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How to Autograph Books: Book Signing Tips for New Authors

Recently a new author asked me how she should handle autographing her how to autograph booksbooks. It took me back to when I had published my first book, remembering how awkward it felt to sign copies. I also thought about my first business—a bookstore—where we flipped through used books in search of autographs (the equivalent of a literary jackpot!). Some were short and sweet with just a name, while others had more personal inscriptions.

Here are some simple tips to help you prepare to autograph your books!

1. Decide where to sign.

I like to sign my books on the title page, which is where most books are autographed, though you can also sign the inside cover. In some cases, you may want to sign the front cover, though this is rare and would probably only be appropriate for a coffee table book or something that will be on display.

2. Personalize your message.

In most cases people want the book inscribed to them personally, though sometimes it’s intended as a gift so be sure to ask, “Should I sign this to you?” Use their first name and always ask for the spelling since even common names can have unusual spellings.

If you have time, try to personalize your message in some way: “It was great meeting you at the XYZ conference” or “I enjoyed learning about your business…”

3. Choose a signature phrase.

Ideally you should have one to three phrases that you write each time you sign a book so you don’t have to think too hard! Your message can also be memorable and should fit within the space allotted.

When I’m not pressed for time, I sign my books: “Wishing you abundant joy and success.” If a line of people are waiting I simply write “Best wishes.” Here are some others:

All my best

Thanks

In gratitude

To your health

Much appreciation

Warm wishes

Best regards

Onward

Your friend

Etc…

4. Make sure your name is legible.

Consider the fact that someday your book could be a collector’s item! Even if it isn’t, do you want to leave any doubt that you’re the one who signed it? If needed, practice writing your name so that it is at least partially legible. You should also sign first and last name unless your name is Madonna or Cher.

5. Add a date (optional).

Admitedly I usually omit the date—mostly because I can never remember what day it is! But recipients will appreciate it when you date your inscription.

6. Use a good pen.

I’ll never forget the day I was signing books and the only pen I had on me was one of those cheap stick pens I picked up from a hotel room. Though it got the job done, I didn’t feel like it demonstrated how serious I am about my work.

For those of you who autograph the cover or inside cover, a good Sharpie will probably be your best choice. For everyone else, do yourself a favor and invest in a nice pen. It doesn’t matter if the ink is blue or black, if the barrel is thick or thin, just choose something that you love and that makes you feel like an author! (Oh, and make sure the ink dries quickly!)

73 Responses to How to Autograph Books: Book Signing Tips for New Authors

  1. The information was exactly what I needed to know. I will have a book signing next month. The title is: On Becoming A Healthier Church: Managing “Your Stress.
    Thank you very much!

  2. Diane Ziomek says:

    Thank you for this information. I haven’t autographed any books yet, but was thinking ahead; my thoughts were the inside cover, but I believe the title page would be more appropriate.

    “The Homemaker Helper Series”

  3. The book signing was a success! Thank you again!

  4. Juan Bas says:

    Very helpful. I’m self-publishing my novel, Back Kicks And Broken Promises, through Abbott and may need to sign a few copies. You never know right?

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  7. Thanks much for the useful information. I have yet to write a book, one of my essays would just published in This I Believe: Life Lessons. Thus far each copy I have autographed has been done differently–simply because I really had no clear concept of how to do it. The guidance you provided is much appreciated.

  8. Verna Clay says:

    Thanks for the great information! I’ll see you at the Oregon Book Fair.

  9. William Hillman says:

    First book signing coming up on January 28. I never did one, so am not sure how it works. Do they bring there own books? Do I have to have books there for them to buy? Can anyone tell me the procedures. Thanks Bill

    • Hi Bill, More than likely you will need to supply books to be sold. If you’re signing at a bookstore, they will likely take a 40% discount off your retail price and pay you 60%. I’d recommend getting in touch with your host venue to work out the details. Good luck!

  10. Laurie de Paolo says:

    This is great information! I just published a small book of my sock monkey images and poems, “Sock Monkeys Forever”, and will be doing my first book signing November 26th. I’m going to go buy a good pen!
    Thank you for the tips!
    Laurie

  11. Andrew Bell says:

    I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been thinking about this. Thank you so much for the tips!

  12. Lori Lyons says:

    So thankful that I found this. Strange to think that we don’t know how to sign our own names when the time comes. I’m preparing for my first book signing in a few weeks for locals, friends and family in our very small community. Very nervous. I self published, “Adopting in America: The Diary of a Mom in Waiting.” Hope it goes well.

  13. I found your site while searching for “where to sign your book”. I am signing my first sale of a children’s book I wrote entitled Punkin: A Dog Gone Story. I am excited to give a personal note to a budding reader! Thanks!

  14. Thank you, Stephanie, for all the info! I have a reliable pen in hand as well as a backup, ready for my first book signing this afternoon for my just released novel, “The Spirit of Nora”.

  15. As a former bookseller, this post brought back some fond memories of our author readings/signings. One highlight was hosting Steve Allen, who, after a lifetime of autography, had a very consistent autograph. I’ve always wondered if celebrities have one signature they use for public autographs and another for their legal documents and money transactions. [Here’s an Identity Theft plot!]

    May I add a suggestion to the list of do’s/don’ts?

    Before autographing unsold copies, check with the bookseller first. Booksellers often overbuy for an event as it is better to return a few copies than not have enough. Some publishers won’t accept returns of signed copies, which would leave the bookstore with an out of balanced inventory. Also, if the booksellers does want signed copies, find out how many, and unless specifically requested, do NOT date your autograph. While a date may be meaningful to the customer, or to the collector of a first edition/printing on its release date, dating the autograph ultimately dates the copy as no longer being “new” if it is still sitting on the shelves a week, month or even year(s) later.

  16. Janet Moroney says:

    Thanks for the information, it was timely. I just completed my first of three devotional books, in the series of ‘Experiencing God’s Plan -Together. For parents/friends to stay connected with their university children/friends while they are away from home. I have not had my first book signing as yet, so this was exactly what I needed to know. Thanks and God bless.

  17. Thank you Stephanie for the great tips. I have yet to organize my first book signing. What would you recommend?
    Author of “What Is Love? Perspectives On Love”
    Fadi

  18. Denine Phillips says:

    Thanks, Stephanie! I was delighted that my Google search for “How to autograph a book” came directly to your post. I haven’t had any formal book signings yet, but a woman asked that I autograph her copy of Don’t Give Up on That Dog! I didn’t have a clue, so your tips were very helpful.

    Since this is an individual book buyer, is it okay to include the date? Another thought was to create a paw print stamp so I could also stamp the title page with our dog’s actual paw print. Do you think this is a good idea?

    • Hi Denine, I think the stamp idea is cute and would be fun in addition to your signature. Adding a date is really just a matter of preference so if you want to do that and it’s for an individual, then by all means you should. Good luck to you!

      • Denine Phillips says:

        Hi Stephanie,

        I found my way back to your post, and see that you responded. Thank you! I’m preparing for my first book signing in May, so I needed a refresher :)

        Best regards,
        Denine Phillips

  19. Andries Jacobs says:

    Stephanie, good day
    Sitting early morning in Vancouver Canada, looking for direction, this website is great!!
    Your message, notes and guidance is direct and typical of an excellent leader.
    Thank you, this will help me completing the process of a world untill 6 months ago, totally foreign to me.

  20. Thank you so much. My book One Land Two stories is out this week.
    It is not my first but others were academic.
    This one is very different, receiving much attention I am asked to sign it numerous times. This was very helpful and thoughtful.
    Thank you,
    Shaul

  21. Christine Ong says:

    Thanks, I published my book last year. Your tips are great and I am glad I did almost what were suggested. Christine Ong, Singapore
    My book: Nyonya Kebaya Intricacies of the Peranakan Heritage

  22. Gail Huntley says:

    Hi, thanks for advice. I have my first book signing in May and will use your tips. By the way, do you usually have refreshments at book signings? Would the store do that or would I do that? thank you. gail

  23. Thanks so much Stephanie, I’ll go get that pen now….thanks for the tips “All the best..”
    Stephen

  24. Barbara Davis Dexter says:

    Prior to ordering (for myself) a stock of my book, “Around Damascus Township”, the publisher asked if I would be using my books for signings, and I replied “yes”. Now that signings are happening, the publisher insists that I sell the merchants’ supply of books before my own. There was nothing in the contract stating this, and nowhere else was this mentioned. What is protocol, if any? Thanks for your help.

    • Hi Barbara,
      Hmmm. It’s usually up to the merchant, not the publisher, to decide how book sales will be handled. Though the bookstore or hosting venue will likely want to sell their own stock first or purchase books directly from you. The publisher shouldn’t really be involved in that decision unless they are involved in setting up these appearances for you…?
      Best wishe,
      Stephanie

  25. Hi Stephanie!
    So glad to have found your blog. It’s excellent!
    I have just published my first children’s book: Caterpillar’s Dream.
    Wondering how I could offer autograph copies online (besides offering those on our website). Would love to hear back.
    Thank you!
    Roitman Trillo

    • Hi Roitman, I’m not sure I understand your question… If you want to sell autographed copies via your website, you could always autograph book plates (stickers) to be included with purchases. Is that what you’re asking?

      • Sandra Kerns says:

        My books first came out electronically before I also offered paperback. Now that I’m having a signing someone asked how I was going to sign their Nook. (Tongue-in-cheek) I thought about it and came up with this idea. I made postcard sized copies with the cover on one side and the back blurb on the other with a space for addressing to mail, or just sign for locals, or I can sign one of each, scan and send electronically for my overseas readers. Everyone has liked this idea so far. Good luck to all of you book-signing authors.

  26. having my first book signing in august thanks for all your info and the tips. think they are sure helpful

  27. Louise says:

    My first book of poems is being published in Oct. 2012. This is very helpful to read through. I am sending signed copies to endorsers now – any tips for signing for endorsers? Like what to say? Thank yous? thank you, Louise

  28. Kim DeSalvo says:

    I’ve just published my first novel, a contemporary romance titled, “Incidental Happenstance,” on Amazon. As I have buyers around and even out of the country, it has been suggested that I sign book plates to include for those who request them. The size of the book is 6X9. What size would you suggest the book plates be so as to have enough room to write a little message? Should the title be printed on the book plate, and would you suggest any other artwork be included? A border, perhaps?

  29. These book signing tips are very helpful as I am on the verge of having my first signing scheduled soon. But I have a few questions if I may. My book “A Beautiful Husky needs a home” , that was reviewed by Betty White, has been out for a couple months, and I am totally green and somewhat fearful how to approach book stores for signings. My book is designed for children but written for families considering getting a new pet, it is also the official book (major funding contributor) of a pet health charity I have started. For the giveaways, would it be appropriate to bring Charity related items? The charity Runa’s R.A.C.E. Fund (R.R.F.), promotes pet adoption, posts pet health tips and disease warning signs, and has a blog and online store. I am also trying to link up with other charities that are rescues in a cross promotion on the website “Shelter Links” page. I was also thinking of having fliers made with the pet tips and or the shelters R.R.F. has already linked with. Would this be a good move? Or should I just stick to “book” things? I am learning as I go and by the seat of my empty pants pockets. Thanks,
    Cherie AKA Runa’s MOM

    • I think it’s a great idea to work with related charities and find ways to cross promote. Successful book promotion definitely involves thinking outside of the box so keep trying new activities. As for approaching bookstores, there is nothing to fear. Even the big box stores are usually receptive to local authors. Just make sure to walk in and ask for a manager. Good luck to you!

  30. Perry McMullin says:

    Thanks for taking the time and actually thinking to write this for those of us that follow in your footsetps. It is better to think ahead than wait to look stupid or even worse, screw up books.
    Sepmper Fi Stephanie
    Perry McMullin, THE CROSS AND THE SWORD

  31. thanks for the tips, I was thinking inside cover but title page might be better, also, the few I have signed I had trouble finding the right pen, so I may try a sharpie,
    Thanks,
    Ann Howie Hood
    “Put it Back”
    Children’s book

  32. Dalton Reutlinger says:

    I have a question. For my Novel “Chris Lynheart” I’ve been designing my own alphabet and language to use for a land that I came up with, and I just finished the first book of my series this morning (minus all the editing and sending off to a publisher, ETC)

    So if I were to sign a book, could I use it in the language I created? Personally, I think that would be very original. But I’m new to writing and this is my first book.

  33. Stephanie Godwin says:

    I havnt published any book yet but thanks am sure it will help. Thanks again.

  34. David Yoo Sr says:

    Thank you for some great & helpful tips for autographing my first novel, Real Gold.

  35. After 3 years my book has finally been published and I have a series of book signings

    Thanks for all the helpful advice
    I sign my books with

    See you at the Races!

    Iron Mate Mark

    Mark Kleanthous
    Athletes and now an author of “The Complete Book of Triathlon Training”
    450+ Triathlon Competitor

  36. I found the above information most helpful

  37. Erik Roth says:

    I have a book signing next month. It took me nearly four decades to get a publisher to go for it and it is such a pleasure to be one of those seeking this advice. I love the helpful hints. Next month is time for my first royalty check and I can’t wait to see if I broke even on the expenses of using manuscript illustrations. [$100 each} and if I get ahead of the author’s advance. The book is certainly being offered in enough locations. .

  38. Ramiro T Hernandez says:

    This was incredibly helpful, thank you. I’ll keep this in mind in case I may ever need to use this information. My first book is still being edited by a student editor. I don’t even have a publicist yet.

  39. Thank you very much for the tips! It is a very good tips indeed for new writers. This helped me at my autograph session. Thank you again!

  40. Mathias Hardeman says:

    Thanks for all of the great pointers. This indeed makes me feel better about being a new author on Amazon. The title of my true story book is: PULPIT GANGSTER, Life Inside a Cult.

  41. Pingback: How to prepare for a successful book signing | Jane V. Blanchard

  42. Bonnie Collins says:

    I have a book signing tomorrow in Harrisburg, PA. My debut memoir, ‘Braving Time’ was published in late 2012 by Balboa Press, so I’m new to all of this. Your article was most helpful. Many thanks!

  43. Sylvie Fox says:

    Just the right information, at the right time. Thanks.
    Sylvie Fox, author of Puppy Love

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  45. Elaine White says:

    Thanks so much for writing this. My first book has just been published and although I’m not doing any official ‘book signings’ at the moment (mostly due to ill health) lots of family and friends are asking for personalised signatures on their copies.

    They were nice enough to buy their own book and then bring it to me, but I was a bit stumped about what was right and what made sense for signing it. Your advice has really helped. I read elsewhere that you should add the date and thought it looked a bit impersonal, so I’m glad it’s a choice thing.

    I think I’ll be taking your advice and doing a nice little personal message and then my name. It’s less stressful. Now I’ve just got to figure out what the personal message is… 😀

  46. OMG! Stephanie, this has been absolutely fantastic information. I could never thank YOU enough… Can’t wait until I personally put it to use. I haven’t had a book signing myself yet, unfortunately due to health issues. However, can’t wait until I’m able too.
    My Memoir “With Death Before Us” was released in Dec. 2012. And have worked on a book signing in Maui for next yr. when I’ll be there again. It’s the true grit of what a close family goes through when the father, husband fights for life. It’s filled with Love, positive attitudes, perserverance, spititualty, and the importance of being an educated advocate. Written with the feeling that If the book helps just one other person, it was well worth the blood, sweat and tears through the writing, that took 12 years to complete. Thank you again for the insight, and your sharing of this valuabale information. May God Bless YOU! I wish you the VERY BEST…

  47. I like to sign my name next to the printed words on the title page, if I’m just signing.
    If I’m personalizing or dedicating I use the blank page prior.
    And as suggest, I always use a green, fine tip, sharpie marker to match my brand.

    These have been great tips and very helpful in autographing my Golf Rules series books.
    Thank you for the information.

    Richard E Todd
    Author, Speaker, Golfer
    http://www.TheGolfRules.com

  48. This was very good information! I wrote my first book and was worried about how and what to write at the book signing.

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