How To Autograph Your Book


This article is for authors, about how to autograph your book, something that seems so simple yet is fraught with many questions, like what do I write? What pen do I use?

Adventures in trying to find a simple answer to my question: how to autograph my book

Writers write, right? So you’d think they’d have plenty to say about the book signing thing. Wrong. For starters, it took me several attempts to try and find any advice on the simple question of what pen to use. I didn’t want to use just any pen; I wanted the pen to symbolize the specialness of this moment, of signing copies of my first book, of this not being a humdrum moment.

On a practical level, I also wanted something that was acid free, wouldn’t bleed through the page, would be comfortable (after all, I was hopeful I’d get to sign more than one book), and would still work after many, many minutes with the cap off in case I got distracted by good conversation with a reader.

I finally ended up asking the associate at Loomis and Toles and got an answer for that question. Onto the next one!

When looking for an answer about what to write, forget trying to Google the question, “How to autograph your book?” or variations thereof. You’ll get references on autographing your book or, even better, autograph books, but not much about what people actually write. This is when the popular media really helps.

Television and the comics elucidate what to write

I was watching the Rick Mercer Report on CBC around about the time I was trying to figure out just what to write when autographing books for my upcoming debut book signing, and guess what popped up onto the screen: Jean Chretien and Rick Mercer autographing their books!

Mercer signed his full name, and only his name. Chretien wrote “Best wishes” and signed his full name. I’m not a Chretien fan, but I liked that little extra.

Then while I was reading the comics several days later, I stopped cold on the For Better or For Worse storyline. Holy cow, talk about the universe sending me more answers to my question via an unlikely medium. In that week’s storyline, the character of Michael is autographing copies of his book. He writes humourous comments to his sister and others he knows. But the one that stuck out for me was what NOT to write. Don’t copy down verbatim what an autograph-seekers says to you without thinking about it first, else you may end up with this gem: “For Bill…who’s getting it tonight.

Autographing tips

What’s your best autographing tip? What most stands out about your debut book launch or signing? Share your stories, ideas, comments!

Take some bookmarks: Bookmarks make for a nifty gift to go with, and they may pass it on to someone else when talking up your book.

Have a scratch pad with you: You never know when your ears will start misinterpreting words, and you get a person’s name all wrong. Best to have them spell it for you and write it down when that happens. Sometimes they’ll look at you funny when you ask them to spell ‘Nancy.’ But better that than making it out to Fanny!

Have book business cards on hand: Some people may look interested but not buy a book. In that case hand them a card with the book cover, a short blurb, maybe where to buy, and most importantly your website address on it. It’ll remind them when they’re in the mood to buy a new book.

Autographing your book, in a nutshell

So in a nutshell fellow writers, use either the Pilot Hi-Tecpoint V5 grip gel pen or the Prismacolor Premier Fine Line marker to sign your books. I was told the gel pen is better for autograph sessions as the pen still works after being uncapped and unused for awhile while you’re chatting with readers. I came to prefer the Pilot also for its lighter look on the page, its smooth action, and the easy-on-the-eyes colours.

They both come in a range of colours, so don’t be afraid to get creative and sign in purple instead of the usual blue or black, unless your book’s subject is conservative in nature and you want to present a professional, business front. I vary between using purple and green, depending upon my mood, and sometimes depending upon where I sign someone’s book. I always have one Pilot with me, for I never know when and where I’ll suddenly be asked to sign a copy.

Remember, don’t parrot mindlessly onto the paper what the reader says – that can lead to interesting double entendres. Before my book launch, I decided on signing “Best wishes” above my signature. I don’t respond quickly and I can’t multi-task, so deciding on what to write before the mayhem began was a very good idea. Even better though were those autograph seekers who wrote down beforehand what they wanted me to write in their copy. That way I didn’t have to slowly and excruciatingly repeat every couple of words as I wrote them down. It was also nice to know the words would please the reader because after all that’s what they asked for.

And lastly, sign your full name, or if your name is really long, just your first name. There really is no hard and fast rule about how much of your name you ought to sign. The tradition is full name, but I bucked tradition because my last name gets rather difficult to sign after a few times doing it. And anyway your full name is going to be right above your autograph in nicely rendered type.

I was asked recently: “why do some authors draw a single line through their printed name, before signing the book below?

You know, I’ve not seen that done before, and I don’t know why they’d do that. I can’t even come up with a plausible idea for why. If anyone else knows, please share! Personally, now I know about the practice, I wouldn’t do it.

So what are your tips for autographing books? Have you had anything funny happen, wrote down any double entendres when signing books? Share your stories and comments here!

(Originally published on Squidoo by me on 24 September 2008, based on my original 28 November 2007 post, transferred here to my website 21 January 2012)

  • Cherryred64gto

    About to autograph my first book …. yippee!

  • Awesome. Have fun!

  • Mercury AC

    thnx, my first book signing is tmrw and that really helped !

  • Glad it did. Good luck!

  • Thanks. This was helpful. I’m about to sign my first shipment of books that just arrived. Feels like a landmark moment for a first time author. 🙂

  • Lavern Lewis

    You have been very helpful and I too just got my first shipment of my book Don’t Waste The Years and I will be arranging book signing soon.

  • Peter J. Andros

    @Lavern Lewis

    “Don’t Waste The Years,” indeed. Autographing books is quite frankly a waste of everyone’s time. I don’t sign anything but my personal cheques.

  • I like blue or green above black as it stands out from the text on the page. Acid free–archival safe is smart. I usually say, “that’s the normal way T-O-M, right?” instead of asking Tom to spell his name when double checking both the spelling and that I heard the name correctly since he might say, “actually my name is Todd.”

  • Lavern

    For me as a first time author it is an honor to autograph my book for anyone that wants a copy; so for me it’s not a waste of time. However, I say that now but who knows I may feel differently after signing thousands.

  • Mike

    Thanks for the ideas! I am also in the process of signing my books. They are children’s books, so I want to write something inspirational, you know … for the kids. Any suggestions?

  • Hi Mike: I’m glad you found my post helpful! I’m not sure . . . maybe tie them in to your story somehow or write something from your character(s) to the kids, eg, “Sam knows you can do it!”

  • Rali Macaulay

    Great ideas. Just launched my first book “Scripture Works!” on Amazon, and needed to sign some copies I received, but wasn’t sure how. Thanks for the tips

  • candy

    ten years of autographing my book “Welcome to Planet Alzheimer’s” and it NEVER gets old, always a joy!

  • I just published my first book A Mom’s Point Of View: Beginning Adulthood and I was trying to decide how to sign them. Thanks for the advice.

  • Mary

    My turn soon for my first book signing! Thanks for the helpful advice!

  • Ken Decroo

    Many thanks as I am headed to my first book signing in a few days. Almost Human, Many thanks!

  • This was helpful. I’ve been looking up different information all week. My first book signing is tomorrow!

  • carlofab

    My understanding was that a book should be signed on the half-title, not the title page. That way the author doesn’t have to strike out his printed name.

  • Carlofab: I’m not sure why an author would have to strike out her/his printed name . . . in a way, it’s like signing a letter where you have both your printed name and signature. Wherever you have the space is probably best, especially if you have large handwriting.

  • carlofab

    Hi Shireen —

    I agree with you entirely and would personally not do that. I mention it only because I’ve read elsewhere that some authors do scratch out their printed name when signing the title page.

    But personally I would not sign my book there —

    Many years ago I met the author Erskine Caldwell, who was quite conservative and proper about literary custom. When given one of his books to sign, he meticulously searched out the half-title, and signed that page below the book’s title.

    There appears to be no other purpose for the half-title; my speculation is that it was originally intended for the author’s signature, but today survives only as a curiosity or mystery. At any rate I’ve never heard of any other purpose for the half-title.

    The half-title (the page with the book’s title but no author) is placed on the page immediately before the title page. Most
    hardcover books are blank on the inside front cover, often followed by
    yet another blank page, then the half-title, then the title page (with
    copyright on back), then dedication, then acknowledgments (if any), then
    contents page.

    Increasingly the half-title is being omitted. Createspace (Amazon) for example will not include a half-title unless you have such a page in your manuscript.

    I will have a short novel (Lady Joe) coming out on Amazon in about a week or so (August 2015), and went around and around with them about this. I assumed a half-title would be automatically inserted by their formatting program, but it is not. You have to include such a page in your typescript manuscript.

    I encountered another interesting problem with Createspace’s format in that its program does not allow the inside front cover page of a book to be blank. It places the title page immediately inside the cover — unless your manuscript includes a half-title, which then becomes the inside front page.

    If you want the inside front page of your book to be blank, you have to instruct someone at Createspace by phone when you approve the final typescript. Then a human being there will “force” a blank page up front.

    However, I subsequently noticed that most paperbacks I own have the half-title on the inside front cover — and that is where most readers want their books signed anyway — so I went with that.

    Anyway, to make a short story long, I intend to sign my book below the title on the half-title page, admittedly only because I was prejudiced by Mr. Caldwell about this in my impressionable youth.

    Of course, I will sign a buyer’s book anywhere s/he wishes. But if signing the title page, I will most certainly not scratch out my printed name.

    These are just my personal prejudices FWIW, and carry no weight whatever.

    Mark 🙂

  • carlofab

    This is merely a comment but …

    I notice that most colored ink fades in a year or two, especially green but also blue.

    The most enduring ink is black. But I have a few Civil War books from circa 1885 and notice that even black ink fades.

    Perversely, what endures forever is pencil. Where the original owner wrote his name inside a newly purchased book in pencil in 1885, his signature remains as if it had been written yesterday.

    Go figure. But my name has already faded from books purchased a few years ago if written in blue, green, or red.

    I’ve learned to use black ink or pencil.

  • Lilia B Messer

    Thanks this was very helpful!

  • In business letters it is common to cross out the typed name of the recipient (Mx J Smith) and hand write the name (John/Jane) for a personal touch. Crossing out your printed name probably has similar purpose.

  • Good point Alexandria!

  • Audrey Culpepper Childers

    Thank you for the tips! Launched my 3rd book on Hypothyroidism but this was my 1st book signing. A Survivors Guide to Kicking Hypothyroidisms Booty. It’s avail on Amazon, Barnes n Noble and Books a Million. Only $13.95.

  • Betty Rosian

    This has been quite helpful. Made me decide to use my Fisher Space Pen with a fine tip point. Guaranteed to not skip or dry up. My books just came today, and I have a day or two before signing. Here’s where I am so far: Book: “What’s a Grandma To Do? 20 Fun Activities With Young Grandchildren.” I’m thinking of signing, “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged. Proverbs 17:6” followed by my name. Or should it be more personal for the buyer?

  • Hi Betty: some buyers may ask for a personalized inscription, but most will be happy with what you decide, especially since you’ve taken the time to think about something really appropo! I’m glad you found my post helpful. Good luck!

  • Chyna Doll

    Thanks for the tips I am a new author I am excided about my book signing, I feel it will go very well.

  • Crystal

    THink about having to right that a hundred times… You’re arm will go numb, as will your hand.

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