Greetings from Columbia, South Carolina, where I'll be doing my first signing for The Son of Neptune. I'm so excited to share the new book with all of you. I hope you enjoy it!
If you're planning to attend an event, check for full details at olympianweek.com. I'd also encourage you to call the hosting bookstore before you go, as some events have sold out already, and each event has guidelines, which are set by the publisher in coordination with the sponsoring bookstore.
With every book, I am amazed and grateful that so many readers are enjoying my work. Truly, I'm blessed to have this job as a storyteller, bringing the old myths into the 21st Century. Thank you all for reading!
The only real downside to the books being so popular is that I don't get to spend the sort of quality time with fans that I used to have. It reminds me of being a teacher, when I would chaperone a field trip for 100 middle schoolers. One student might ask to stop by the snack shop at the museum on the way to an activity, and the child would be incensed when I told her no.
"Why not?" she might demand. "It'll only take a second. If I was here with my parents, I'd be able to!"
I'd have to explain that rules change when you're in a large group. If one student stops to get a soda, all the other students will want the same opportunity. One hundred students stopping 'just for a second' to buy a soda turns into an hour-long line, and suddenly the field trip is over and all we've visited is the snack shop. (Which, of course, the students would be fine with, but the educational value of the trip would be a little hard to justify.)
My point is that my book signing events have evolved as the crowds have gotten larger. It used to be possible to chat extensively with each child, which I really value, sign and personalize every single book for every fan, and take a personal photo with each child. Sadly, with the numbers we're expecting at this year's signings, that's just not feasible. For most events, I'll only be able to sign two books per person, and we can't do posed photos. While I always welcome each fan asking me a question when they meet me, our time together is only a few seconds.
It's disappointing to me, and I'm not someone who likes to disappoint my fans, but I also know we have to move the signing line along so the event doesn't last ten hours and the kids at the back of the line aren't waiting until 2AM to meet me. And of course, sitting that long would be pretty hard on me, too. I mention this because I want you to know what to expect (and not expect) when you get to the event. It will be a lot of fun, but rules do change with big groups.
1) signing and personalization. At many events this time, I'm just able to sign two books -- so you'll get my autograph on the books, but no personalization. If the event does allow personalization, that means: "To Sam," "To Marie," et cetera. I won't be able to write: "To my favorite fan and a future writer in hopes that you follow your dreams and become the best person ever." Of course, I hope that's true! I just won't have time to inscribe it. Again, I know it doesn't seem like much to ask. If it was just one person in line, or even fifty, it wouldn't be. But with hundreds and hundreds in line, those extra paragraphs of text add up quickly. We have to limit the number of books signed per person for the same reason. I wish we didn't have to, but for the sake of the people behind you in line, and for the sake of the author's weary hand, we must.
2) photos. I had no idea how much time it can take to do a photo until I started doing large events! It seems like such a simple request, doesn't it? "Can we take a quick photo?"
In a big crowd, there is no such thing as a quick photo. The parent doesn't know how to operate the phone. The phone doesn't work. The battery dies. The photo doesn't save for some reason. Our eyes were closed. The shot was blurry. Stand a little closer. Now one with everybody in it. Now with my other camera. I quickly came to understand why the publisher instituted the 'no posed photo' rule. I love taking pictures with fans when I have a small group. It's fun! But if we tried to give everyone that chance in a group of 500, 600 or 2000 (as they're expecting at some of the events this week) we would literally be there all night. We can't do that, but parents are welcome to stand to the side and get some quick candid shots while I'm meeting the kids. Just be prepared, because the moment goes fast!
Another plea about photos: parents, please let your kids enjoy the experience of talking to me without obsessing about capturing it on film. Too often, my interaction with a young fan is completely drowned out by a parent screaming from the side, "John, look over here! John! John, smile! No, John, move to your left! Look over here!" And then the moment is gone. The kid had a question for me but he didn't get to ask it. Then he's whisked away in the line and never really got to meet me. I don't say this to be critical, but it's easy to get caught up in the frenzy of the crowd and be so busy capturing a moment that you don't get to live the moment you're trying to capture.
3) Questions. Absolutely, I welcome hearing from the kids as they come through the line! It's fine if they don't want to ask a question, but you might get them thinking about one so they don't freeze and regret missing the chance. For most events, I am doing some sort of general talk to begin, so some of the more basic questions will be covered, like 'Where did you get your inspiration?' We'll probably only have time for one question per kid.
Another tip for parents: Let your kids have the moment! Often I'll meet a child in the line and the conversation will go like this:
Michael: "Hi, I'm Michael!"
Rick: "Hey, Michael! Great to meet you. Did you have any questions for me?"
Michael's dad shoulders him out of the way. "I had a question . . ."
Not that I don't love talking to parents too, but given our limited time, if your child is the fan, let your child ask the question!
4) Giveaways. In the early days of Percy Jackson, I used to make Camp Half-Blood T-shirts and give them away to some of the kids in the audience. I don't do that anymore. The size of the crowd makes it impossible, and I found that some families obsessed about how to get a t-shirt so much they forgot they were there to get a book signed. They got really upset if they weren't chosen to get a t-shirt. Now at my events, kids come in camp t-shirts or other costumes that they've made themselves, and it's awesome to see their creativity at work! Much better than parents worrying if their child doesn't get a particular piece of swag. There might be small giveaways at the events as provided by the publisher (not t-shirts) but try not to focus on those. That's not the important thing. The fact that your child got excited about coming to an event for books -- that's the important thing!
Okay, I'll take off my teacher's hat now. I hope that didn't sound like I'm grumbling, because I don't mean it that way. I love, love, love meeting my readers, and I've got the best job in the world. I just don't want folks showing up with false expectations about what they can expect at an event. We will have a great time, but as I said above, there have to be limits when you're dealing with crowds of this size. Part of me wishes I could have those intimate little signings like I used to have, but part of me thinks, "How awesome that so many families want to come celebrate my books!"
If you're coming to an event, I'll see you there! If I'm not visiting a city near you, that's okay, too. As I often say, the best way to get to know me is to read the books. That's my conversation with my readers, and the real quality time we can spend together.