George R. R. Martin Signing A Dance With Dragons
GRRM signs the book that you can win in a giveaway below!

Yesterday I did something crazy and made the trip from central Maine to Burlington, Massachusetts – all to be at the release day event of the A Dance With Dragons book tour!  Was it worth it?  I think so now that it’s over, but I’m not completely sure since I drove about 8 hours total to spend about 3 and a half hours mostly outside in the heat waiting to get my books signed.  And after all that, I (along with the vast majority of the crowd of 1600 people) didn’t even get to make it inside to listen to George R. R. Martin talk.  I really wanted to listen to the talk, not just get signed books (although those are nice – I’ve wanted some signed copies of these books for a very long time and ended up getting a hardcover copy of A Game of Thrones signed in addition to A Dance With Dragons).

I think it is fantastic that so many people showed up and were that excited about reading a book.  I’ve been a huge fan of the series for nearly 10 years (A Storm of Swords was still only available in hardcover when I first started reading the series) so I was especially glad to see that now a lot of other people are appreciating it as well.  It was also nice of George R. R. Martin to go to Massachusetts, talk to people, and cheerfully sign so many books for everyone.  It seems like a lot of authors don’t make it farther than New York City in the Northeast so I really appreciate the fact that he came this close to where I live.

To be completely honest, though, I felt that the Barnes and Noble was not an ideal location for an event of this size nor were their staff prepared to handle it (and it’s not likely they didn’t realize they were going to have this many people since they still had plenty of books left an hour and a half after the signing started when I left).  I saw on the tour list that there are several events being held at town halls or locations other than the bookstore that is sponsoring it, and I think this may have been a good option for this event as well.

Only a very small percentage of the crowd actually got to hear George R. R. Martin talk so the vast majority of the people who showed up had to wait in line outside the entire time other people were inside getting to listen to him.  Not only that, but those of us that weren’t there were completely left out of the loop.  I learned later from a thread on Westeros about what was said and that even though they were trying to keep the line moving quickly, George R. R. Martin had encouraged people to talk to him briefly or ask him a question while signing books.  Nobody told the rest of us that, and nobody was saying much to him when they got their books signed, so I thought that talking to him had been discouraged and didn’t say anything more than “Hi” and “Thank you for signing my books.”  I had wanted to tell him I had been a fan of the series for a long time and had come all the way from Maine for this event but had gotten the impression that might not be ok by the time I got my chance. I suspect other people did as well and that’s why none of the other people ahead of me tried to say much to him, either.  As my husband told me when we learned this, he probably wondered why everybody was being rude and not saying much to him.

Also, the staff were very insistent that everyone around us get rid of their backpacks and chairs around 5:30 because they were going to try to get as many people as possible inside to listen to George R. R. Martin speak.  That would have been great if these people hadn’t had to wait outside the whole time he talked, starting at 7, and beyond.  But none of these people near me was even close to getting in and could have really used those chairs.

There were a few other things that kind of bothered me about how it was run, too, but those were the major ones so we’ll try to stop this rant-fest before it gets too out of hand.  I don’t want to give the impression at all that I think any of it reflects badly on the author because he’s just a guest who kindly took the time to come all the way out here to talk to some fans and spend hours tirelessly signing books (all things said and done, I was fairly close to the front of the line when taking all the people who were there into account and I left around 8:30 – 9:00 so there was a lot of signing). But I was disappointed in how the event was organized.

So with new lessons learned and all that, I’d like to pass along some advice to any other readers who are planning to attend any events as part of the A Dance With Dragons tour.  Hopefully it will help make your experience better than mine!

  • Reserve books if possible. If you are buying books at the bookstore (for this particular event you were only guaranteed a signature if you bought books from the store or another Barnes and Noble), call them ahead of time to see if you can reserve books. I did this and am glad I did – it’s a long way to drive to come away with nothing and even aside from that it’s a long time to wait to come away with nothing!
  • Find out the rules for your particular tour location.  Find out if you need to buy the book at the store for your particular location, if you’re allowed to bring other books to sign and how many, etc. The basics of this information is available as part of the basic tour info.
  • If you’re not familiar with the location, find out just how limited the space available is. Don’t assume they’ll be able to accommodate everyone or even most of the attendees. Do they have space for lots of people to be able to listen to George R. R. Martin talk?  If it doesn’t sound like there’s going to be room for many and you don’t really want to go if you’re just going to wait around for signed books and miss the talk, you might just want to save your time and order a copy from The Signed Page.
  • Find out if there is a chance you will be waiting outside.  If there is the possibility there will not be room to wait inside at your location, you may want to bring sunscreen if it’s sunny or an umbrella if there’s a chance of rain. I also kind of wished I had brought a blanket or towel to sit on – something easy to fold back up and put away that will keep you from getting dirty.  There will be a lot of standing around and you will get tired enough to want to sit down at some point.
  • Get there as early as possible. This goes without saying, but it’s not always possible to get there really early which is why I suggest finding out just how much space is available and weighing just how much you want to go if there’s a chance not everyone will be accommodated for listening to the author’s talk.
  • Bring something to drink or snack on.  If you are waiting outside in the heat you will get thirsty!
  • If possible, go with a friend. That way they can hold your place in line if you do need to bring chairs back to your car, get a drink, use the restroom, or go back to buy an extra book to get signed.
  • Wear your most comfortable shoes.  I came straight from work in a rush, and I didn’t do this.  It’s not even that I wore very uncomfortable shoes; they’re shoes that aren’t really bad most of the time.  After standing on your feet for a couple of hours, though, you will want your most comfortable pair of shoes!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a certain book to read…