Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Happy Reading! All Best Wishes!

My co-worker Tamara has been one of my staunchest supporters from the very beginning of my writing career. Over the past decade or so she has lived through my painful relationship with screenwriting in the ever fickle world of Hollywood; listened to my “I’ll never get published” cries of anguish during the dark years of writing into a black hole and—at last—graciously bought a copy of each of my four books.

So it was with a sense of deep shame that her comment, “You have written the same inscription to me in each book,” cut me to the quick.

Guilty as charged.

It wasn’t deliberate. In fact, I only have six different “personal inscriptions” that I trot out at book signings. If someone buys all four books at once, I practically have a coronary. One author bemoaned the fact that someone dumped 18 books on his table (I’d kill for that kind of problem) and asked that each one be inscribed differently. I sigh with audible relief when someone says, “Just sign your name” which is immediately followed by a subconscious, “Why? Is he or she going to sell it on Amazon? Give it to Goodwill?”

If friends compare inscription notes, I cringe with embarrassment. I see disappointment on their faces. How can I have written novels of 80,000 words but I am unable to come up with an original, witty, personal-to-you one-liner? And what about fellow authors who buy my books? There can be no lame “Happy Wishes” or “Enjoy!” for my kindred spirits. It’s insulting. Surely, they deserve some more thought?

Who started this inscription lark anyway? Do author signings illuminate the bond between writer and reader? Do inscriptions give a sense of responsibility? Are there rules? Is it arrogant to sign one’s full name when inscribing to a family member or a close friend? Are inscriptions supposed to give an air of permanence?

We’ve all heard the horror stories. Rumor has it that George Bernard Shaw once inscribed one of his books “To ---, with esteem.” Years later he found the book in an antiquarian bookshop, whereupon he bought it and sent it back to his friend with the addendum, “To ----, with renewed esteem.”

The next question is—where do we store all those signed books? I have a friend who devotes an entire closet to “author friends’ books” that she admits she will probably never read. Another says she rents a storage space.

As for me, I always keep personalized books and yes I do read them all, eventually. There is a something very magical in meeting the author—friend or stranger—that makes that book come truly alive. A personal inscription is very dear and cherished. It’s one thing I intend to improve upon for my new series (not out until 2014—plenty of time to practice). And Tamara—I promise, my inscription to you will blow your socks off.


LD Masterson said...

The first few times I attended a booksigning, I was delighted to have a book signed by the author. After a while, I began to wonder why. Now I only ask for signed copies from close friends - books I know I will want keep.

Hannah Dennison said...

Good point! Actually, I think if I got a personal inscription by J.K. Rowling I'd be thrilled but then I'd be one of a gazillion.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Hannah, I was overjoyed by your post. What is it about learning other writers stew over the same things? I would rather write a new book than think of something memorable to put in an inscription. I had a great "standard brand" inscription for Come Spring. But it your book is about murderous families? What then?

And I simply cannot give away inscribed books

In case you fellow scribblers don't think this is important, I once watched an fur trade author, Terry Johnson, take the time to write a WHOLE PAGE to my nephew, Phil,(whom he didn't know from Adam)and I mean the Phil bought every single book in hardcover after that.

That taught me something--but it didn't help me any.