Monday, January 31, 2005

Just sign right here

The first time I clicked on this link to The Philadelphia Inquirer (which I found via Arts Journal), I was taken straight to an interesting article. But when I tried it a second time, I was asked to register. Your milage may vary. But here's the snippet that caught my eye:

...Margaret Atwood, Canada's foremost female novelist,
is developing a remote autographing device that will
allow authors to sign books for devoted readers from
afar, without those awful tours writers often dread.
Okay, I get it that authors who are incredibly busy, or shy, or who have arthritis might not want to jump on a plane and go somewhere to spend hours autographing books. But what's the point in a remotely autographed book?

I once jumped on a plane and went to Orlando and signed 208 books in one hour, and it's not an experience I'm eager to repeat. Writing my name and a few brief words for each of those people was unsatisfying because I felt rushed and rattled. I can't carry on a conversation and write at the same time, so it was an enormously frustrating experience. And I'm hard-pressed to imagine how any of those nice people could treasure the day they met Brenda Coulter, a first-time author, and got her autograph on a book.

Nobody "met" me that day. I wasn't even there. I might have looked right into your eyes and smiled, but I wasn't seeing you. And I hated that.

Not all authors are as easily distracted as I am, and some truly enjoy booksignings. Yet I've never quite understood why a mere autograph -- even from someone of Margaret Atwood's stature -- would be valuable to anyone. Oh, you might treasure an autographed book as a memento of a good (albeit brief) conversation . But would the autograph still mean something if you knew the author had -- for whatever reason -- barely even registered your presence?

Maybe some of you are saying yes. It's still an autograph, and she actually touched your book and wrote her name in it. But what if you never met the author at all? What if her people just mailed you a book that had been autographed by a machine? Would that be special to you?

Wow! I've got a book personalized by the machine Margaret Atwood invented!

Nope, I just can't see it.


Anonymous said...

It's funny...I've been to a ton of booksignings for RWA and other events. Having a signed author copy is neat, but the conversation always means more. I'd agree that having a machine-signed copy is missing the point.


Brenda Coulter said...

Michelle, I've been on both sides of the booksigning tables at the RWA Conferences, and it is always fun and relaxing.

I've got several books autographed by writer friends. They're nice mementos. But I wouldn't stand in line to get a signature -- and nothing more -- from an author I've never met.