Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Joy of Signing

Signing books for your readers is one of those nice perks of being published. Over the years I've observed most authors doing it pretty much the same way; a little message addressed to the reader by their first name, scribbled on the title page, and signed at the bottom. Like so:

To Jane:

Enjoy the story, and hope that nasty skin condition clears up soon!

Best Wishes,
Ima Writer

I was so clueless when I turned pro that I thought you had to ask the publisher's permission to sign your own books (because otherwise you're defacing their property, or at least that's how I'd worked it out in my head.) I bet the editor is still laughing over that e-mail.

Some writers are great signers. Their handwriting is gorgeous, and/or they write personal notes that are as wonderful to read as their stories. A few of the artistic authors out there like Poppy Z. Brite and Stuart MacBride sometimes draw sketches in their books, which makes them instant, one-of-a-kind treasures.

Some serious book collectors prefer name-only autographed books, or what Stephen King called flatsigned editions. This is when the author signs just their name directly on a page, usually the title page. I rarely flatsign books because it seems a little impersonal to me, but there are web sites out there now like this one where you can buy them.

What most interests me is what an author puts above their signature as a sign-off phrase. "Best Wishes" is the most common, and I still use that myself. I try to use different sign-offs for each pseudonym, i.e. Blessings, Rebecca Kelly and Best Wishes, S.L. Viehl. When I branched out into vampire fiction, I wanted something different that tied into the series, which is when I came up with Always, Lynn Viehl as a sign-off.

Readers, who are some of your favorite signers, and writers, how are you going to sign your books? Let us know in comments.


  1. I've pretty much settled on writing the person's name (always ask how to spell it!), then just, "Enjoy!", and my signature.

    I can't take the pressure of being clever each and every time!

  2. I try to personalize every book that I sign, unless the customer requests signature only. I also always confirm the spelling of their name. Sure as the sun, the day I don't confirm that it's S-u-e is the day that the woman spells her name S-i-o-u-x. (It's happened!)

    Since my books are set in the Keys, I often use, "Enjoy this trip to the Keys. All the best, Mary Stella." It seems a nice-tie-in without being overly corny. If the buyer is someone that I had met before, I acknowledge that with "Great to see you again".

    Obviously, I don't have a long line of people waiting at any given moment, so I have time to write all this. I've noticed that Nora Roberts often just rights Cheers, Nora Roberts. Guess that helps when her crowds could fill a stadium.

  3. Anonymous9:29 AM

    As a reader, my favorite signatures are those that come out of a conversation with an author... but of course the author rarely has time for this.

    I've seen a couple authors sign books who have a predetermined phrase that goes in each book, which I think is cute -- personal, but not requiring too much thought. Kind of like Mary Stella's Keys note.

  4. I've always felt it was too arrogant(for me, not for other authors) to command a reader to "Enjoy!" so I try to sign off with something related to my story. For my time travel romance I signed, "Thanks for traveling through time with me--" before my name.

    As for books I buy, I don't pay much attention to the greeting, just the signature of the author.

  5. I've been sticking to flatsigning lately. But then most of the books I sign are stock or for contest giveaways. In an actual sit-down, person to person signing, I'd probably personalize the books, but it'd have to be something short because my writing is next door to illegible.

  6. In the old days, Terry Pratchett used to sign with a jotting of Death. I have a couple of those.

    When mine comes out, I'll probably sign them as Jasfoup

  7. Anonymous10:26 AM

    I usually try to give it a personal touch. Much to the puzzlement to my readers, since my handwriting is really bad. (I seem to have the spiritual gift of WRITING in tounges ;) )

    I must start to draw little sketches, though. Such a wonderful little idea!

  8. One of my favorite author signings was at last year's Hypericon. My friend Alethea shared a table with Sherrilyn Kenyon. Alethea had all these Sharpies and decorated each title page of her children's book before signing. Sherrilyn had color coordinated office supplies and a couple of stamps with witty book-related slogans. There was much giggling.

  9. I'll take any kind of signature from an author!

    When I get to sign my own books, (and I will someday!) I don't know what I'll do. I'll probably have to practice lots because several years of scribbling notes as a reporter ruined my handwriting.

  10. When I sign my books I'd like to think I'd be more personal. I might write a little note about how I like their boots or dress. I don't think the whole 'flatsigning' thing works for me.

    It must be nice to stress about how to sign your own book though!

  11. Anonymous12:11 PM

    What's really fun is when a reader brings you four or five different titles and while it always blows me away, trying to come up with four or five clever, witty things to say?

    I don't think fast when I'm blown away.

    Generally, I try to write something that relates to the book, like with the Hunters, I use my tag line "EVER BEEN HUNTED?" and my name.

    If it's somebody I've had contact with over the net, that makes it easier.

  12. I love the idea of signing with a different sign-off per pseudonym (or series, I suppose). That would sort-of become part of the recognized signature, that way.

    For myself, I'll worry about what to sign when I get a publishing contract, and not before. And as a reader, any signature is good. I'm not picky.

  13. I would be afraid to sign the wrong pseudonym, but it would be kinda funny. I love the differet sign-offs for the different series.

  14. Signed books don't have much attraction for me, although I still remember having a book signed when I was a little girl by an author who later turned out to have molested little girls. Yeuch. I still have that book, somewhere, but it's not a treasured possession.

    I do wonder sometimes how I would deal with booksignings (not that it's likely to happen, lol). After some time spent in a job where I had to sign anything between twenty-five and a hundred receipts per day, my signature is little better than a squiggle. I doubt it would be a precious moment when that appeared on the title page!

    Personally I think I'll have a stamp.

  15. I just got a signed book last weekend. Tamora Pierce signs with a "Girls Rule", only with a little stick figure girl instead of "Girls".

    Since we'd spent some time talking, she also personalized my book with a "keep writing" note.

  16. My agent just sold my first book, so I will admit to lately thinking about how I will sign books one day. What's the best way to sign your name? Is there a best way? Because I don't really think you can change it once you start, so it's got to be right from the beginning.
    During a slow evening I did a series of ways of signing on pieces of paper and compared them, and found that I really liked one that had just my three initials, KAN. It actually flowed out very smoothly every time, by doing three curves at the end so it was all one shape.
    SHARPIES are best. It gives strength to the signature, I think. Plus it's permanent.

  17. Anonymous6:34 PM

    I usually only get books signed when the author is standing next to me when I buy them - which is why my copy of the Etched City features the author's chocolate thumbprint (there was a plague of chocolate frogs at that convention) and an impenetrable con reference. It's my favourite signature.

  18. Diana Gabaldon signs a very spirited
    "To Lainey - Le meas!"

  19. I have a personalized signed book from Linda Howard and if anyone even sneezed on it I might hurt them. If I ever do a signing I'd probably screw it up because it was just all too surreal.

  20. I've been to some signings where the author would only flatsign their books. Of course, even waiting in line some of my favorites will personalize several book. Most of the time it depends on where you get the books signed. Some of the booksignings will only allow you to buy the current book and have it signed. I prefer to get books personalized if possible. I'm not going to sell any of the books I've gotten signed,so it just makes it more special to me.

  21. I just when I do start having books to sign that I remember to sign with my penname, not my real name (not that either signature is going to be very legible).

  22. Dave Eggers drew "A floating ball of flesh...with teeth" (as he described it) for my friend's edition of "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius." I liked it so much, he drew me a similar, yet distinctly unique drawing - my ball of flash could not float, and instead was leaning on a stick.

    Marjorie Liu (whom I like to consider sort of a friend) used the sign off "You stalker you! - Marjorie" (I ran into her at almost every turn at RWA in Atlanta (some of those run ins were completely unintentional!)

  23. Dunno.
    Do know I have two Darkyn books signed by Lynn Viehl with a personal message which I treasure.

  24. Anonymous10:18 AM

    Unless the reader has a special request or there's something else for me to comment on (like we'd just had lunch at a quirky deli or sat next to each other on a plane or whatever), I customize autographs to the specific book. A sig for Ghosts would be something like Stay warm!, Threads could be A little string goes a long way! and Valley might be Don't lose your head!. I have several options for every book so I don't feel like a one-trick-robot. It works great for customized book plates, too.

  25. I always say "Thanks for reading" because I'm grateful that they read my stories.

  26. I usually just so dang happy to get the author signature that I don't much notice or care. I absolutely treasure my personalized "To Rosie" signed arcs.

  27. Probably:

    "Dear (name),
    Really, thank you.
    - MySignature"

    Because without the readers, what's the point? :D

  28. I love autographed books. Anything an author writes is fine with me but I especially like if they add something personal either about the book or our meeting.

  29. As a reader, I like "To (me)" - insert name as appropriate.

    Terry Pratchett signed two of my books and what made it special was actually meeting the guy. This was before he was quite so famous, but there was still a long line to get his signature.

    I think that with any author, including the less famous ones, it would be the specialness of meeting the person who had written something that I enjoyed reading.

    I've just got a book from Deanna Molinaro: As An Alligator
    and she signed it to my sister with a drawing of an alligator. It's cute and special - even if we have only met online.

  30. And sometimes a very talented, but unwilling to admit it, sketch artist puts a carrot in the sig :D.

    Actually, I understand the feeling about not defacing the book, though I've only felt it from the reader side, but yeah, you probably have become one of those tales editors tell each other over a beer.

    Clever on the key words, especially Always :D.


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