Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Where Do You Autograph a Book?

I love autographed books from the author and keep them on my shelves for years. In yesterday's mail, I received a new book. The author and I corresponded about it through email and I asked her to autograph it. I was surprised at where she signed my book—on the inside of the front cover.

In the last few months, I've received several autographed books from new authors who signed with a ballpoint pen on the inside of the front cover.

From my years in publishing, the inside cover of a book is not the normal place for an author to autograph a book. For years I've been attending book trade shows where authors sign books for booksellers and others who attend. The most common place to autograph a book is on the title page.

Often the title page has a little space for the author to sign the person's name, a little personal sentence along with their signature. When it comes to hardcover books, they frequently have a blank page right inside the cover or the opening page of the book. It's another spot where authors frequently sign books. Paperbacks are almost always signed on the title page of the book.

Also when you autograph a book, it is best to use a permanent fine point marker. Over the years, ballpoint pen tends to fade where the permanent marker will continue to look good for years to come.

I've signed a number of books. My first step is always to ask if the person wants me to write their name. Some times they have purchased the book for someone else. Other times they just want me to sign the book without personalizing it. Also carefully make sure you spell that name correctly since you are signing directly on the book. I never presume I know how to spell the name and have heard many unusual spellings of names over the years.

Besides writing the reader's name, I will write something to commemorate the occasion of our meeting like “Terrific to meet you in _____.” I make a point to sign something personal and unique to each person. Why?

Years ago I was interviewing bestselling authors. I was new to publishing and I carefully prepared for each interview and read as many books from an author as I could before I spoke with them. I carried these books to my interview and in the final moments would ask them to autograph the book. It was a great learning experience for me to see where each person signed the book, how they personalized it and handled the autograph process.

One of the most memorable experiences is an example of how not to autograph. I lived in Southern California and drove to the home of a bestselling author to interview him for a magazine article. I sat in his living room for about an hour for the interview. At the end of our time, I pulled out a copy of his most recent book and asked him to autograph it. “No problem,” he said as he flipped to the title page. He quickly scrawled his name and returned the book to me. I thanked him but inside I was floored that he didn't even personalize it with my name, the date or anything else.

This experience taught me a lifelong lesson about autographing books. If possible, I always personalize every book that I sign. My goal is to create a prized book that the reader will want to keep for years.

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7 Comment:

At 11:29 AM, Blogger Elaine W. Miller Left a note...

Great lesson on book signing. Thank you. I also learned to ask the person to spell the name of the person to whom you are signing the book and then to repeat that spelling back so you are sure you spell the name correctly. May we all have tons of books to sign in our careers!

At 2:37 PM, Blogger Lydia Harris Left a note...

I appreciate this, Terry. I've not heard this discussed before.


At 7:55 AM, Blogger MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA Left a note...

Great article, Terry! In all my years of writing, I've never read an article on the topic of how to autograph a book. Thanks for addressing the issue. It's an important one since autographing a book is a wonderful means of validating the reader.



At 9:49 PM, Blogger Unknown Left a note...

Thank you for posting this. I'm having my first book signing this week and realized today that I didn't really know the conventions of book signing. You covered all the points & I appreciate that you gave the reasons behind your advice.

At 5:33 PM, Blogger Camino de Santiago in 20 Days Left a note...

Excellent post Terry. My book was just released and I haven't thought much about the autograph. I have made some dedications, though, but those were to people I know.


At 10:23 PM, Blogger Sue London Left a note...

Thanks for posting this. Went hunting for advice on what type of pens to use on a title page and ended up with some great insight to contemplate. The story about the author who simply signed their name will stick with me, too. A great reminder that authors have the privilege of connecting to people in a deep, personal way that sometimes we don't even realize - until we think about the last thing we read that really affected us.

:) Sue London

At 1:45 PM, Blogger steveregs Left a note...

Thank you very much. I really appreciate your insight. I'll use these tips for my upcoming book signing.


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