Y’all know how I like writerly wisdom. Here the lovely Mary Robinette Kowal gives signing lessons!

Debut Author Lessons: 10 things about signing books

One of the ways that an author connects to the reader is by signing books.  Here are some of the things that I’ve learned about signing things — not having a signing event, but the actual act of autographing.

  1. Pick a pen color other than black. Collectors and book sellers tell me that when a customer picks up a book to look for the autograph that it’s easier to spot when it’s not the same color as the rest of the book.
  2. Get a permanent pen with archival ink. What permanent means is that you want a pen which won’t smear.  Archival pens… Some pens have a little bit of acid in the ink which causes things to degrade. To avoid that, when buying your pen look for ones that say “Acid-Free” or “Archival Safe”
  3. Always carry the pen with you. I have been asked to sign books in the oddest places.
  4. Carry bookplates with you. Particularly at conventions, I’ve already had people say that they would have brought the book if they’d known I was going to be there.  Being able to offer a book plate on the spot has pleased folks.
  5. Practice your signature. I spent years signing posters after elementary school shows. For that I had to have a legible signature because it frustrated the kids, for whom reading was new, to be unable to read what I’d written.  Most authors don’t and that’s no big deal. The point is that you need to be able to sign something while talking to the person.
  6. Have about three stock phrases of varying lengths that you can rotate when personalizing books. Again, this is all about being able to chat while writing.
  7. Sign on the title page. If you are signing an anthology, sign on the first page of your story.
  8. Date all your signatures during the first month. A collector told me that the closer to release day a book is signed, the more valuable it is. I had no idea. He suggested dating all signatures during the first month of release, by default
  9. Always ask people to spell their names, even if you know them. The number of ways to misspell names like Tracy, Traci, Tracey, or Tracie are astounding. When you are a debut author you will be missing half your brain and will misspell your own name at least once.
  10. Have a different signature for your legal signature. Your autograph will wind up on the internet on ebay. Having a different one for legal papers, checks or credit cards reduces the chances of identity theft.

For readers:

  1. Put a postit with the name you want the book address to on the page you want the author to sign.
  2. Hand the book to them with it open to the page you want them to sign.
  3. Don’t be surprised when they have only half a brain, particularly if it is a new author.

Ze original lives ‘ere.

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5 Responses to Wisdom-ery

  1. Ian Golledge says:

    I do have to come into QWC to renew my membership soon. I’ll have to bring ‘Sourdough’ with me. You’ve been warned.

  2. angelaslatter says:

    Sure! I just don’t work on Fridays.

  3. Number 10 is a good point. As a teenager, I spent many a maths class perfecting my signature for the day everyone would want my autograph.

    Unfortunately, I liked the one I eventually came up with so much that I also use it for my legal signature.

    Fortunately, I can count the number of people who have requested my autograph on one hand.

  4. angelaslatter says:

    It’s only a matter of time!