Friday, November 15, 2013

Autographed Books

I'm so grateful for the many visitors who stopped by my blog last Wednesday and for the kind comments you left. There was a lot of interest in my bookcase of autographed books, so for you, I'm posting a follow up. Readers who aren't interested might want to skip this one (it's long) and come back next time. Only really do come back, because I'll miss you if you're gone too long.

Some readers wanted to see more of my autographed books, and I will include some pictures later in this post. First, though, I thought I'd tell you more about how Paul and I built this collection with hints as to how you might start one of your own.

As I pointed out in my last post, I check the newspaper each week to see who might be coming to town. I'm lucky to live near a big city that attracts a lot of authors. The Chicago Tribune has a literary events page every Saturday. Your newspaper might have a similar offering. Our food section sometimes prints notices of cookbook writers' events, too. 

That's the primary way we find out about author visits, but I have two other ways as well. First, once you get to know which venues host great events, you can get on their mailing lists or you can make a habit of visiting their websites. Over time, you will learn who hosts great events and who typically botches the job. One of my very favorite venues is the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago. They post their events clearly on their website, and I love their events.  

Finally, you can keep track of your favorite authors' book tours. For example, I can see that one of my favorites, Bill Bryson, will not be in the United States at all for the rest of the year. Boo. I also follow some of my favorite authors on Facebook.  

Once you've decided to attend an event, read the details closely. Some venues have certain restrictions such as no photographs or autographs only on the book being promoted. It's nice to know these ahead of time so that you're not disappointed. You should also note if the venue plans to give guests numbered tickets for a place in line. I always appreciate the venues that do this, because then I know my place in line is secure, and because I don't actually have to stand in line the whole time--they usually call us up in groups of twenty. Here again, it's good to know if they have any restrictions on the number of guests that will get autographs. Sometimes they say only the first 300 people will get books signed. If you're going to see someone very popular or very famous, you'll want to get there early. When I went to see Rachael Ray, the store was giving out wristbands as soon as the store opened even though the event wasn't until that afternoon. My husband got in line for me about an hour and a half before the store opened. Twenty minutes after opening, the wristbands were gone. Thanks, honey, for sparing me disappointment!

At most book signings, you can expect the author to read a selection from the book. He or she will take questions from the audience. Then he or she will sit at a table with a water bottle and a handful of Sharpie markers. You'll get in line as instructed by the venue host and wait. Eventually, you'll get up to the table where the author will sign the book--sometimes with just a signature, sometimes with personalization. If you're like me, you'll try to think of something clever to say to the author, but you'll just say something dumb like, "How do you like Chicago?" I'm such a dweeb.   

Some events include a lecture or an interview. I love these events. Some events are nothing but a signing. These are still enjoyable but not as much.

It is good form to buy the book that the author is promoting, but you can usually have other items signed as well. Rachael Ray was willing to sign ANYTHING including what she calls "spoonulas."  

Should you bring your children? Well, you know what your kids can manage, but you should be prepared for them to be bored out of their minds. Bring something for them to do. Sometimes, when you're going to see a children's book author, the venue will make it child-friendly with an activity sheet or a snack or something. Alton Brown insists that families with young children cut to the front of the line so that they can get their youngsters to bed. So thoughtful! I took Caroline to her first book signing when she was six weeks old. She cried every time I tried to sit down so I had to stand in back and do the mama sway. Eight years later, she didn't cry at all at this event:

She is getting My Beloved World signed by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Pretty cool, huh?

I have one last point before I show you some of the books on the shelf. My husband sometimes sends books to authors by mail and asks for autographs. I never do this, because the event is more important to me than the signature. Some authors never tour, however, and this is how Paul gets their autographs. This strategy doesn't always work (J.D. Salinger unsurprisingly returned Paul's package unopened; Harper Lee's arthritis was too severe for her to write her name), but sometimes it does work. He got an autograph from the late Robert Byrd (the longest-serving U.S. senator).

Now, on to the shelf itself . . .

Here are a few more signatures . . .

Joyce Carol Oates and Toni Morrison 

Here's one that Paul sent to the author--Sandra Day O'Connor

Salman Rushdie (HUGE crowd--we had to sit in an overflow room) and Peter Mayle (he brought French bread and wine)

If you ever have a chance to see Mo Willems, GO!  He's a great presenter and makes it really fun for children.

The late Roger Ebert whose thoughtful essays about films have thankfully influenced many critics after him--he is missed.

I could be mistaken, but I think this is the one that started it all.  The first book signing I attended was H. Jackson Brown for Wit and Wisdom From the Peanut Butter Gang (he's better known for Life's Little Instruction Book).

Okay.  That's enough for now.  Thanks for your interest!

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