Recently a new author asked me how she should handle autographing her books. 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
To your health
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!)