Book Signing Etiquette for Authors
The Author at a Book Signing
Calling All Authors
Finally after months or even years, your new book has arrived. The excited author has lined up book signings, online friends are placing orders and close personal friends are requesting a personalized copy. This is the life-not!
What is a new author to do when he freezes at that glorious moment, committing words for eternity? Yes, that is the one when the autograph is requested. And what can you write that will instill awe, amazement and undying devotion from the fan who is to receive this illustrious signed copy? Here are some helpful tips to make autographing and book signings more enjoyable and productive.
Where Does One Sign?
The traditional, standard and only true place to sign is on the TITLE PAGE. This is where bookstore owners and workers will look first. A signature in any other place may be overlooked, causing lost sales. Another option is the half title page.
But sometimes there is not much room on the title page. What then? There is no need for such a long message that it will not fit. After all, you are a published writer and can think of something succinct but brilliant! However, if the book buyer specifically requests a special page or location, oblige them with good grace.
If your work is in an anthology of poetry of whatever, it is permissible to sign the page where your work begins. Some authors sign both areas.
What Should An Author Say?
There are different kinds of author signings and autographs. The new writer may be confused as to what is right for the occasion.
- The term “Signed” refers to an author signature and preferably the date the book was signed. This increases collectible value.
- A book is “Inscribed” is when the author personally makes note of a name and perhaps a personal message. While some people do not want a book with another person’s name, most real fans are thrilled to get a book that spent extra time in the hands of an author
- An “Association” copy is one that the author signed for a family member or someone who meant a great deal to him or her, perhaps a well known politician, celebrity or otherwise important personage. These copies can be quite valuable.
- A “Dedication” copy of a book is highly desirable. This is when the author actually signs the book for the person named in the dedication. These copies are rare as hen’s teeth because the special person receiving the dedication seldom lets go of the book.
Should an author sign every copy of his book(s)? No, because the theory of supply and demand comes into play. A famous or well respected author’s signature will be sought after and the more rare it is, the more valuable the signed book. An example would be a Stephen King book compared to an autographed copy. But by all means, sign when asked or always when at book signings.
Making Friends, Foes and Lots of Dough
A surly author makes no friends or fans. Many of us have stood in line to receive that respected scrawl. Some authors rush in, flop down at a table and never look up until time to leave. They pull the outreached book close, sign and sometimes mumble a Thank You. Some do not even give the buyer/fan even that much grace. Many disgruntled ex-fans tell horror stories of waiting in long lines for hours only to have the author get up and leave at the prescribed time for the event to end. That leaves a bad taste in the mouth of someone who previously enjoyed the writer's work. Some of these disrespected buyers even stop reading that rude author. With these issues in mind, what should an author do to have a successful book signing?
- Be proactive. Make sure the book store has your book in stock and has enough to create a visual display. Call or visit in advance. If possible take some copies along just in case the store runs out.
- Dress professionally but be comfortable. Business casual is the look to achieve. Wear comfortable shoes, short or quarter length sleeves and take a sweater or blazer. It is hard to concentrate when shivering or over heated.
- Take water, tape, table tents, easels and posters of the book cover(s). Bring a supply of bookmarks, business cards showing where the book can be purchased if the prospective buyer walks away empty handed only to regret it later. Have a supply of card paper and markers in case there are no signs prepared by the store. When attending functions such as conventions, be prepared to bring your own materials.
- The table is not your friend. Remember how it feels to approach someone seated behind a desk. It creates a sense of separation, a barrier between the seated person and the one coming near. Stand in front of or to the side of the table. When a prospective buyer comes close, you will be approachable while appearing friendly and involved.
- Take time to meet every person and sign every book. Arrange your schedule to allow extra time in case a large number of people line up for your book. After all that is the desired result, right? Do not rush off panicked to the airport. Be professional and plan for success.
- Smile, Smile, Smile! The anxious author is selling him or herself. A genuine warm smile draws people and lets them know the author is interested, involved and on the same level as they are.
Be Eager, Not Pathetic
Pens-Not Pins and Needles
Have a number of great pens with you at book signings. Do not depend on the bookstore to provide them or you may find yourself using crayons from the children’s section. Use blue or black ink because it lasts longer and does not fade easily. The pretty new popular shades of green, red, etc. are tempting but not a smart choice.
- Use a fine point roller ball pen. Some people use fine point Sharpie markers but these tend to bleed through on many types of paper. If indeed a Sharpie is used allow the ink to dry before closing the book. It might smudge and ruin the entire thing in addition to making the buyer angry.
- Look for pens with acid free, archival ink. These can be found at craft stores in the scrap-booking section and are not expensive. Be prepared to ask for the pen back because many people automatically pick up pens. Have extras handy.
- If the buyer asks for the pen as a keepsake, give it to them. These small things are important to fans and can create a positive experience instead of them remembering a cheapskate author.
- If the buyer asks you to use their pen, oblige but let them know why you prefer a certain style of pen. Later if the ink fades, you will not be blamed.
Relax and Enjoy
Ultimately, the hard work has been done. The book is written, edited, proofed and printed. All else is small stuff. If you make a mistake, likely you are the only one who will notice. Enjoy reaping the rewards of your labor. Sign, Sell and Deliver your baby to people who will treasure it for generations. Then go home, put your feet up and start typing the next masterpiece!