Jane Novak is publicity manager at Text. Mostly she works behind the scenes, but you may have the pleasure to meet her while queueing at a book signing.
This is just a little note about another little note—the post-it note.
Believe it or not, the humble post-it is a key piece of equipment for the book publicist. Super handy for all sorts of things such as jotting down a phone number for a journalist or marking up a book for an author reading. I’ve even used a stack of them to prop up the leg of a wonky table in a cafe.
However, the post-it has also been the subject of confusion and even controversy when it comes to book signings with an author. I’d like to attempt to clear up some common misconceptions about the role of the post-it, and indeed the publicist, in the author signing.
It’s a wonderful thing for an author to see a long line of people queuing to meet them and to have copies of their work signed. It’s a very gratifying encounter for both the author and the reader, and the publicist’s role in all of this is to ensure that the experience is a positive one. Most of what we do is invisible and this is the way it should be. But at an author event we are on display for all to see, usually with a wad of post-it notes in hand.
Cherished readers: if you see a publicist coming towards you in such a queue with a smile and a pen, please, fear not! We are generally there at the author’s express request and our aim is not to come between you and the writer (unless of course you are a stalker or one of those crazy fans who wants to invite him/her home to dinner to meet your cat...). Promoting a book can be exhausting, the author may have been up before 7 a.m. to catch a plane or give a radio interview and they may have been doing this for many days before their current event. Speaking to a live audience for thirty or forty minutes and then taking questions is a great privilege, but it is also tiring; having the desired name on a post-it on the preferred signing page is one less thing for the author to have to think about. And the prompt of the post-it can help you think about what you might like the author to write on your book, rather than getting to the front of the line and saying something like ‘I’m buying this as a gift for my niece who is a Taurean and has just been involved in a car accident which has resulted in her becoming a born-again Christian so could you please write something inspiring?’ We don’t want to impinge on your moment, but there are other people waiting and the author doesn’t work for Hallmark!
If you think you have an easy name to spell and the author shouldn’t need a prompt consider that even common names have many different spellings. Recently I had a male reader who was extremely upset that his name had been spelt with a ‘y’ and not an ‘ie’ as in Barrie...Also, in most venues—whether it be a bookshop, marquee or theatre—there is usually a lot of ambient noise, which can make it difficult to hear. And there may be more than one person trying to get the author’s attention at once, maybe for an unscheduled selfie or to slip them a manuscript of their own magnus opus. And telling the publicist that the book ‘is for me’ is not helpful, unless of course your name is actually ‘me’. Equally, having the book signed ‘For Mum’ or ‘To Nana’ doesn’t really work because it’s not the author’s mum or nana. See what I’m saying here?
A promotional tour can also be a great opportunity for a writer to catch up with friends and family, and one way to do this is to invite them to attend an event. But if you say to the publicist, ‘No need for a post-it! He/she knows me!’ chances are we will still insist on getting your name down, for often it is for this exact reason that the author has asked for names to be taken. Seeing someone out of context when you are tired or jetlagged and not sure which city you are in or what day it is can mean that, embarrassingly, you forget the name of a friend or relative. Awkward all round! So please submit to our gentle ministrations.
In short, the post-it note is everyone’s friend and meeting you, dear readers, is always a pleasure and never a chore.