Let’s Talk with Diane A S Stuckart

A Sign of the Times
by Diane A.S. Stuckart

With each new novel, it gets harder and harder to come up with just the right few words. No, I’m not talking about writing the book’s opening paragraph—that all-important “hook”. I don’t even mean the novel’s final line that puts a neat bow on the 80,000 words that came before it. Rather, I’m referring to the inscription I pen to a reader when they purchase or win a signed copy of my book.

I’m not sure why, but that is something I’ve struggled with over the course of my writing career. As an author, I’m supposed to be creative. After a while, however, it’s hard to come up with something new and punchy, particularly when I’m fortunate enough to be at an event where I sell quite a few copies. Of course there’s always the default Best Wishes or Happy Reading, or even the succinct Enjoy, followed by my signature. I do like to be a bit more personal, however, and so I usually try to add a little something more to the inscription.

Most readers seem to appreciate a specific connection to them. For example, To Jane — Great meeting you at the Tons o’ Books Festival or To Bob — Congratulations on winning my Big Giant Book Raffle. And, over time, I have come up with a couple of standard phrases for each series. Enjoy Hamlet’s “tail”! for my Black Cat Bookshop mysteries is a goodie, while Enjoy your stay at Fleet House! is one I sometimes use for my Georgia B&B mysteries. But I must say I’m jealous of my writing friends who possess artistic talent and so can add a sketch or fancy flourish to their inscriptions. Best I can manage is a smiley face that, despite my best efforts, inevitably ends up lopsided and vaguely sneering.

Yes, I’ve made it something of a project to see how other authors inscribe their books. I once spent a couple of hours in Barnes and Noble looking for books with the “Signed by the Author” stickers hoping for pointers. I found that the more prominent the author, the less they tended to personalize their inscriptions. The big boys and girls mostly penned a plain old signature. But has that always been the trend? For this blog post, I did an internet search for some examples. Hat tip to the Sotheby’s site for these first few…

Unsurprisingly, Ernest Hemingway was a minimalist even when it came to signing his work. A copy of Three Stories and Ten Poems was inscribed to a friend as follows: To Frank Curtin / with all best wishes / from Ernest Hemingway / November 1, 1927 / Paris. Ernie did get a bit more personal, however, in another inscription written in a copy of The Old Man and the Sea presented to his goddaughter: For Alden / this strange book which / I had the un-believable / luck to write / E.H. Similarly, T.S. Eliot succinctly inscribed a copy of The Waste Land this way: For Viscountess Rothermere with the homage of the author. Makes me want to use the word homage like that some day!

AbeBooks also listed some cool inscriptions. This one was written on a photo, not a book, but I quite like it: To Steve from Muhammad Ali. Love is the net, where the hearts are caught like fish. But the one that most warmed my little author’s soul was found in a copy of Casino Royale. It was inscribed by Ian Fleming to his publisher: To Ralph. We have now both reduced our remainders by one copy! Ian.

If you’re a reader, do you prefer an inscription over a signature in your books? And, authors, do you have a favorite inscription you use?

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Comments

  1. maggietoussaint says

    I’ve always stuck with Happy Reading because that has meaning for me.

  2. For the Witch City mysteries, I usually stick with “Best Witches,” and sometimes include an ink-pad cat footprint and add (my protagonist’s cat) O’Ryan’s name to mine.

    • I love that “Best Witches” sign-off! I’ve tried the stamps but I’m not really good with them. Back in the old days of in-person events I liked to stamp kids’ hands with the paws. 🙂

  3. I’ve also found that most people prefer that you simply sign your name. Some have told me that it makes the book more valuable at auction if the the author ever becomes extremely famous. I’m not sure I buy that, knowing how important provenance and context are when it comes to auction houses placing a value on something. Other people are more honest and admit they plan to gift the book after they finish reading it. 😉

  4. Patrick Kendrick says

    I always struggle with this, finally come up with something, then mess my signature up.

  5. cherylhollon says

    I struggled with the ‘witty inscription’ challenge until I finally distilled what I wanted for each reader. Now I sign with a simple ‘ENJOY’ — my truest wish!

  6. This is a toughie. I struggle as well with something witty to write. For my Bad Hair Day mysteries, I like “Wishing you All Good Hair Days.” For my cookbook, it’s a variation of “I hope this cookbook inspires you in the kitchen.” I never know what to say to another author, other than, “To my writing pal…” Also, I’ve heard a book is more valuable with only a signature.

  7. I leave it up to the author. Some, as time permits, if they’re able to engage with me, will make a relevant comment- which I’m sure is a special skill. An inscription which referenced my skydiving, which had nothing to do with the book, is an example.
    My favorite inscription, though I’m sure it was not unique to me, was August Wilson’s “May all your fences have gates” on my Fences playbill!