered copy or pristine first edition of an early book should be OK.

  32. This is not some brand-new thing. Scalzi’s request is how a number of larger indy bookstores, like BookPeople in Austin, Texas, run their signings, and have for years. You want to hear the author speak? That’s free. You want something signed? You need to buy a copy of the book the author is promoting, and then you can (usually) bring a fixed number of additional books into the store. This ensures that the bookstore makes money on the signing, and that the author’s needs are likewise met. When I was the floor manager at Book People, we applied that practice to all of our guests, particularly the media darlings like Bill Clinton and Anthony Bordain. No one complained. Well, check that–on the day of the signing, with the line stretched around the building, no one complained. They were glad for the brisk movement of the line. Scalzi is definitely big enough and has enough fans that this should not even be a discussion.

    As for Conventions, there’s no real etiquette for that–though there probably should be. But if you’re a “get it off of Amazon” kind of guy, then cons are the best bet for you, since there’s no one bookstore that NEEDS that sale money to stay afloat. A Good Con Dealer should have copies of the guest’s books onhand, plus rarities and gems that you may have missed. That’s just good sense. But it wouldn’t prohibit a fan from bringing their milk crate full of books for an author to sign,

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