When It Started with Dracula was published, I ordered a pack of 1,000 circular stickers that bore an image of a fountain pen (you remember those) and the words “Autographed Copy” to use during my book signings. They came twenty to a sheet, and in the last year and a half I’ve probably used…well, let’s just say it isn’t time to reorder.
The other day I was browsing through a tome I’d ordered from England. One of the two authors had started his own publishing company, and this title was the company’s first. He had signed my book before personally wrapping it for shipping to the United States. I know this because the handwriting on the package matched the signature on the title page.
It made me think: How many signed books did I own, and how had I come by them all?
I looked through my bookcase and pulled the books I thought had been signed by the authors. My idea was to label each of them with an “Autographed Copy” sticker so they could be easily identified in the future; after all, I had stickers to spare. The stack was about ten inches high; seventeen books.
An author picks up autographed copies at conferences and book fairs by meeting other authors or hearing them speak. I have a personalized copy of Rick Bragg’s memoir, All Over but the Shoutin’ because I was present in 2009 when he accepted the Harper Lee Award for being named Alabama’s Distinguished Author of the Year.
The seating arrangement often influences whom we meet and what books we buy. Last fall I was excited to obtain a copy of the werewolf novel Bestial signed by William D. Carl, whose signing table at a book fair was two rows behind mine. That same day I skipped Gillian Flynn’s table because I was counting my pennies and chose not to buy her best-seller, Gone Girl, in hardcover.
Professional affiliations can bring us books from authors who become our friends. My collection includes signed copies of Bram Stoker Award winner Michael Knost’s compilation Writers Workshop of Horror, Lee Maynard’s novel The Pale Light of Sunset, and G. Cameron Fuller’s chiller Full Bone Moon, all because of our affiliation with West Virginia Writers, Inc.
Several dear, long-time friends have signed their books for me. Anita Skeen, whom I met in college, is a wonderful writer who has published five books of poetry. Former newspaper columnist Ina Hughs signed my copy of A Sense of Human at a conference. Catherine Watson, who writes stunning travel essays, mentored me online as I was writing the Dracula book. I gladly buy their books and, when possible, attend their readings.
Through Anita I was introduced to the poet Andrew Hudgins, whose American Rendering is among my signed copies; but this isn’t a chronicle of the famous. I also have autographed copies of books whose authors may never make it. I may never make it. We don’t always know who will and who won’t.
Sometimes we find autographed copies by accident. Once in a Barnes & Noble I opened a Willie Nelson memoir to find the author’s signature. I didn’t buy the book, but I did buy the Writer’s Digest publication 2011 Guide to Literary Agents, which happened to be signed by WD Editor Chuck Sambuchino with the generic inscription “Good luck!”
If I treasure a signed copy, it’s because the book or its author has meaning to me. The book from England is that way: “To Jane,” it says, “Best wishes.” Opening that book to Wayne Kinsey’s note was a thrill. I’ve never met the man and may not, but nobody is going to get Hammer Films on Location out of my hands.
Joe and I have signed a few copies of Mr. Joe so far and hope to sign a whole lot more once the printed version is available to the public late this summer. With luck, Mr. Sambuchino, I’ll run out of stickers.