Book Reading/Signing Etiquette

At the Walter Isaacson reading and book signing at Fall for the Book, I encountered the rudest crowd I have ever seen at any literary event, let alone at Fall for the Book.

A sampling of encounters:
  • A 60-something woman cut in line because she had a bus to catch. I suppose I should be grateful that she announced that before stepping in front of me. (I chose to not see her rudeness and raise her with a refusal. No one behind me audibly cast aspersions on that decision.)
  • The man in front of me continued his conversation with Isaacson while the author was signing my books.
  • A woman out of line (whose conversation with Isaacson made her sound like an event organizer) slipped in front of me to thank the author and assure him her book could be signed last.
  • When I finally had my audience with the author (unfortunately, it was after he signed and closed my books, without even a chance at personalizing the autograph, as he had done with the man in front of me), the man behind me pushed his books into Isaacson’s hands and leaned forward into my space at the signature table — then cut me off as I tried to thank the author.
I literally have not seen behavior like this at a signing or reading. These events can be chaotic, but there is civility, no matter how rabid the fans.

For those who need a refresher: one stands in line, hands the book(s) to the author, chitchats or asks a question, thanks the author, takes back the book(s) and steps aside. Then the next person approaches.

These Isaacson devotees were rude and unruly, and one would hope they had not taken Einstein’s challenge of defiance to mean the end of manners.

Update: Not two days later, I was at Mitch Albom's Fall for the Book reading and discussion, where the audience was very nice and polite. I thought it odd that so many of them left their seats to stand in the autograph line at the back of the room before the question and answer period began. However, to their credit, they filed over there quietly and stood respectfully and patiently in line and listened to the Q&A. The author chatted with every person whose book he signed, so the line didn't go fast, but not a single person made a sound or crowded their fellow readers. I think it's safe to say that not all readers are equal: some are more equal than others. I think I'll hang with the Albom crowd more often!

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