My number one question to break the ice during a book signing is, “So do you read much fiction?” But I don’t ask this to everyone I see. No, I’m looking for a particular person to ask. You know the person. He/she is standing within earshot but far enough away to barely read your title. They really want to ask you what your book is about but for some reason they’re reluctant to ask.
The question is non-threatening and allows me to follow-up with a more focused question like, “Who do you read?” Be prepared for anything. Especially a follow-up question from them asking who you like to read. That’s why it’s so important to know what you like to read as a writer. Teresa is right on. This will enable you to relate to the reader. It brings you into a simple conversation among friends. They see that you’re human.
More importantly it gives you the opportunity to relate your work to other authors’ works. If you read Clive Cussler, you’ll know that he puts himself somewhere deep in his novels. He might be a drifter passing by the main character or a guy seated at the bar with a one-liner, but it’s a unique writing quality. He also likes to write about naval history and submariner adventure. It leads perfectly into a discussion about THE FOREIGNER and the beginning chapters which take place on a Naval Base in Rota, Spain.
The more you know about the popular and not-so-popular authors who write anything close to your genre, the better off you are. I like to ask people whether they like John Grisham or legal thrillers. Then I like to ask whether they like Tom Clancy or military intrigue novels. If I get a positive on both, then I let them know that THE FOREIGNER is a merger of the two styles into a single novel. Boom . . . people can relate.
Unfortunately, I no longer read fiction to simply read. It’s mostly with a purpose to see how other authors in my genre are crafting their works. I simply break down their plot and characters to see how they all fit. But lately, I will admit that I’ve been looking at more character-based romance novels to develop more of an appreciation for character-driven novels as opposed to plot-driven thrillers. This little shift in my reading (not easy for guys) has helped my writing and should provide some lasting dividends in the long run.
One page at a time,
ps: any other ice breakers you folks like to use at book signings?