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.”
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)