Even for convention veterans, getting autographs at San Diego Comic-Con can be one of the most confusing procedures there is – and that’s in large part because almost no two autograph sessions are run the same way. For some, simply showing up at the booth on the exhibit floor in time for the signing is enough. For others, you must head to Sails first thing in the morning to draw for a ticket to the signing to be allowed to come back later in the day for the signing.
We always recommend checking official press releases from the various companies that you are interested in, as well as checking with the booth itself multiple times during the convention to make sure that the autograph signing procedure is still the same.
But in our ongoing mission to make the convention experience a little easier, we’ve put together a guide for how the Sails autograph drawings work.
Who does the Sails autograph drawings?
Typically, only the largest of the booths on the exhibit floor send attendees up to the Sails Pavilion to draw for an autograph ticket. This includes booths like Warner Bros., FOX, and some CBS signings in years past.
You can find our compiled list of announced autographs, including Celebrity Entertainment, Comics and Artists, Author/Publisher, All Other Autographs, and Offsites to help determine which autograph sessions are ticketed and which are not.
Why do I need to draw an autograph ticket?
Not every autograph session is ticketed, and not every ticketed autograph session requires a random drawing in Sails. However, for the ones that are, the theory is that more people want to attend the autograph session than the convention could possibly have time for, without turning an entire day into a Game of Thrones autograph session. Instead, for select autographs, the larger booths have attendees line up in the Sails Pavilion and “draw” for a ticket.
There are bowls at each booth, labeled with the specific autograph session. Attendees will draw a ticket, somehow labeled as either a winner or a loser, to see if they get to attend the autograph session. Winners will receive a wristband and be directed to come back for the signing later in the day, and losers can join the back of the line to try again, or move on. Once all of the winning autograph tickets have been picked, the line is capped.
How do I get an autograph ticket?
If you’re lining up prior to doors opening, you’ll join the “General” line outside the convention center, which starts outside near the Hall D sign. This line is sometimes referred to as the “Ballroom 20” line, but it’s really a line for anything that isn’t Hall H. Once doors open (which the last few years, has been around 5:30AM – 6:30AM), you’ll head up the escalator along with everyone else in that line:
From there, instead of following the rest of the line outside, you’ll turn right and proceed directly into the Sails Pavilion:
Once you’ve entered the Sails Pavilion, there are multiple other lines, each run by a different entertainment company. The lines often aren’t marked, so talk to volunteers or other attendees to find out which line you need to be in.
When you’re in your designated line, you’ll need to wait for the ticket draws to begin. Once this happens, attendees will step up one at a time to try to draw for a winning autograph ticket. If you are wanting multiple autographs from the same company (i.e., you want to try for both Supernatural and The Flash from Warner Bros.), some booths allow you to try for multiple signings at once. Be sure to tell the person working the drawing if you’re wanting multiple autograph sessions. If you draw a winning ticket, you’ll be given a wristband. If you draw a losing ticket, you’ll have the opportunity to return to the end of the line to try again.
In general, first-come, first-serve means nothing in autograph sessions, as there’s no guarantee that you will draw a winning ticket. However, arriving early does have its advantages, as there are more winning tickets in the bowl earlier in the day, and you’ll also have more opportunities to try again if you arrive early.
When are the autograph drawings?
There are two important times to consider for every autograph session — the first is obviously what time the actual signing is taking place, meaning what time the person or cast you’re hoping to get autographs from will be at the booth. The second time is when the autograph drawings in Sails are taking place.
When doors open in the morning, you’ll head to the Sails Pavilion, as detailed above. The official schedule normally lists this as starting around around 8AM, but doors have been opening earlier and earlier, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead. Most of the autograph drawings began around 7AM last year, so you’ll need to be in line prior to that if you want to be one of the first attendees to draw for an autograph.
I got a winning autograph ticket! Now what?
If you’re lucky enough to draw a winning autograph ticket, you’ll be directed to come to the booth where your autograph session is happening later in the day, usually about an hour before the signing is set to begin. Everyone with a wristband will be lined up and receive an autograph. Sometimes, booths will have official merchandise (like a poster) for the cast or people to sign for you, but this is not always the case, so be sure to plan ahead and have something for those doing the signing to autograph.
How do other autographs work?
As we said above, there are so many different ways for autographs to work, that it would be virtually impossible to outline all of them. Your best bet is to check with the booth where the signing event you’re interested in is happening, multiple times, to make sure you understand their procedures.
Will you be trying to get autographs this year? Let us know.
[Thanks to Janna Jeffrey for additional reporting.]