Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Signature Peace - Joan Lennon



Don't get me wrong - I love book signing. I'm even not too irritated by scruffy-scraps-of-paper-doomed-to-be lost-before-break-time signing. I draw the line at signing flesh or school shirts or books written by other people, but that's just because I'm scared of angry mothers and the prospect of Roald Dahl rising from the dead. But just because I love doing it, doesn't mean I'm completely confident.

There are so many things to not be sure about.

For example, the other day I was signing a sheet of sticky labels at top speed (the labels were to put in the books of kids who'd forgotten to bring in their money but still wanted to buy one, and the speed was because I was up to the wire in terms of catching the train home) and someone leaned over my shoulder and said in a slightly disappointed tone, "Oh. I can read your signature." And it's true. I'm legible. How boring.

Or what about the other things writers write when their signing? "To So-and-So" - well, early on I learned from an experienced author to always have some spare paper and an extra pen for children to write their first names on. You CAN'T just wing it, and it is a law of nature that the child with the most obscurely-spelt name is also the one with the tiny, tiny voice ...

And THEN what? Some words of wisdom? A pertinent - or even impertinent - joke? What about the date - do you put down the date? And don't even get me started on those wretches who can just doodle up a terrific little drawing, right then and there, while being watched with all that adoration ...


Nobody gives lessons in this stuff - until now! I declare that Book Signing 101 is now open for applicants - and tutors!

So, writers among you - will you tell the rest of us? What do YOU write when you sign books?

And readers? What would YOU like to see on the frontispiece of your purchase? Remembering, please, that the author may very well be hoping to catch a train ...

Cheers, Joan.


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20 comments:

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Sue Purkiss said...

I have a very boring signature. it looks just the same as it did when I was 12 - well, except that the surname's different. In fact it was probably more interesting then, as I had a phase of trying to write in elven script. The best I can manage is a slanting line underneath, which I try to do with a dashing flourish.

Charmaine Clancy said...

I suck at even thinking what to write when the old work 'get well' card comes around for signing. I'm dreading the time I'll have to sign my book - I'll probably write: Hope you're feeling better soon...

Wagging Tales

adele said...

I have a boring signature for books which is just my name, written legibly. It's not the same as my signature for the bank etc. I spent HOURS practising signing my name when a child for just such things!! Got it down to a fine art now!

Nick Green said...

I cannot really draw, but I taught myself to do a little doodle (sorry Joan) designed for ease of quick reproduction, as my signature itself is quite dull. It was imperative that I could draw it with simple, unskilled steps: shallow crescent, deep crescent, two little triangles, tiny circle, tiny line, whiskers. Voila, a cat face, as befits the author of The Cat Kin.

Abie Longstaff said...

I signed 200 books in a row last week and by the end my signature had started to morph into a new creature of its own. Also - I had made the mistake of starting writing 'with love from Abie' as well as signing which made the whole process even worse.

Abie Longstaff said...

I signed 200 books in a row last week and by the end my signature had started to morph into a new creature of its own. Also - I had made the mistake of starting writing 'with love from Abie' as well as signing which made the whole process even worse.

madwippitt said...

I'm afraid that I like it when there's a personal little inscription rather than just a hastily scribbled signature. I have couple I particularly treasure, one from Eoin Colfer after I berated him over his rather harsh treatment of Butler, and another from Robin Hobb following some email correspondence. I get a real thrill of excitement as I stand in line to get a book signed (although sometimes slightly embarrassed by its scuffed, thumbed through appearance as I've usually already bought and read it) By the time I get to the front I'm often so tongue tied with excitement and awe it's all I can do to squeak my name out.
And I get really cross with the people who stand there with half a dozen copies to sign, which they have no intention of either reading themselves or giving as gifts, chatting amongst themselves about what a terrific investment it will be if it takes off like Harry Potter!

Paeony Lewis said...

Ha ha, yes, however simple and obvious the name, I always check the spelling. Otherwise I've ended up having to replace the book with one of my own copies.

I too always write a message because personally, if I have a book signed, then I want more than an anonymous signature as I'm not planning to sell the book. But as for darn scraps of paper... A couple of times I've tried to get away with a quick signature and I've smiled when the primary school boys have asked me to add 'love' to it!

Penny Dolan said...

I always have a large pad by me so I can write the children's name down there first and check it with them, but the act also helps me get the shape of the name in my head and check where it will best go on the title page.

I also try NOT to listen to anyone talking nearby as spoken words often worm into my head with unfortunate results. eg "To Banana, wishing you Happy Reading!"

Jackie Marchant said...

This is a very useful and timely post for me, as the launch of my first book is 5th July! I think I'm going to develop a signature that a) isn't my cheque book signature and b) is short. Don't want to get writer's cramp if I have a great long queue . . .

Linda Strachan said...

I worked out a quick squiggle that starts a bit like an S, as in my surname, then becomes a kind of loop and I add eyes and smile in the middle and the year at the side of it. Got it down to a fine art now and can do it very quickly and I can sometimes add a word like Easter at the other side if it seems appropriate. I normally have a short statement or couple of words that relate in some way to the book, e.g for Hamish McHaggis Search for the Loch Ness Monster I normally write 'Look out for Nessie' and put dots for eyes in the 'oo' of look.

Names are always a problem because even those you are perfectly sure no one can change.. you can bet someone has invented a new spelling!

Like Penny I try not to talk while I am actually writing, or listen to what someone else is saying beside me, otherwise I am as likely to spell my own name wrong! So I try to stop if someone asks me a question, unless there is a time issue, such as my catching a train or the children having to get a school bus etc.

My signature is reasonably clear most of the time, but that is just how it turns out. Some authors sign huge scrawls but I also recall seeing one author's signature that was tiny and it occurred to me that it had less presence on the page.

malachy doyle said...

I had to sign something in the bank recently and they said 'I'm afraid your signature has changed since we authorised it 12 years ago.' I said 'Yes, it's got rather more speedily flamboyant, I'm afraid. Probably because I've signed, oh, literally, THOUSANDS of my very own books!' Rather than being impressed, thay said 'Can you try and write it like you did 12 years ago, Mr. Doyle, so we know you're you.' So I did.

Jane Stemp said...

I designed my cheque-book signature when I was about 16 for all the wrong reasons, so it was a huge relief to have my author signature as the "real me"... basically it's a huge loopy JS with some name in between and a very dashing cross-bar to the e in Jane... I now use my book signature handwriting for my cheque-book, but as I acquired a different surname there's no danger of forgery

Anonymous said...

We enjoy legible signatures in our house - they're not dull - my kids like to know that it really IS the author writing their name! (Though I confess that Satoshi Kitamura's little drawings are wonderful, but you'd expect that ...) As to long messages, we much prefer authors who spend that time talking to the reader, even just a smile and a word. That's what the children remember afterwards. Shirley Hughes was utterly focussed on each child when we met her, and it was lovely to watch the connection she made every time.

catdownunder said...

I can, sort of, draw something that looks vaguely-somewhat like a cat. I am not sure that is quite what people would have in mind. So far it has not been a problem. I sometimes need to sign a document but I never write anything else. It is going to be a real problem for me if I ever become a published author. A stamp perhaps?

Susan Price said...

Made me laugh, Joan! I once signed books in Northern Ireland, and as many children had Gaelic names I hadn't a clue how to spell, I asked them to spell them for me.

'Ah,' said the girl, so I happily wrote 'R'.

'No! Ah! Ah for ahpple!'

Another said, 'Ay,' and I wrote 'A'. 'No! Ay for aylephant!'

'Eee'. I wrote 'E'. 'No! Eee for eeedjit!"

I got them to write their names down so I could copy. And that was one of the best book tours I ever did. Great people. Couldn't understand them, but great people.

Ann Turnbull said...

I think the comment we should all take note of is the one by Anonymous: that what counts is not the fancy signature or the unusual message, but the personal interest. It's so easy to forget that - especially if you're feeling nervous.

bookwitch said...

I don't mind what people do. It's the diversity that's so nice.
But recently I was looking at the signatures in an anthology I have, and in the end I could only decipher the last one by working out who the others were, and who I had ever met of the authors. Turns out the squiggle was Eoin Colfer's.

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