Tonight I’ll be speaking at the library in Brunswick Maine (7 pm, if you’re in the area) and then signing my books.
Before my first book was published I thought of a book signing as a somewhat mystical event. I went to quite a few of the NYC YMHA readings by literary figures and sat in awe of my own personal gods and goddesses (Toni Morrison! Louise Erdrich! Michael Dorris! Alice Walker!) I owned all their books. But I never dared bother them by joining the lines to have those books signed. It seemed so – presumptuous.
And when first faced with a real, actual, book of my own, I was suddenly overwhelmed by decisions. Does one sign on the title page? The dedication page? The blank page at the front of the book? I asked other authors, and found they had very strong – and different – opinions. (I decided to sign on the title page.)
On last week’s episode of CASTLE I was horrified to see “Richard Castle” sign his latest best seller on the cover. “No!” I wanted to shriek. “It will smear! No one signs on the cover!”
Since some of my books are for children, I frequently sign books for young readers. At my first children’s book fair I became incredibly jealous when I saw author/illustrators drawing creative little pictures next to their signatures. The first time a child asked me to sign a book and then examined my signature to see whether I’d drawn a roller-skating dinosaur or a teddy bear or, best of all, a portrait of HER — and found I’d just signed my name … it was sad. “I just write books,” I had to explain lamely. “I don’t draw.”
There was also that name itself. Some authors, I was advised, develop a special signing signature — different from their real signature — for legal reasons. (So no one can forge their name.) Since my legal name is not Lea Wait (didn’t know that, did you?) luckily, I didn’t have that problem.
Which brings up the all-important choice of pen. Ball point looks so … common. But nothing that smears … And ink color. Black? Blue? And width of point …
And of course you must write a memorable phrase in addition to your name. “Happy reading!” is not sizzling. “We must have been lovers in another life” would attract attention .. but possibly not the attention you’d always want. I settled, in my first book, for “May you have a lifetime filled with happy endings.” It worked for almost anyone, and took a while to write — which was great when you didn’t have a lot of people waiting in line for your signature. (My publicist had told me it was good to slow down the line so you always looked busy.)
I’ve had 9 books published now. I’ve had short lines and long lines. I’ve written memorable notes and had people come back ten minutes later and say, hesitantly, “Excuse me, but … what did you write? I can’t read your handwriting.”
I figure I’m an expert.
So, tonight, I’m going to speak at a library and do a signing. I have my special pens ready, and my useful words in mind. I know what page to sign on.
Now… all I have to do is sell some books! If you buy one, please ask me to sign it. No author will ever feel it’s a bother. Trust me. Now I know.