If a book is good, having the author sign it will make it no better. So why all this signing?
I can think of two possible reasons. The first is that readers get to the meet the author in the act of having their copy signed. Words are exchanged. The reader can truthfully say, ‘I have met her. We spoke.’
To come clean here, I have two books signed by the late Gore Vidal, so you could say I have fallen for this myself. I have spoken with the Great Man.
But authors sometimes sign copies in advance. For example, signed copies can often be picked up at book festivals in the absence of the author, who has since departed the scene.
And then there is the case of Margaret Attwood and her ‘long pen’. I do believe I feel a quote coming on.
The Long Pen, for those not privileged enough to have seen it work, was a project unveiled by Atwood back in 2006. It involved Atwood sitting somewhere, presumably in Toronto, with a stylus and tablet and video chat window open. A mechanical arm was then toured around the continent and booked for signings. (From ‘The efficient new way to pay Margaret Atwood to sketch your dog’, Dustin Kurt)
Another entirely different reason for having signed copies of books, especially first editions, is that their re-sale value increases if the author is well-known. Something I saw two years ago may support this.
My wife and I were sitting in a signing tent which also boasted a café. Our table was near a signing station and we were surprised to see a man with an armful of books take up position at the head of a non-existent queue. He was just shy of an hour early, which meant he was missing the author’s presentation. (Graham Swift, who won the Booker prize in 1996.)
In due course, the presentation wound up and Swift was ushered in by his minders. (What must that be like, I wonder to myself?) And as soon as the author was ready, pen in hand, the waiting gentleman pounced. By then there was a queue.
I’m guessing here, but I assume the man ran a book shop and was having several books signed for re-sale purposes. Yea, verily, patience isn’t always its own reward.