I remember the first time I beheld a signed copy of a popular novel. It was one of those Lawrence Block tomes about a seedy character named Matthew Scudder, books that I used to eat up like Frosted Flakes. They were vapid, but somehow kept my interest the way few books did in the early ’90s. Then, I saw a book in a bookstore (I don’t even remember what book it was, but it was in Borders) that had a sticker on its cover that proudly read “Autographed Copy.” I wondered at how a book could blatantly lie like that, but then when I opened the cover, there it was, just as advertised, the author’s signature. I thought, “It’s got to suck to be famous because everyone wants a piece of you,” and then I realized that particular author wasn’t famous. Oops.
Then I became an English teacher and headed off to the mecca of all English teacher hangouts, the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) national conference, held in Pittsburgh one year. At the conference, to my great surprise, were all kinds of authors who sat at booths at prescribed times, and, you’ll never believe this, SIGNED BOOKS FOR TEACHERS. I know. I’m still trying to catch my breath over that one, and this was a number of years ago when I was at the Pittsburgh conference. I was like a kid in a candy store. I met Nicholas Sparks, Lois Lowry, Laurie Halse Anderson, that guy who wrote the Uglies series, and many more. I was hooked.
I soon realized I was addicted to getting signatures. I found myself buying five books I didn’t need just in order to get more time with the author, to get him/her to sign even more items for me. I would have probably asked them to sign my clothing too if I didn’t still have a shred of self-control left by that point (Seriously, though, Dan Brown, can you just sign my t-shirt? My hat?), but I somehow held myself in check.
And it wasn’t just restricted to books either. I went to golf tournaments during the practice rounds and got signatures from guys I didn’t even recognize. They could have been caddies or people who were members of the club, but I didn’t care. If they had a club in their hands I begged for their autograph. It reminded me of the bicentennial celebration when my school was a part of it, and we were all wandering behind the scenes in the Philadelphia Civic Center getting autographs from George Peppard, Rich Little, Bill Cosby, Patti LaBelle, and tons more.
Now I’ve joined the ranks, no — not of the rich and famous, but the ranks of someone who has something to autograph. When my first book was published in April I just wanted to sell a few copies. Little did I realize that the people who bought my book would want to have it signed, until they began asking. So I obliged, and it was weird at first, to be on the other side of the signature coin, but I’ve been getting more used to it as the time has gone by.
However, it’s all going to be strange again since I have my very first official book signing in two days at the Utica Public Library. In fact, I was in there yesterday and I saw the giant placard advertising the book signing, with my author photo right on it, looking all professional. I am anxious but excited at the same time for this new frontier. And while I don’t quite know how I’ll feel when two days pass and I’m sitting in that chair signing autographs for a new generation of book fans, but I know I’ll be happy, because boy, do I love autographs!