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Saturday, 12 June 2010

How to Sign a Book

For all you debut novelists out there who are about to be published, you need to decide how you will sign your books. I was given several tips on the day of my book launch, all of them too late to prevent my ad hoc signing!

Here are my tips:

Top Tip - It helps if you can spell your own name.

1. Use indelible ink (some people read in the bath or while standing in the rain at bus stops)

2. Take your time, nobody likes a mis-spelled dedication or a  crossing out, and you can't get Tipp-ex in shops any more.
3. Bookshops like you to sign legibly under your printed name (and no dedication). Looks like Dickens didn't listen to that advice...

4. Relations like you to dedicate it on the front left inside cover so it can never be removed except by dipping it in a bath of paint-thinners or blow-torching it off.

5. Some people look miffed if you sign it best wishes when someone else has very best wishes so try to standardise your greeting unless you want fisticuffs over the table.

6. Someone suggested I should write "for" so-and-so, not "to" so-and-so, which apparently makes it sound like a gift. (And they've just paid for it.)

7. If your book has a jacket, the signature should not be hidden under the jacket where nobody can see it - this means you must write either very small or sideways.

8. Practise writing your pen name a few dozen times even though it feels faintly ridiculous doing it, because otherwise it comes out looking like something you might have written on the front of an exercise book at primary school.

A Jane Austen signature, don't ask,
can't tell which body part that is...
9. Ask the person what they would like you to write and where. (see left)

10. Thank the person for buying your book - obvious, but easy to forget in the heat of trying to remember how to write your name!

As a historical novelist, I would like to have been able to sign with a lovely feathery quill, but my research has told me that in fact the fluffy part of the feathers was often trimmed off to avoid the feather tickling the writer's nose!

You can see details of my other signings on the events page, and I would love top hear from any other writers about their signing experiences!


  1. Thank you for telling us such important news, this is just the sort of things us newbies need to know.

  2. Hi Jarmara, I'm still learning as I'm going along, but maybe you'll find your own unque way.

  3. Think that should have been "unique" - see what I mean about rushing the writing!

  4. I hate hate hate signings. All may family are into performing in one way or another, but I'm not. I don't like being the centre of attention, and dread the empty bookshop and the table laden with unsold books. And my signature is illegible. But you have inspired me to brace myself for another session. Thank you Dee.

    I think.

  5. Hi Frances, just about to do two book shop signings, so hoping someone wil turn up!

  6. Writing legibly always is a handy tip! I recently posted about an author who signed one of my books. I have been trying to work out what it says for the best part of 18 months.

  7. I'm with Frances, signings are awful... But what about 'lines' - ie lines from the book? Collectors tend to be particularly keen on those and I was amazed what proportion of hardback sales goes to collectors of first editions and people who are trying to predict the next big thing!

  8. Alis - am I being particularly stupid? Lines? What lines? Where?

  9. Hello everyone, thanks for your comments. Yes, can you enlighten us about the "lines". Are these quotes from the book? If so, I'll start to think about whether there is anything quotable in it. And then (as Marg says) to practice writing it legibly!

  10. Yep, "lines" are lines from the book. Often the first line. Which ought to teach one to be more economical with first lines.

    "Signed and lined by the author" has become a standard in the trade. Why they want the writer to scribble it down again is beyond me. I mean, we already invented it in the first place...

  11. Thanks! Came across this actually googling how to sign your book (my launch is in a week). The first couple I signed for friends with my normal scrawl that can't be deciphered and is usually saved for the backs of my credit cards. Practicing my whole name now. :)

    1. Oh my gosh! Signed and lined - this is my first line. The doll resting on the rail of the second floor piazza fell victim to a sudden ocean breeze and plunged into the wisteria vines that climbed the columns of the Charleston Bay house.