From A Slip of the Keyboard, Pratchett's very sensible advice to booksellers on care and feeding of touring authors.
Book tours are hard work — not as hard as cleaning toilets or working at a day-care — and they're uniquely gruelling way. Pratchett did more touring than most and was renowned for his graciousness. I have been extremely fortunate in my touring experiences, thanks to the work that those who came before me did in working out these protocols.
I have two quibbles, though. First, as a low-carber who's often starved when touring, it's a real test of my willpower to be offered tempting, sugary, bread-y snacks by booksellers — I'd rather have nothing (or maybe some cheese and nuts!). Second, I'll sign your whole damn stock, even if you're planning on returning it — they're happy to have signed stock at the warehouse, it sells better, and I didn't come 8,000 miles and leave my family behind not to sign my books.
Is there a table and chair? I wish I was joking, too. One shop once forgot these completely, and elsewhere I've sat on, at or around various strange items of bookshop furniture. It should be a real table and a real chair, not a stool in front of a shelf unit with no room for the knees. Try and put together something you would be comfortable sitting and writing at for several hours.
Give some thought to where the signing table is. I prefer to have my back to something – a wall, shelves, whatever. That means the kid with the blue anorak and one blocked nostril can't stare over my shoulder for two hours, which is off-putting (there's always one…)
Some shops like to put the author near the doors. This is a problem on winter tours – I've frozen before now, so try to put the table out of the worst of the icy blast. Shops in malls sometimes get the author to sign out in the mall. This is probably fine for a 'media' author or an author who can definitely draw a big queue, but it's hell on wheels for the rest. Besides, it's always too noisy and you get a Greek chorus of Uzis – the little old ladies that stand around glaring at the luckless author and muttering 'Uzi? Uzi den? Izeeonnatelly? Uzi?'
Vase of flowers on the table? That's nice, but someone will knock it over, so take it away when the signing starts.
Advice to Booksellers [Terry Pratchett/The Bookseller]
(via Making Light)
(Image: Signing books – Author Terry Pratchett speaks at Brisbane Grammar School, Spring Hill, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia 070214-9, David Jackmanson, CC-BY)