Signing other people’s books

Do you? If you’re an author, I mean? I just read Mary Hoffman’s tale of a session in a bookshop last week, where one young customer forced her to become Francesca Simon, for a moment. The customer is always right, of course. Except when they’re wrong, which happens often enough.

So, as a deluded customer; would I prefer Horrid Henry signed by Mary Hoffman or by a fake Francesca Simon? What do people do? I’ve seen it in book signing queues. More than one sibling, but only one who is the right age for the books written by the visiting author. Other child wants a book too, and wants it signed. It’s only fair.

26 responses to “Signing other people’s books

  1. Well it’s something Philip Pullman would like, given his remarks that when he’s tired and is forced to sign books he likes to point out that by signing his name in one of his books he is reducing its value!

  2. I never thought I would – but I have…
    When visiting a school at the same time they hold their book fair I’ve been asked to sign the odd book and rather than upset the keen young reader (and parent) I’ve signed with a comment along the lines of “I really hope you enjoy this book by THE AUTHOR”. It seems to satisfy the reader and makes me feel a bit better about doing it. I’m usually able to provide a bookmark/postcard of my own to go with it so as to further reduce the squirm factor.

  3. And how do I sign an ebook??

  4. You’ll have to work on that one, Lee. But you don’t believe in signing anyway…

  5. Aha, you caught me out there!

  6. Actually, the original question was about signing other people’s books. Take a trip round your local bookshop and start signing.

  7. No, no, I’ll have to figure out how to sign other people’s ebooks!

  8. I’ve signed bits of paper for small siblings and I’ve had parents buy my book for ‘when she’s older’ after I’ve been nice and friendly to their kid. I’d sign another book, though, of course. Why not?
    Since walking into bookshops and asking to sign stock, I have started wondered whether you could go in and claim to be Enid Blyton or Meg Cabot or someone. How obvious would you have to be before they started questioning you?

  9. I was surprised at Mary too! I’m mean; I don’t do it. But am about to get postcards printed, so that gets around the depressing grubby-bits-of-paper problem. And will have to do instead of signing someone else’s book too.

  10. a friend of mine takes every opportunity to sign her books at random bookstores if she’s got the time. i asked her if the bookshop ever asked for proof of identity. never, she said.

    perhaps mary should have signed the book ‘francesca simon’ and nobody would have noticed. least of all the child!

  11. it would be a fun challenge – walk into any bookstore. say your name is … well, not jk rowling perhaps … anyone who is not easily identifiable (and doesn’t have their picture on the jacket of their book) and offer to sign books. go on. just as a test.

  12. Francesca Simon

    I think Damian Harvey has come up with an elegant solution to an awkward situation. It has only rarely happened to me, but now I know what to do when it does! And now that Mary Hoffman is immortalized in Mike Leigh’s film Happy-Go-Lucky–a poster with her picture is prominently displayed in a bookshop scene–her days of being me will be brief.

  13. Someone once said my handwriting reminded her of Philip Pullman’s. (She’s wrong, but never mind.) Could I go round impersonating Philip in bookshops?

  14. I’m shameless. I’ll sign anyone’s book if that’s what they want. My favourite was an event at which Kevin Brooks had far more signing requests than I did. Kids asked me to sign his books, so I did. Asking, of course, whether they wanted me to sign his name or mine…

  15. As a collector’s item, a book signed by another author is actually far more rare, so should really be encouraged. Which name was the more popular, then? Yours or his?

  16. This is almost related to my last comment. The new edition of Paradise Lost, a couple of years ago, was sold in the marketplace on Amazon as signed by the author. A mere £30, if I remember right. A bargain, for a long dead writer.

    What they meant was Philip Pullman had signed it, being responsible for the foreword, but he’s not quite Milton.

  17. Five points for pretending to be someone relatively obscure, ten points for pretending to be someone with a jacket photo, twenty points for pretending to be someone long-dead, fifty points if they’re long dead, famous AND of the opposite genre …
    And sixty points for pretending to be Shakespeare.

  18. er … gender, not genre.

  19. Well, this is interesting. It seems that authors far better known than me also face this issue – that includes Mary, of course. And there I was, fuelling my insecurities by allowing myself to be offended…shan’t be any longer. The hell with it; shall also go with the Damian Approach in future.

  20. No need to feel insecure, Fiona.

  21. Fiona alerted me to this topic and I should perhaps explain that I was not pretending to BE Francesca! I spent a long time helping this child choose exactly which Horrid Henry to buy, pointing out that one had just won the Nibbie.

    And I was wearing a name badge and also introduced myself, but she was determined. So I put “with best wishes from Francesca’s friend, Mary Hoffman.”

    Hi, Francesca, if you’re there! What’s all this about the Mike Leigh film? I simply don’t believe it. Will have to go and see it. Wish I’d thought of impersonating you as a new career but I’ve been rumbled now.

  22. Ah yes, Paradise Lost by the great maestro Pullman. When the bookwitch and I were at Butterfly Soup in Oxford last November they were attempting to persuade us to buy the great works and have them signed by the pretender 😛

  23. Well, at least now we know how you signed the book, Mary. As you can see, you’re in good company, and signing other people’s books is the latest rage.

    And, yes, I would like to know about your film fame, too, but didn’t want to display too much ignorance.

  24. I don’t think I ever actually signed Kevin’s name, though I’d be happy to, if asked. That would be interesting too. How about Paradise Lost with John Milton’s signature as rendered by Phillip Pullman? Not that would be a real collector’s item!

  25. Francesca Simon

    Mary, I assure you it’s true! Given that Sally Hawkins (Colin and Jacky’s daughter) stars in the film, I rather expected a poster of her parents, but it was definitely….YOU!

  26. This conversation has moved on to the Guardian’s book blog.

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