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Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The Adventure of Book Signing

"Book signing is the affixing of a signature to the title page or flyleaf of a book by its author. A book signing is an event, usually at a bookstore or library where an author sits and signs books for a period of time.

Book signing is popular because an author's signature increases the value of books for collectors." -- Wikipedia entry on book signing

Yesterday afternoon, I spent some time signing copies of The Cruiserweight for mail order requests, fascinated by how many I'd received after the paperback's December release.

Let's face it, Kindle books are wonderful and convenient (they and other e-readers are a perfect fit for purses and backpacks, to name a couple of examples), but aren't the easiest format for authors to sign. Hence, here's hoping hard and soft cover books remain on the market a while longer for those who prefer a more personal keepsake signed by their favorite authors.

Like many debut authors, I'm sure many are at a loss concerning the do's and don't whether filling requests by mail or personal appearances.

How do you sign a book? There's many resources online for those who wish to research this topic, but for the most part, a book signing takes nothing more than common sense. The most obvious would be not writing a long and detailed note. Not only is such time-consuming (specifically during a personal appearances where you may have a line of waiting people), but also makes a more cluttered appearance. Signing your book in such a fashion for friends who want a physical treasure as proof they "knew you when" is one thing, but for those you meet the first time (or you're filling mail requests), keep notes short.

The personal touch: always start with "To [person's name]." There's a certain appeal of when book fans see their own names ascribed in an autograph from their favorite writers, followed by a short greeting of thanking them for supporting the author's work, or even a simple "best wishes."

Over the years, I've received my own share of autographs from people in various industries, but the thought of signing my own work for people never crossed my mind. Beginning yesterday, I started keeping Sharpies and other book signing-worthy tools on hand. I was also reminded of the old-time "hand cramps" that were once commonplace before word processing programs and the Internet became the norm.

While on the subject, despite printing labels and pre-stamped "autographs" are quick and convenient for a large mass of books, I always found them both impersonal and tacky. No matter how many appearances we make or how many mail requests we receive, the best route is to keep it personal, if possible.

Is charging for book signatures by mail normal? Yes. Considering the cost of postage and ordering books, charging specific fees is more cost effective. I'll handle mail signing requests by asking the person to send a self-addressed envelope large enough to return and a miniscule fee to cover mailing costs. Others who wish to receive a signed book and don't own a copy, I'll request fees to cover both book and postage expenses.

In person, unless it's designated by the publisher or agent, there's no charge for book signing, but some bookstores request purchases of the author's book be made before having it signed.

It's going to take some adjusting to get used signing my own books, but so far, I think I'll handle it well, and I'm confident you will too. May you all have well-deserved success in your personal appearances and mail order requests - and stock up on those pens!

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