It’s one of the most thrilling moments in a writer’s career—the first time you sign your name on a page of a book you’ve published. And while there are no formal publishing industry rules regarding book-signing etiquette, Self-Publishing Relief knows there are things you can do to ensure your author signature meets professional standards and effectively builds your author brand.
Here Are The Essential Professional Strategies For Signing Author Autographs
Use your dream pen. If you already have a special, favorite pen—and really, what writer doesn’t?—bring it along to book signings. Otherwise, it’s time to go pen shopping (yay!).
Choose a pen that is a reflection of the quality of your work—as opposed to a cheap, run-of-the-mill ballpoint. If you are autographing the inside of the cover of your book, a fine-line permanent marker might be your new best friend. If you are writing your autograph on one of the front pages of your book, experiment to find a pen that will make a bold mark without bleeding through multiple sheets of paper. And make sure when you head home, your favorite pen comes with you!
Your local paper boutiques, card stores, bookstores, and gift shops will probably have pens that you can test to find exactly the right one for your book signings. Choosing a pen isn’t necessarily a big deal for writing grocery lists or memos, but when you are signing many, many books at a time, you’ll definitely want a pen that is comfortable and works great. There’s nothing worse than having your pen run dry in the middle of the book signing (always bring a backup!).
Questions to ask yourself about choosing a pen for your author signature:
- How does this pen feel when I hold it?
- Is the ink going to bleed through the pages?
- Is the thickness of the line flattering to my handwriting?
- Do I have to press hard, or does it write easily?
- Is it sufficiently colorful/unique-looking that I’m not going to lose it?
- Does it give me the warm fuzzies?
If possible, bring along a sample copy of your book so that you can test your signature before you buy. If you can’t get to a store to make some experimental scribbles, here are a few online stores that sell fancy pens for your author signature:
- Pen Boutique
- Colorado Pens
Be consistent. When appraisers get together to determine the value of a book signed by a famous author, one of the first things they look for is the authenticity of the writer’s signature. If a writer normally signs his or her name in a specific way, but the signature in question looks different or is in an unusual position on the page, the validity of the author signature may be questioned. However you decide to sign your books, you’ll do a service to your fans (and the appraisers of the future) if you try to be consistent. Who knows? Your author signature might be worth something substantial someday!
Smile! This may not affect your handwriting, but it will affect your reputation. We’ve all heard stories from friends that go like this: “Yeah, I met [name of celebrity] once. She/he was kind of a jerk/wasn’t very nice/was totally arrogant.” People who put themselves in a position to be admired by readers and fans must live up to high expectations (one might even say unrealistic expectations). When a reader approaches you to sign a book, it’s important to have your game face on. You are the representative of your author brand. Smile, chitchat, and give your full attention to the person in front of you. When you make your fans feel valued, you ensure that the stories told about you will be flattering.
Attempt legibility. It may be a little disappointing to your fans if they really can’t read your handwriting—especially if they want bragging rights for having met their new favorite writer. Show your fans that you value their appreciation by taking your time and writing with care.
Helpful Hint: Rushing through an author signature so quickly that you inadvertently mess it up will mean that you are going to have to grab a new copy of your book and sign that one. It’s money not well spent. Take your time and make the most of your investment.
Choose where to sign. Most writers sign the title page of their books. A few writers will cross out their own printed name and add their John Hancock underneath. Other authors choose to sign inside the front cover. If you publish a coffee-table book, you may opt to write your name directly on the front cover—so your fans can proudly display it.
Ask questions before you sign. Before you so much as touch the nib of your pen to the page, there are a few questions you might want to ask your reader:
- Should I make it out to you? Many authors tailor their signature page to say, “Dear Fan’s Name.” But occasionally, a fan is buying a book as a gift for someone else, and in that case, you may need to set up your autograph to address that particular scenario.
- How do I spell that name? Never assume that you know how to spell even the most common name. Embrace the policy of asking every single fan to carefully spell his or her own name. If your reader raises an eyebrow at the inanity of your asking how to spell a common name, feel free to make a joke about how as a writer you never make assumptions about spelling.
- Can I personalize this for you? Some fans get excited about the idea of nabbing a personal note from you. But others want only your signature. Some readers may be hoping your book has a higher resale value if it is not personalized. Or they may want to preserve the flexibility of a standard author signature.
Add a personal note. Unless you are a super-famous writer with a line of fans extending out the bookstore door and halfway down the block, it is customary to write a short personal message when you are signing a book. But it can be very hard to think up something personal to jot down quickly at book-signing events, so having a plan before you arrive can be helpful.
If you are able to chitchat with your fan for a moment in order to ask them a little bit about themselves, you may find that it is easier to write a sincerely personalized line or two. Here are a few questions you might ask in order to glean some helpful personal information from your fan.
- Where are you from?
- How did you hear about this event?
- What drew you to buy this particular book?
- How are you finding the [name of event here] so far?
If you cannot quickly unearth a small tidbit of information to use for personalization, you will have to consider what sort of generic personalization phrases to use. Tailor your choice to the circumstances. Here are some examples of phrases you might want to use when you’re signing a book for a reader:
- So nice meeting you [in name of city OR at name of event]!
- Thanks for coming to my book signing.
- Wonderful to meet another [book genre] lover!
- Best of luck to you with [your own writing].
- Go team [name of state/sports team/other shared interest]!
- Here’s to [shared interest goes here].
- Three cheers for [shared interest goes here].
Sign off with flair. As with letters, this personal message is often wrapped up with a “signature” closing line or phrase. You may want to choose a colorful or quirky phrase that reflects your personality, or you may prefer to go the classic route. Here are some examples you might consider when you are signing your book:
- Thanks again,
- Best wishes,
- All the best,
- Happy reading,
- Adventure on,
- Crush it,
- Rock on,
Dash off a doodle. Some authors like to incorporate a hand-drawn signature image when they sign their name to a book. Examples of quick sketches might include: unique smiley faces, simple shapes (like a heart or star), simple graphics (like a lightbulb, feather, or cloud), animals, or even reader-related paraphernalia (like a book, cup of coffee, or bookmark).
Include the date. Some writers also jot the date on the books that they sign to commemorate the moment, but it is not strictly necessary.
7 Author Signature Marketing Opportunities That Can Help You Turn A Book Buyer Into A Lifelong Fan
When a reader asks you to sign a book, it’s an excellent opportunity to not only sell that one copy of your book, but to also actively persuade the reader to enter into a long-term relationship with you that will result in future book sales.
After you sign your name, don’t let your fan walk away from you without a promise to connect in some manner. Once you’ve convinced a fan to sign up, you can build your personal mailing list and grow your fan base.
Ideas To Maximize The Fan-Building Potential Of An Author Book-Signing Event
Stand out from the crowd. If you are signing books at a group author event, you are definitely going to want to give passersby an excuse to stop and chat with you. Learn more about how to make the most of your personal outreach at a busy author book-signing event.
Offer to be in a selfie. Ask your fan if he or she would like to take a quick selfie with you. With any luck, that person will be inclined to share the photo on social media—and tag you. A selfie is a great way to make it easy for your fans to spread the word about your writing.
Host a promotional contest. Invite your reader to fill out a small ticket with contact information and drop it into a bowl/hat/other eye-catching vessel in order to be entered into a contest to win a prize. Be sure to tell your reader that entering the contest means subscribing to your mailing list.
Tuck a promotional bookmark into the books you sign. Make sure your bookmark gives readers a nudge to visit your author website. Dangle the promise of a freebie for fans who sign up for your author email list (here’s a list of great ideas for cheap or free digital giveaways). Plus, you can give away more than one bookmark and ask your reader to share with a friend.
Give away a pen. Promotional pens also offer excellent opportunities to further reader engagement.
Let readers know what else you can do for them. Many authors sign books at trade organization events like writing conferences, where the movers and shakers of the publishing industry are on the hunt for opportunities and connections. If you have a side business, such as freelance editing, or if you are available for speaking engagements, you may want to hand out promotional flyers that list your available services. Include contact information/book cover art as well.
Connect on social media. If you find yourself chitchatting at length with a reader, why not take a moment to connect with one another on social media? Break out your smartphone and ask: Where can I find you on Facebook/Goodreads/etc.? With any luck, you will set the stage for a lasting relationship.
Writer, can you help us?
If you are a self-published author who has experience with signing books, please leave any additional tips in our comments section! Our readers would very much appreciate it!