Dear Miss Snark,
Is it terrible etiquette to ask an author at a book signing about his struggling pre-publication years? Will I be escorted quickly to the nearest exit? Will I be blacklisted if I hand him my card containing information about my P.O.D. novel? Authors read and I think he'll like my work. Then he'll tell his agent he's discovered a talented new author.
(hoping not to be) nitwit of the day
Authors love to tell their "before I was famous" stories. We ALL do. The trick is to phrase it like you're actually interested in hearing HIS story, not garnering support for your current ..ahem..."pre-published" condition. You want to avoid even the semblence of asking about someone's health only in to enumerate your own aches and pains.
You can hand an author your card with the title of the book. You cannot ask him to buy it, blurb it, forward it to his agent or in any way engage him in communication that asks him to do anything.
Oddly enough the author is not at the reading to help you. He's there to sell books. All communication with him will be improved if you are holding a copy of his novel, paid for, and you tell him you've read it and liked it. And you actually have.
For a truly famous author, you have to have three first editions, well thumbed, underlined and know all the characters.
For those of you who think this is a clever strategy, it's not. Authors are crazed beyond reason at readings. They are nervous. They are hoping people show up. They are hoping people buy books. They don't want to do anything but live through the next hour without bursting into flame.
Authors are much more likely to discover you at YOUR reading, or from a shelf talker at your local bookstore. Invest in making yourself look like a real author not a hustling sycophant.