Things I Think About – Part IV: Signed Books

Things I Think About: Part IV - Signed Books

A lot of questions go through my brain on a daily basis, and so I keep lots of lists. Things I Think About is one such list. Originally I was going to post several of them all together, but I got too verbose (surprise!), so I’ve decided to break these down into separate posts. This is the fourth.

Are authors judging me based on my book signing behavior?

I’ve already explored the first question: if I bring ARCs to a signing but obviously didn’t BUY any of their books, do they dislike that? So let’s look at other question on this topic: if I just get them to sign it, but not personalize it, do they dislike that?

Here’s the thing. I go to a lot of author events, and the majority of them are hosted by Blue Willow Bookshop (shout out! I love you guys!). Blue Willow has signing lines down to a science. They host hundreds of events every year, including Teen Book Con, so they know what it takes to make things run smoothly.


One of my favorite signed books. Dan Krokos and I played on the same WoW server!

They always have plenty of helpers nearby, armed with sticky notes and a writing instrument. These helpers make sure each person has their books flapped (dust jacket placed on the page the author will sign, so you can open straight to it), and that they have stickies with their names on them so the author can easily personalize the books. My sister and I go there so often, we know the drill, and we always have our books flapped, prepped, and ready to go by the time we get in the signing line.

I love their expedience — but at the same time, this routine assumes that most people want to get their books personalized. I began putting name stickies in all my books because it just seemed part of the routine. The thing to do. I don’t know if this is how it goes at most events elsewhere, but around here, getting your books personalized is the norm.

But what if I don’t want my signed book to be personalized?

One time I brought a book through a signing line and didn’t want it personalized, so I didn’t have a sticky. Plus, it wasn’t a hardcover, so I couldn’t flap it easily. I actually felt sort of panicked, embarrassed, and guilty — especially when I kind of fumbled with the book as I handed it to the author, and nodded when he asked, “So you just want me to sign it?”

I’ve done it a few times since, and I always feel weird. I wonder: Is the author insulted if I don’t want it personalized? Do they even care? Do they think I didn’t like their book if I don’t want them to write my name in it? Should this even matter to me?

Other bloggers (like Kelly here) have talked about how they never get a book personalized when they go through a signing line, so I know it’s not like I’m the only one. Sometimes I do want it to be personal (because I’m a super fangirl or something?), but I don’t want to feel weird if that’s not my preference with every book.

 I’m overthinking this, right? Do you get your signed books personalized?

These are the things I think about. Help! I’m drowning.

Read 29 comments

  1. Oh wow. Uhm. I have very few books signed because we have very few author events near me. Bummer. I’ve won signed books twice, and once the competition host asked me if I wanted it personalised, so I did. But if an author doesn’t offer to personalise it, I don’t want to ask! They’re like gods to me so I’m always very bashful.

    I don’t think it should bother an author if you don’t want it personalised. I mean, maybe you want to give it as a gift but you don’t know to whom yet. Maybe you want to keep it as a collector’s item. Maybe – I don’t know.

    Probably overthinking it a little, but I mean, it’s your mind and your blog and you’re allowed to think as much as you want! But I don’t think you have to worry :)

    • Yeah, I’m sure I’m over-thinking it. It’s just weird because, what you’re saying makes sense. There are plenty of reasons why I wouldn’t want to get a book personalized, so I shouldn’t feel weird about it. Maybe it’s just been coincidental (or perhaps all in my head?) that the author seemed a bit surprised/disappointed when I didn’t ask to get the book personalized.

  2. Most of the author events I go to are fairly small, as we’ve already discussed ;-). I also tend to end up at the end of the line because I don’t mind waiting and chatting with my friends at the store. Therefore, when it’s my turn to get my book signed, there are usually very few people left around so it doesn’t seem a problem for me to chat a bit with the author, at which point if I’m not getting it personalized, I usually mention that I’m a blogger and am going to be holding a giveaway for the book. I’m pretty sure that authors would appreciate that free publicity right?

    • Yeah, sounds like you have a great setup at your local store. My sister and I usually end up somewhere near the front of the line, somehow. I think we’re some of the most eager people to attend these events, so we just happen to get lower numbers on our signing line tickets. But anyway, yeah, I’ve never mentioned my blog or doing giveaways to an author, except for Brandon Sanderson, and that was after I’d already done the giveaway and both winners chose Steelheart, lol.

  3. I kind of have to laugh at the author. If you’re standing in line and offering his or her book to him or her to be signed, shouldn’t it be a smidge obvious that it should be what you want; a signature. If they’re offended by a reader not wanting a personalized book, then it’s their loss. I didn’t even consider it as an option to have an author to sign a book with my name in it. I just thought it was their name and that’s it, maybe a “thank you” or something written in it, but my name?
    - Krys

    • Yeah, around where I live, it seems to be a big trend for people get their signed books personalized, so they end up writing something like: “To/Dear/For Kelley. ” and then their signature. It’s actually surprised me, and I laugh a bit on the inside, when I hand them a book with no KELLEY post-it inside. They open it up and look for a name sticky, then say, “So you just want me to sign it? Just a generic signature?” or something along those lines, and I’m like “Yes, please!” Hehe…

  4. I’ve never been to author events, but I don’t think that authors are that petty. You’re buying the book and you want it signed – just because you don’t want it personalized doesn’t mean you’re rude or anything. Maybe you just want it for a giveaway, so you can spread the love, especially if you like the book.

  5. I’ve been a book collector since forever, and one of the prime rules of collecting is that you NEVER get books inscribed (personalized). This takes away from the value of the book. But if I know I’ll keep the book forever and it’s very special to me then I will get it inscribed. These days I may also buy a book just for a giveaway on my blog, and then I obviously don’t want my name in it, LOL! But honestly, I don’t think authors care one way or another if you want their books personalized or not. I doubt they’re offended if you ask them to just sign it.

  6. For the Horde! lol That would be so awesome to meet an author tat was actually on your server. What server did you play on? I’m sure it wasn’t the same as mine since I’m east

    I do actually have a few personalized books (woo!) that I won in giveaways, but not from favourite authors. I think it would be easier to not get one personalized if you don’t think you’re going to want to keep the book forever, then you can pass it on to someone else. I keep all of my signed books, but I don’t really have many ;)

  7. I have been to like ZERO author events/signings so I don’t really have many signed books. The very few that I own are ones I won in giveaways and received for review. But I can tell you that I definitely prefer a personalized one over one that’s just signed(not that it’s any less special!).

    But yes if I’m going to give it away, I’d prefer to give an un-personalized one-I don’t think the authors are gonna be offended because the fact that you are attending the signing itself shows how you feel about the book right? :)

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  9. When they ask, “Do you just want me to sign it?” it’s probably to double check, and/or because they feel strange signing only their name. I mean I can imagine it feels too much like signing a check or something, you know? They’re just trying to assign some meaning to what they sign and want to include more than just their name. I’m sure most of them aren’t insulted by it, though.

  10. Ugh I got a copy of The 5th Wave signed at BEA. I was only in line at all because my friend wanted the book signed, and I figured since I was in line anyway I should get one signed. But since I didn’t want the book for myself I thought I’d give it away, so I didn’t want it personalised. But when I got up there and had to tell him “no I don’t want you to sign it to me” I felt SO AWKWARD. It’s like I was actually saying “No, I will not be keeping or reading this book for myself.”

    Gah. And I swear the author kind of looked at me funny. (or maybe I imagined it)

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  12. I love personalised copies but I’m ambivalent about signed copies. I’ve only been to two author events: the first was David Levithan, who personalised a copy of The Lover’s Dictionary for me and signed a copy of Every Day when I explained it was for a giveaway on my blog (which he was really humble about!); the second was Patrick Ness, who is my all-time favourite author, so I got my whole backlog of his books personalised.

    I mean, I’m not interested in having books signed as collector’s items. I’m interested in having them signed for me because I either had a connection with that book in particular (as with The Lover’s Dictionary) or with that author (as with Patrick Ness). The personalisation makes that connection more…obvious? tangible? I loved that book/author so much that I went out and got it signed because it meant something to me, not because I can see the potential value in a signed book years down the line. If that makes sense.

    I do have one signed but not personalised copy. It’s the recently released Waterstone’s exclusive hardback of The Fault in Our Stars, all of which come signed by John Green. I jumped at the chance because it’s a beautiful new edition, and it’s signed! But honestly, once I’d bought it and opened it up to his signature, I was underwhelmed. It just seemed…cold. Clinical. A signature he did sat at a table in some office somewhere. That signature doesn’t mean anything to me, whereas the books I have personalised by Patrick Ness do because they bring back memories of the event and the chance to meet my favourite author.

    I think some of the worry from the author’s end about non-personalised book might be that you’re only there to get it signed to sell it on. At the Patrick Ness event, I was the very last person in the signing line (god, it took forever, haha!) so I ended up in conversation with the guy in front, who had 1st edition hardbacks of two of the Chaos Walking books, which are apparently very expensive and very collectible! (The one he’s missing is being sold for £80, I think he said.) Patrick Ness did ask him if he was getting them signed to sell on, not impolitely, but I guess that goes to show some of the author mindset when people get books signed but not personalised. Of course, there are probably other factors — like, maybe that author is just rude!

    • Funny, one of my few non-personalized-but-signed book is the Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan! But I know exactly what you mean. I want a book signed and personalized because I connected with the book/author and it means something special to me. And the way you felt about that pre-signed John Green book? Yes, I agree! I actually have a few of those, too, and they feel weird. Like… I bought them because I wanted the books, and they just happened to be signed already.

      And even though I didn’t get my Levithan book personalized, I still have fond memories of the event, and of meeting him in the signing line, etc. So that counts for something, right? I guess I just didn’t want to get that one personalized because I connected with that particular book in a weird and uncomfortable way, and it felt odd to have it somehow “dedicated” to me, if that makes any sense.

      I go to so many events that signed books just feel kind of commonplace for me, at the moment, so it just seems like… Well, if I’m there and I have the books (even if I haven’t read them yet, or didn’t like/love them), so why not get the author to sign them? It definitely makes the book more special, imo, even if it isn’t personalized. I’m not really one to want to sell books as collector’s items, but I guess I figure I *could* get a few more bucks for a book if it’s signed, if at some point I do want to trade it in to Half-Price Books or something. More than likely, though, if I didn’t want to keep it, I’d do a giveaway on my blog, and give it to someone who will appreciate the signed copy more than me. Shrug.

      Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts, Nikki!

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