Monday, December 15, 2008

Signed Books

If you’re an author, how do you sign books? What is the most common way you’re asked to sign? If you’re a reader, what do you want the author to sign -- name only, your name and theirs, a note to you (or the person you’re giving the book to) and their signature?

For me, as a reader, if the author is a friend, I like their signature with either “To Helen” or a note to me. I really value books by friends. If I don’t know the author, usually I’ll just ask for a signature. I don’t mind if they write a quick note or put the date on it. But if I think the book may become valuable, then just the signature is what I’d like. And if I’m buying the book with the idea of giving it as a present, but don’t know exactly who it will go to yet, then just the signature, please. Otherwise, the author can put the recipient’s name, with or without a note, and their own autograph.

I’ve never gotten an autograph with the idea of re-selling the book to a collector. I do think it’s neat to get the autograph of a well-known author or especially one of an unknown author who becomes famous.

And I don’t give away autographed books that are part of my collection. That’s not to say what my kids will do when faced with keeping or donating my shelves of books.

If you want to learn more about how signatures increase or do not increase the value of books, read this article called Author Signatures & Signed Book Values.

Are any of you collectors of autographed books?


  1. Thanks for this interesting post and the link. As a newly published author, I’ve been curious about the ‘proper’ way to sign a book. Normally I am asked to make it to someone. I always feel I need to say something clever between the to and my signature, but usually only come up with the ubiquitous “Best Wishes.’ As a reader, I love to collect personalized signed copies.

    Jane Kennedy Sutton
    Author of The Ride

  2. I always ask the person if they'd like a signature only or if they'd like me to inscribe it to them. This seems to work well. A few times I've been asked to write very specific things in a book if someone is giving it as a gift to another person.

    Great post!

  3. I've heard authors say they have some "stock" things they can write if asked. They usually relate to the plot, a main character or are a play on the title.

  4. So far, I've kept all of my signed books. I let them sign however they want to.

    When I sign for someone, I ask what they prefer, since some don't want them personalized. Also, some are giving them as gifts.

    Morgan Mandel

  5. I've signed books for years and always wondered about protocol. When I leave books behind after a signing, I usually write "Best Wishes" and my name.

    Asking the customer what they would like in the inscription is always a good idea. Thanks, Helen, for this post!

  6. I'll sign my books with a simple "God Bless You" so and so, or something from the plot of the book, unless I know the person well enough to write a note that relates personally. OR if the person says this book is for such and such a reason for so and so, then I'll write a quick pertinent note. Works pretty well for me and my readers.

    I have several signed copies of books but no big collection of really big name authors yet.

  7. You know, odd though it may be, I don't think I've ever told an author what to write when they sign, other than the name (mine or someone else's). There have been times when I've mentioned something about the other person and the author then came up with something appropriate, though.

  8. Interesting discussion, Helen. I ask who the person wants the book inscribed to, but I never even thought about just signing my name. That doesn't seem like much value since I'm not famous. I usually write something related to the book in the note.

    I have at least a couple hundred autographed books. I don't get as many any more since I read e-books almost exclusively. But I buy print copies of books by authors I know so I can get them to autograph the books even if I'm going to read them as e-books.

    Though I never thought that my signature would have any value, a couple of years ago, I saw a used copy of my nonfiction book Look Beyond Tomorrow being sold on Amazon.

    The book is about an incidence of workplace violence. A former employee of an answering service came to the office during the early morning shift change. He murdered his girlfriend and a co-worker and shot the company owner in the face. The owner was my friend, and she didn't have any medical insurance. Her face was destroyed, and she lost one eye. She had to go through several surgeries to rebuild her face, and a group of friends wanted to raise money for her medical expenses.

    My friend and her employees showed remarkable faith and courage in overcoming this tragedy, and we wrote Dr. Robert Schuller at the Crystal Cathedral suggesting Carola as a guest for his televised church service. We included an autographed copy of the book with the letter. We got a response from an assistant who just thanked us for the book and ignored the suggestion of having Carola as a guest.

    When I saw the used book advertised on Amazon, I was flabbergasted that it was priced at $50+. The description said it was a first edition, personally inscribed by the author to Dr. Robert Schuller. Since the book sold for $15 new, I guess my autograph was worth a lot more than I thought!

  9. I remember when I first started doing booksignings. I was so clueless. This information never seemed to pop up anywhere at that time. And to be perfectly honest, I didn't realize I needed to know about it until I was sitting at a table in a book store and someone bought a book. I stuffed down the sudden onslaught of panic, smiled and signed.

  10. What a story, Lillie!

    Diane, you're so good at signing now. You come up with great personal things to write in books. 'Course you've had lots of experience!

  11. if I have the opportunity to get a book signed, I'll definitely do it, but I like getting them signed in person (instead of ordering them pre-signed). Between my husband & I, I think we have a couple dozen signed books. Chris Crutcher, Julia Glass, Tim O'Brien, Diana Gabaldon, to name a few, and friends' books, too.

    one of the best gifts I ever gave my dad was a signed copy of Arn's War (a memoir about WWII). He's read it at least eight times & loves that I managed to get it signed just a few weeks before the author (93) died.


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