How To Sign A Book

I have done it.

I have signed my first book.

And let me tell you, it was very weird.

It’s one of the perks of being an author, supposedly: people come up to you with copies of your book, wanting your signature, a message, a dedication…. Wanting a piece of you, in a nice, non-zombie-chomping way.

And yes, it is a great thrill. But at the same time, I think a part of me will always feel confused and a little amused, because why would anyone want lil old me scribbling all over those fresh, crisp pages? Seriously. I have the handwriting of a seven-year-old, in that rounded, overly careful way.

Anyway. Here I was, sitting down at a table, copy of Hungry For You in my hand and ready to be signed, and that’s when I froze. Why? Because I actually didn’t know how to sign a book. I hadn’t planned for this. And — I looked to either side — nope, no spontaneous zombie apocalypse was going to rescue me from this mission.

First things first. I smiled nervously, opened the book, pen hovering. Inside cover? No, that wasn’t the right page. Definitely not on the dedication or the table of contents. Title page, then, under my name in print? Or the flyleaf — the first page of the book, which had the title but not my name? I settled for the latter out of panic.

I lowered my pen, rested the nub against the page, froze again. How to begin? Dear? To? For?

When in doubt, my theory is to run away. It works with the zombies, it worked with the book signing. I plunged straight into writing my message, entirely skipping the issue of whether or not to address it to someone in particular. I didn’t even give myself time to think about where on the page I’d write the dedication, opting for the bottom right corner because it was nearest.

Then another dreaded pause. My instinct told me to sign ‘Anna Harte’, but since my official author name is ‘A.M. Harte’, I wasn’t sure which to go for. Anna is more personal, A.M. is more author-y. Dilemmas upon dilemmas!

And then, to make matters worse, I panicked about whether I was supposed to date the message. And if so, where would I write the date? Above or under the message? And in what format?

See, this is why, whenever someone gifts me with a really lovely notebook, the notebook ends up in dusty drawer, unused. I like scrap paper because I don’t feel guilty about scribbling on it. I don’t want to ruin the nice notebook, and the feeling is only intensified when presented with a copy of my own work, because writing in a book-book is so much more daunting and permanent.

When in doubt, my theory is to run away. So I handed the book back, smiled widely, and ran away.

The Moral:
Be grateful if the first person to ask you to sign their book is a family member, because they won’t mind if you panic for half an hour about doing it wrong.

20 thoughts on “How To Sign A Book

  1. LOL, I so related to this post. For me signing books is a lot like writing in a yearbook–and unfortunately I was the person who couldn’t just it sign it You’re so sweet, have a great summer! between classes, I was the person who had to take it to my next class to ponder our connection and find the most perfectest thing to say. Right now I’m trying to think of something clever, sweet, and book related to write for people I don’t know.

    Anyway, this was a great post. Congrats on getting to that moment.

    • I’m exactly the same, and I used to take up PAGES in people’s yearbooks. Oops. Or end up annotating their yearbook with comments about photos.

      Another author — Thomas Amo — recommended thinking up a book-related quote for those moments when you don’t know what to write. So you could have one for Hush Money, one for Heroes ‘Til Curfew, etc. I think it’s a clever idea!

  2. Great piece of advice I heard years ago, and sadly forgot the source of, is to ask how you can personalize autographs if there are few folks around. If you’re enthusiastic and it’s just one person, you can add a note that will mean a lot to a fan.

    Never heard advice on where to sign, though. I always just assumed to hit up a blank spot on the first page or the title page.

  3. Oh, so good. I needed a good laugh. I say, go big. Flourish. More is always more, so practice a nice big flourish-y signature just for book signings.

    Big and open looks confident, while small and cramped looks anal.

    And big and fast looks like this is something you have to do everyday. Yep, definitely go big.


  4. I signed the galley copy of my book to myself, just to get some practice. My first real signing is this Wednesday, when I give a copy to my therapist. How fucked up is that?

  5. I just had that experience today. I have some students (I teach high school) who bought my book and asked me to sign them. Talk about pressure! But, I just said something short and personal, and signed my name. I don’t know how people do signings with dozens of people… how unnerving, yet rewarding!

  6. This is wonderful: Re Tracey R above- I have been doing this for several years by some great blessing. However, a good friend and good client of *my* friend wanted me to sign a book for him to give to *his* boss. AND he gave me what amounts to a job order for it, listing the FOUR people this (one) book is to be signed to, and all of their (actually meaningful) accomplishments.
    I’ve worked in fast paced boiled down media for several years, but I was totally flummoxed, so I have done the same thing you did, with the same result.
    Miss Harte, very funny, and fun. Thanks for the post, and great continued success to both of you! And PS, my college newspaper advisor said I had absolutely the worst handwriting she’d ever seen. ;D

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