Sarah Weinman clued me in to this terrific article by Lawrence Block on signing and touring…
The whole signed-books issue got accelerated with the 1992 publication of John Dunning’s Booked to Die, which noted that books simply signed by the author had more collector value than those inscribed to a specific reader. Almost immediately, I noticed an upsurge of buyers who murmured “Signature only, please.” It’s much quicker just signing one’s name, and not having to write “To Cathy, I’ll never forget that heavenly night in Sioux Falls.” And was that Cathy with a C or Kathy with a K, and does it end in Y or I?
“Thank you, John Dunning,” many of us said under our breath when another signature-only appeared. But there was a downside. If more folks were content with a simple signature, they were also intent on getting their entire collection signed.
Larry is being a bit disingenuous… as much as he questions the value of signed books and the desire readers have to get their books signed, he’s certainly taking advantage of the market more deftly and agressively than any author I know. Not only does he tour extensively to support his books (as he should), he also runs a small business through his website and his newsletter — and literally out of the trunk of his car — selling signed copies of his backlist and other editions. It’s rare to find an UNSIGNED Block book. So while he may question the whole signed-book-mania, he’s certainly profiting from it and, no doubt, hoping the craze doesn’t wane. Who can blame him? I admire his writing and his salesmanship. But given the way he’s embraced the signed book market, I found the tone of his entertaining piece a bit puzzling…
2 thoughts on “Block on Signings”
There’s a lovely moment, I think in one of the ‘bonuses’ on the ‘Concert for George Harrison’ DVD, that takes place backstage with the Pythons. Eric Idle playfully ribs Michael Palin about the fact that an un-autographed Michael Palin travel book nowadays is a lot rarer than an autographed one.
One time when Michael Palin was signing books in Sydney, Australia, and his minders had announced that it would be just a signature and nothing else, I asked him politely if there’d be any chance of his writing ‘Happy Birthday Sylvia’, as I was giving the book to my sister. ‘I don’t think so,’ he said, loud enough for the minders and the people behind me in the queue to hear. And true to his word, he didn’t write that little message; instead, he wrote, ‘Best Wishes’. What a sweetie!
I don’t understand why authors make rules like that. I limited myself to “signature only” at the Book fest because my right arm is in a cast and it was hard enough for me to sign my name. But beyond real handicaps like that, why not personalize a book for someone? Is that so much to ask? Granted, I’m not Mary Higgins Clark and 1000 people don’t line up for my signature…then again, she signed for hours beyond her alotted time at the Fest to satisfy her fans.