Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Does a Signed Copy Change Your Reading Experience?

Tonight I'll be visiting  a book group to talk about my novel, Monarch. Since I've visited a book group before, this shouldn't be entirely crazy-new for me, but it kind of feels that way. The last book group I visited was for Cinders, and about half the group didn't like the book. That was interesting, to say the least, especially since I was very green at being published. In many ways, I still am. This all makes me wonder about why readers want to meet with authors. What makes a signed copy of a book special? And does talking with the author of a book you've read change the way you view that book forever?

I have a few signed books on my shelves, but I'm not sure I value those books any more than others. I ask myself why this is, and I'm thinking it's because if I had autographed copies of my favorite books, I might feel differently. For instance, if I had a signed copy of The Awakening by Kate Chopin, I'd keep that thing in a fire-proof box. Faulkner, yes. Um, F. Scoot Fitzgerald, anyone? Of course, these authors are all dead, and of course those signed copies are extremely valuable. Buy why? A bookstore cannot return a signed copy to a publisher, making that copy a necessary sell for the bookstore, but is it sentimental value that makes a signed copy important to the owner? Is it because the signed copy is rare if the author is dead and only so many copies might exist?

I recently attended Marissa Meyer's book signing for her debut novel, Cinder, and my friend and I tried to purchase copies at our local Barnes & Noble before stopping by the signing (you know, support your bookstore kind of thing...maybe we should have visited an indie store...), but no, all the copies at the bookstore were already signed with lovely little "autographed by the author" stickers on the front. Um, no. I would like to watch the author sign it, thank you. And she did after I bought a copy at the signing. And it has my name in it. And I wonder if that will affect how I read it? I'm really not so sure. Will having attended her signing, meeting her and talking to her, hearing her publishing story first-hand, affect my reading and feelings for the novel?

Who can say.

I think in many ways,  a lot of readers look up to authors like celebrities, and that might make these things I'm talking about more special to a reader. If you've published a book, that means you finished a book, and those are two things many people only dream of doing or are in the midst of accomplishing. 

And just for fun, here's a YouTube video from the movie, Young Adult. It's a scene concerning signed books and a dried-up author.


 

What about you? Does meeting or knowing an author change your reading experience? Do you value signed books more than unsigned books? Why?

23 comments:

  1. I love signed First Edition books. Like you, I'm not concerned with collecting signatures just to have them, I want to meet the authors. My collection so far only contains Lisa Unger and Jimmy Webb, a songwriter. On the other hand, I have dozens of books by internet friends that are not signed and I'm pissed! When you guys have signings in my area, I'll have to buy every book again! :)
    Have you ever heard of New York City?

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    1. Good collection so far! I will try to make it to NYC sometime. :)

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  2. You know, meeting or knowing the author can be good, or it can be bad.

    It immediately makes me excited to read their book if I've never read any of his/her work before.

    But then, what if I hate it?

    This has happened to me once. So far. I LOVE this particular author. Sweet, encouraging, and becoming a good friend.

    But I couldn't finish the book. I could barely start it. I couldn't get past the many, many adjectives and adverbs. I finally understand why restricting them is a "rule."

    So what do you do when you don't like something a friend wrote and published? I haven't figured it out yet. Because of cours he/she knows you're reading it because you're so excited to BEGIN reading it, that you tell him/her that you ARE reading it.

    But, on the other hand, if you love something a friend has published, which has happened to me more than once, you just get more excited to read more by him/her.

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    1. Oh, yes, I have been there on both ends of the spectrum! On my other blog, I wrote some posts about this. You can find one here: http://theinnocentflower.blogspot.com/2011/09/when-people-love-you-and-not-your-book.html

      When I read some published work by a friend awhile ago, I really couldn't get into it. I just had a very open and honest conversation with her. It worked out fine, so it can be an okay thing after everything is said and done. Still, a sticky situation!

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  3. I usually only go to readings/signings for authors whose work I already adore, so meeting them, even briefly, and getting a book signed has so far always been a pleasure. My favorites were Bill Bryson, who was here on my birthday, so I got him to inscribe it "Happy Birthday Alex!", and Alan Lee, one of my all-time favorite artists, who was delighted that I had brought one of his older illustrated children's books rather than the newer "Lord of the Rings" stuff that nearly everyone else wanted signed.

    But the one I cherish the most is actually my birding field guide, written and illustrated by David Sibley. It is very worn and torn and stained and has fallen on muddy banks and I've written all over it noting sitings, but when he came to town, I simply *had* to have him sign it. He was quite impressed by its condition -- because I'd so obviously gotten such a lot of use out of the work that he had created. It wouldn't have any monetary value in its condition, and that means nothing to me -- what matters is the connection I feel to the work every time I'm out in the field looking at birds.

    -Alex MacKenzie

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    1. Beautifully said! Thank you for sharing that. I think it's wonderful those books mean so much to you and that you had the chance to meet the authors! Especially Alan Lee. I would love to meet him!

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  4. I've not yet been to a book signing or met any published authors, but I did order a signed copy of Cinders from you. I'd already read the book, but having a signed copy was special. I think the desire for a signature is the celebrity thing ... a "connection" with greatness. An acknowledgement that this person has done something not everyone can do and that what they've done has touched you. It's proof of that connection, I guess.

    When friends brought copies of my book to me to sign, it felt weird, like I wasn't quite me anymore. On the other had, none of my family members asked me to sign their copies, so I guess that evens out. :-)

    Right now, I'm giving away a signed copy on my blog and several entrants already have copies, but they want my "autograph". I understand that, so it doesn't go to my head. ;-)

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    1. I really understand the connection you're talking about. I think I long for that with some of my favorite authors I have yet to meet. I know I'd love a signed copy of your book! I should get on that! I need to enter the contest, and if I don't win, I will just buy a copy from you. :)

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  5. I have not been to a book signing, but I do have a few books signed by the author nonetheless. I treasure the signed copies only because I've chatted with the author(s) and "know" them a little. A book signed by Stephen King however, probably wouldn't be as appealing since he is kind of a rock star of sorts. And unless I knew him personally (even in just an acquaintance way), the signature is just ink on a page. I suppose for me the author is more important than the signature, and getting one after I "know" the author is cooler because of that illusionary tie. Probably this doesn't make sense to anyone but me, but oh well LOL.

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    1. Eric, I love how you put that - "the author is more important than the signature." That's kind of how I feel about it. I do like personalized copies pretty well - ones that say something to me specifically. That makes it more special, although I'm not sure it really alters the way I think about or read the book.

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  6. I love an autographed copy. Something that the author personally handled lets me know that they are not seeing it merely as a 'product' but as an extension of themselves. I always ask if they would address it to me, not out of any creepy stalker wish, but because I want to let them know that I appreciate their effort and won't turn around and stick it on ebay.

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  7. I got a chance to get two books signed by Jhumpa Lahiri, whom I really admire. Those books feel so special to me that I bought additional books to be read so that the signed books stay safe. That has to do with how much I like her and what I think my chances are of ever meeting her again. Signed books feel special to me, I guess, because they have more of a human touch. They feel personalized, like when someone bakes me cookies and mails them to my house.

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    1. Davin, those books would be special to me too! I do value my signed copies that I have. The few I have. I'm just not sure having them signed changes the way I feel about the story overall. If that makes sense. This is something I've been mulling over for awhile.

      Are you suggesting I bake you cookies and mail them to your house?

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  8. I like having autographed books, but I have bought books at signings and then felt pretty bad when I didn't actually like the books. I think getting a personal inscription from the author does make me really want to love the writing, does get a greater initial emotional investment from me. For better or worse.

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    1. Oh, interesting! I think I have a larger emotional investment in anything I've taken the time to get signed or whatever. I may want to love the book more than I do, so that shows me the autograph didn't truly sway my feelings for the work as a whole.

      Are you getting tons of snow? You should take a snow day from work.

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    2. Oh, you DID get a snow day! I'm finally reading email. :)

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    3. Scott, I'll be sure to send you a signed copy of my masterpiece. Maybe you'll feel obligated to at least last until chapter two.

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  9. In my possession is an ARC of "Monarch" by Michelle Davidson Argyle, signed by her and sent to me by her. It makes me feel special.

    I also have signed copies of the four books in Christopher Paolini's "The Inheritance Cycle" series with the added notation in "Inheritance" that says, "Good luck with The Dragon Universe," which is my work-in-progress book series. That's cool.

    Those books are all I have that are signed. The fact that they are signed, and were intended specifically for me, makes them worth cherishing.

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    1. Yay for Monarch! And that is very cool about the Paolini books. Do you live close to where he does lots of signings?

      Hope you get to collect even more signed books! I plan to keep collecting them. It's quite fun. :)

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    2. Mr. Paolini's recent book tour had a stop just 11 miles from my house, which I thought strange since I live in uncivilized Nowhereland outside the edge of the known universe.

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  10. Truthfully; I only value a signed copy of a book if it is an author I love. So, I have to have read the novel/series, or be a follower of a new author, to care if a book is signed.

    Since I've been blogging, I've won a few autographed books that the hosting blogger has paid for. Nice; but not as meaningful as a book I love being signed by the author because I handed the book to him/her and requested it. I want Stephen King to sign any of his books "to Donna Hole, thanks for being a constant reader."

    Michelle, this may sound harsh. But, I have a couple of your books; and if I had the opportunity to go to a book signing, I'd bring the copy of the book I'd read (unless it was an e-book version, then I'd purchase a soft copy at the signing)for you to sign, and I'd request you sign it specifically to me. "To Donna Hole, thanks for your support and readership." This would tell the world that even though you had no clue who I am, I liked you enough to show up when you were in my area and you knew me long enough to write my name in your book.

    But I would never purchase a copy of a book that the author signed at printing/distribution. It is impersonal. A reader that buys a book just because the author signed it isn't reading or enjoying the book. They are looking for a long term financial investment.

    I guess my question to you here is, what type of investment are YOU looking for in a reader. Do you, as an author, only want people to buy your book, or do you hope readers have an emotional investment in you as an author.

    Personally, I'm hoping to attract constant readers. I don't want to be thought of as a money-market investment that didn't pan out.

    .......dhole

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    1. Donna, I don't think that sounds harsh. In fact, I'd be flattered that you'd want to get another copy for me to sign personally to you. I wanted that when I went to the Marissa Meyer signing, which is why I didn't buy an already signed copy.

      As an author, I'd like readers to have an emotional investment in me as an author, but I also know this is usually not the case unless the reader knows me personally. It seems most readers just want an entertaining story. I think it's the readers who truly feel a connection to the author who make an emotional investment. I always hope to meet those readers. :)

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