Write it now: celebrity book signing sessions

Over the years I’ve done a fair few book signings. You sit in a bookshop or public venue with a pile of books, while people you don’t know – who often put you on a pedestal – queue up to meet…you. And get you to sign a book for them.

Wright_Illustrated History of New Zealand 2Most people I’ve met at these events are friendly, chatty, and welcoming.  Engaging, and I’ve spoken to some interesting and kind people along the way, all of whom have had wonderful stories of their own. I recall one delightful experience, particularly, in which I got chatting with one couple who were very enthusiastic about art deco (as, indeed, am I).

Some authors are cautious about the number of books they sign. I’m not. It’s a personal touch – and that’s great. Sometimes I’ll drop into the local bookstore and sign their stock – which adds sales potential. Signing the book also, I suspect, makes it less likely the store will return it to the publisher under ‘sale or return’ arrangements.

Still, for me these are always nerve-racking moments. Partly because I don’t regard anything I do as special, or that I should be important because of it.

But it’s nerve-racking mainly because I sometimes get asked to inscribe my books, and  I can’t hand-write. Not legibly, anyway.

It’s like this. As a kid, I was left handed, which was why I wrote backwards and upside down in a sea of spattered ink. Alas, despite heroic efforts with every tool at their disposal – humiliation, class ridicule and many ingenious punishments – the teachers were unable to get me to write with the Proper Hand. Thus proving, apparently, what a stupid and worthless child I was. Of course, it could have been that the New Zealand school system was run as a barbaric exercise in conformity, enforced by weak and sadistic bullies who got their personal jollies out of punishing children entrusted to their care. But I digress.

The upshot was that I left primary school with worse hand-writing than I’d gone into it with, and I’ve never bothered trying to fix it. I can read the stuff. But it gets awkward when I fill out forms – assuming I don’t misread the form in the first place. And so when somebody buys one of my books and asks me to inscribe it, I’ll happily sign my name, but I don’t want to mess up their purchase with hand writing.

I remember one time a reader persisted – would I please, please, inscribe a particular phrase. I didn’t want to let them down, I did my best…but there’s no backspace with pen and ink. Sigh.

I did think of getting  a rubber stamp made, but it wouldn’t be the same.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013

Coming up: More writing tips, humour, science posts and – well, you’ll see. Watch this space.

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5 comments on “Write it now: celebrity book signing sessions

  1. I’ve only been to one book signing (David Baldacci) but I always wondered what it was like for the author meeting all those people! Thanks for this unique point of view.

    • The other nervous element is when nobody shows up…and this HAS happened to me, a few years back when I was on a whirlwind tour of about a dozen bookstores across several towns in a single day. Most of them were well patronised and one of them kept me there ages, signing all 100 copies of my book which they had in stock. Then I got to a small and more specialist shop in a nearby town…and nobody turned up.. But I had a good chat with the shop owner and caught up on a lot of the industry news.

  2. KM Huber says:

    My beloved aunt was left handed and had similar stories, and I remember grade school teachers who considered it part of their job to dissuade the left-handed. Oh, human beings….

    I guess I had never considered that authors would be cautious about signing books. I guess I understand it but I am with you–it adds a personal touch–and I am all about that connection between writer and reader.

    As always, an interesting post, Matthew.
    Karen

    • The sad part is that this happened in the 1960s – well after the primary school system was supposed to have been purged of its Dickensian role as a punitive institution for crushing joyful youth. Possibly it was due to NZ’s tendency to model itself on British institutions. Half my problem was that the school demanded that kids used old-style fountain pens – this when (special NASA pressurised) biros were already being used in space! Roger Waters basically nailed it in The Wall…

  3. My hand writing is hideous. After years and years my signature comes out about the same every time now. However, like you, I can’t seem to write more than a word or to without creating a scribbling mess. Unfortunately, I have always been right-handed. ;-)

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