FAQ – Book Signings and Author Events.

Where are good places to get books signed?

An author book signing can happen anywhere, but it is true that they are more common in highly populated regions such as New York, New Jersey, Washington DC, and California.

You may have noticed there are tons in Manhattan lately…so how come?

Working and living in Manhattan is truly a blessing for a book collector! Every month there are literally hundreds of opportunities to meet with authors, artists, personalities, and stars. Many art galleries and museums host talks, shows, and galleries by famous and talented artists and photographers.

Then there are the vast numbers of talk show and news show guests flowing in and out of studios morning, afternoon, and evening, seven days a week. Specialty stores host many renowned personalities as well, such as famous chefs in restaurants or cooking shops, and famous designers at top-brand clothiers.

The City hosts a number of trade shows each year as well, featuring expert speakers and presenters. Of course it’s not always easy to meet with these people—you can’t exactly ask for their autograph while they’re on stage, after all—but you can often catch them backstage before or after a performance or interview, or by their hotels or hosts’ locations, and most of them are quite gracious to their fans. Be sure you know exactly what they look like (don’t want to stop the wrong person!) and be creative about spotting them, but remember that no matter how famous they are, they are real people with real feelings and real obligations on their time, and you shouldn’t do anything too rude or intrusive (no waiting in people’s cars!) for an autograph. And if you don’t live in New York, don’t worry; these tips apply to anywhere a celeb or expert might live or travel!

How can I prove that an autograph is authentic?

In short, you can’t prove the authenticity of an autograph unless your book is numbered serially (at one event with J. K. Rowling, they placed a dated hologram on the title page of every autographed book). However, it helps to keep proof that you were with the author when the book was signed: a copy of the event flier and a dated cash register receipt, a copy of the event’s guidelines (how many books you can buy, whether photos are allowed, etc.) that name the author and location, ticket-line wristbands, or anything else that might demonstrate your case.

Even better, if guidelines allow, snap a photo of the author signing the book (if it’s numbered), or of you and the author together. Unless you’re a large, trusted company, issuing a Certificate of Authenticity is meaningless, and the above suggestions will carry much more weight.

If the autograph will increase the value of the book tremendously, you may wish to consult a professional bookseller or company that provides services in autograph authentication.

We recommend http://www.psadna.com/ or AMA (http://www.autographsauthentication.com/index.html)

I want to attend a signing and I need a ticket, but they’re sold out. Now what?

There’s no such thing as a truly sold-out event. The best way to handle this is to arrive early and let the ticket workers know that you’d love a ticket if someone fails to show. Stay within their sights. Check back repeatedly, but not so much that you make a nuisance of yourself. Meanwhile, ask the people waiting in line or entering the event if they have a spare ticket; often, someone will and will be happy to give or sell it to you. Never give up hope on a “sold-out” event!

Why do some authors only sign books with an inscription?

Some authors, such as Peter Max and Michael Crichton, employ this rule. Their hope is that if the book is inscribed to a specific person, others won’t want it, thus making it worth less and discouraging vendors or dealers who get autographs strictly to resell them. This may seem like a good idea at first glance, but it’s actually quite unfortunate in practice because most authors do only a very small number of personal appearances each year, usually in major cities.

If you don’t live in or have access to one of those major cities and small number of shows, then it becomes impossible for you to get an autographed copy from those writers without someone else’s name in it—hardly fair to the vast majority of fans in the world!

Can I ask a bookstore to save or mail me an autographed book?

If you’re willing to pay for the book and shipping ahead of time, most independent booksellers will happily do this, regardless of how far they may be from you. The chain stores may, but there’s no guarantee and it often depends heavily on the person you speak with.

Also, the big-name authors may not have the time to autograph extra copies for the store, especially if they can’t even get to everyone who was waiting in line. Still, it costs you nothing but a phone call to find out!

Can I get a book autographed to me?

This depends on the circumstances and usually depends on how many people are waiting for an autograph; personalizing an autograph takes time, after all. Still, no matter what the stated rules, it can’t hurt for you to very politely ask the author, when it’s your turn, “Hi, could you please sign it ‘To Mary, my biggest fan’?” They might be perfectly happy to do so. That being said, don’t push, don’t pester, don’t be disappointed if the author says no, and DON’T ask the author’s staff or handler standing with the author if it’s allowed (after all, if they say no, you’ve lost your chance!).

Are autographed books that aren’t personalized worth more?

Usually yes, though on occasion, autographs (such as Elvis’s) have been verified by the personal inscription present along with them. Still, the monetary value of a book may pale in comparison to the sentimental or personal value, so don’t hesitate to have a book inscribed to you or to the person you’re buying it for.

Why aren’t photographs permitted at some signings?

Usually, this is a time issue; if the author were to pose for everyone, he or she wouldn’t have nearly as much time to sign books. In a few cases, it’s a privacy issue; the author doesn’t want any unauthorized pictures showing up online or in the tabloids. There have even been cases where the camera flash can exacerbate a medical issue, such as an eye problem or a seizure condition.

If you are dead set on getting a picture, regardless of the rules, then you should take the smallest possible camera (such as a keychain or cell phone camera), use ASA 400 or 800 film (or the digital equivalent), turn off the flash, and do not ask the staff if photos are allowed. Be as discreet as you possibly can; staff have on rare occasion confiscated cameras at no-photos-allowed events.

Should I use a marker or pen? Which kind?

This depends on what kind of page you’re getting signed. Usually, a standard ballpoint pen is just fine; the ink is just as “permanent” as any Sharpie’s on paper. Use a blue pen instead of a black one so as to make it clear that the signature isn’t pre-printed or a mechanical reproduction or copy. A medium-point Bic is fine, and a gel pen with archival-quality ink is also fine. For darker pages (a navy title page, for example), use a silver Sharpie. For non-matte surfaces (glossy photos, DVD or CD cases, etc.), use a fine-point black Sharpie.

Be sure to let the autograph dry completely before closing the book or touching, rubbing, or smudging the ink in any way, lest you smear it. And always bring your own pen! This way you can still get an autograph, even if the author doesn’t have anything to write with. As a courtesy, offer to let him or her keep your pen for future autographs.

Which part of the book should I get signed?

Always, always get the book signed on the title page because this is the most desirable for collectors. Keep in mind that the author’s staff may try to talk you into getting the book signed on the half-title page (the page before the title page that has nothing on it but the title itself) because it is easier for the author to sign hundreds of copies if he can rest his whole hand on the book and sign at the top, rather than having to sign at the bottom of the title page (the only place there’s room on the title page) and leave his hand unsupported. Despite potentially legitimate issues of hand fatigue, get the author to sign on the title page for you if at all possible.

How do you accomplish this? First, don’t as the staff what page the author is signing. Second, bookmark the title page with the jacket flap so that the author will naturally open the book to the right place. Offer the author your silver Sharpie if the title page is a dark color. If, despite all this, the author still flips to the half-title page, don’t push; be thankful for the autograph, no matter where it ends up.

Do veteran event-goers have any advice for first-timers like me?

We have several tips for first-time event attendees. First, call before you leave to make sure the time and place hasn’t changed and that the event hasn’t been cancelled. Also find out if you need to wait in line for tickets, wristbands, or other crowd-control devices. And ask if books will be available on-site for purchase and if there’s any risk of them running out before you can buy one. If the event is for a particularly famous or high-profile author, call much earlier with these questions; some event tickets sell out weeks ahead of time!

Remember to bring a pen when you go. And when you get there, make friends with the people in line with you; you might be waiting a while. Speaking of waiting a while, get there early if you can: an hour early for lower-profile authors, two hours for higher-profile ones. For the biggest names, you might want to wait a day or more; a line for a Monday Paul McCartney event filled up on Saturday.

The more important the autograph is to you, the earlier you should show, because you never know how many people might show up or how many books the author can sign in a session. Also, the closer you are to the front of the line, the neater the signature will be (the author’s hand won’t be as tired yet), and the less likely some unforeseen issue or conflict will pull the author from the event before you get your signature.

Ideally, you should buy your book from the store hosting the signing. After all, they went to the trouble and expense of bringing in the author and advertising the signing, and you’re getting the opportunity to meet the author only because of the work the hosts have done for you. When buying the book, check it carefully for condition before getting it signed. Does the jacket show rubbing (a type of wear/scratching that only shows when you hold it to the light at an angle), wrinkling, or tearing at any points along the corners, edges, or spine? Is the book a first printing (your book cannot be a first edition if it’s not a first printing, regardless of what claims anyone makes)? If it isn’t, check the other copies for sale, since first and later printings are often sold together. Are the book pages pristine? If not, grab another copy (but remember to check the printing again!). If the pages are perfect but the cover isn’t, swap the jacket out for a clean one. If you’ve already bought the book, ask the clerk to switch copies for you.

How many copies of a book can I get autographed?

This usually depends on the popularity of the author and the length of the line. A big-name writer doesn’t need the event to sell copies and will have no problems restricting signatures to one per person. A smaller author who draws a smaller crowd may depend fairly heavily on book signings to sell copies and will let people get as many autographs as they’d like, within reason. In either case, remember that the authors, publishers, and bookstores want to let the largest possible number of people get an autograph, and would prefer to do so in a limited period of time so as not to spend extra money on security and other event support staff.

At events where you’re limited to, say, three or four autographs, you may be able to get other attendees with only one book—those people you’ve been chatting with while waiting—to collect extra signatures for you. At events where no limit is explicitly stated, do not ask if there is one.

My out-of-town/oversleeping/too-lazy-to-stand-in-line friend/relative wants to come to the event. Can I save his place?

Maybe. A few events have an explicit no-saving policy. Most just expect you to be courteous and think of the Golden Rule: it’s probably no big deal if you’ve been waiting in line all day and your wife joins you straight from work a couple hours before the event, but don’t let her entire office cut in front of you five minutes before the signing starts. After all, it’ll be awfully hard to get that autograph if you’ve been beaten to death by disgruntled fans with your own copy of the book!

Can I get a picture of me with the author?

We’ve already partly addressed the issue of photographs (Why aren’t photographs permitted at some signings?), but here’s some more info about events where photos are allowed: On very rare occasion, a member of the author’s or bookstore’s staff will provide someone to take pictures for you if you bring a camera.

Some events will permit you to take a picture of the author, but not pose with him or her. One of the best ways to get your picture with the author is to ask your line buddy (either someone attending with you or someone you’ve met while waiting) ahead of time to snap a photo of you and the author during the signing. As always, do not ask if this is permitted; just go for it!

Are books the only thing I can get autographed at a book signing?

This depends largely on the venue. At smaller events without big crowds, you can usually ask the author—a sports star who’s written a memoir, for example—to sign his book and your baseball. At larger venues or crowded events, the event managers will often make every effort to prevent this from happening.

Wherever the venue, don’t ask the staff if it’s permitted, since in the end it’s the author’s choice if he wants to sign things other than books. Having a particularly unique or compelling item (for instance, an obscure yearbook photo of an author you went to school with in fifth grade) or being particularly unique or compelling yourself (particularly handy if you want, say, Stephen King to sign your breasts), may make it nearly impossible for the author to say no.


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