Lots of people collect autographs — books signed by their authors, photographs signed by famous people, etc. I’ve even seen some people getting body parts signed. Sometimes even a fleeting association with fame is enough for someone to want your autograph. I remember attending a Star Trek convention many years ago and watching dozens of people lining up to get the autograph of an extra who also doubled for Data’s hands in close-up on Star Trek: The Next Generation. There certainly seems to be a high demand for autographs. Check out eBay to see how many autographs there are on sale. Expos like Armageddon are chock full of people standing in line to get an autograph, or trawling the dealers’ tables for signed photos of their favourite TV/movie star.
Although I do not collect autographs as such, I do like to get books that I’ve read and liked, or am about to read, signed by the author. Especially if I am attending a book launch. It makes a nice memento of having met the person. I don’t often get signatures from actors, as these days most of them charge for autographs. I’ve been attending science fiction conventions since the mid-1980s, and this trend for paid autographs seemed to slowly take hold in the late 80s/early 90s, as Star Wars actors discovered they were having difficulty getting acting work and turned to the convention circuit as a way of earning a crust. Now days it appears that most actors charge for their autograph (or will only sign photos purchased from them) even if they are still working actors. The days of autograph signing as promotion for actors, rather than income, are long gone.
Authors, on the other hand, still seem happy enough to sign things for free. Granted, in most cases they are signing copies of their books, which have been purchased. But they also often sign programme books and other publicity material.
Over the years, I’ve had quite a lot of books signed. Since becoming an author myself, this has increased as I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of my favourite authors at launches and other writing/reading events. I have two particular signing highlights…
Many years ago I had the good fortune to attend an Age Literary Luncheon, where Douglas Adams was the guest speaker. He was in Australia at the time, promoting Last Chance to See. I remember him being a very witty and thoroughly charming speaker. After the luncheon, he stuck around for quite a long time, signing books and chatting to people. I got to meet him, although I have no memory of what I actually said to him. Probably some stupidly incoherent fan-boyish comment. But I still have the large hardcover edition of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Four Parts, which he signed for me on the day.
Quite a number of years ago I attended a science fiction convention where William Gibson was guest of honour. I’d never read any of his books before, but after hearing him speak, I rushed into the dealers’ room, purchased a copy of Neuromancer and went to stand in line for an autograph. Oddly, he signed my book with the words: “Thanks for helping me stick up that 7-11!”
Being on the other end of a signing is rather surreal. I’ve been a reader way longer than an author, so I’m much more comfortable asking for an autograph than being asked. But signing books is part of the whole promotion thing, and it is rather nice knowing that there are people out there who like my writing enough to want me to scribble my name onto their property. I particularly like doing school signings. I’ve signed all sorts of things at these events, from actual copies of my books, to proper autograph books filled with the signatures of people more famous than I; from notebooks and school exercise books to tattered scraps of paper.
Anyone out there collect autographs? Anyone have any interesting signing anecdotes they’d like to share? Leave a comment!
And tune in next time for… something!
Catch ya later, George
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