I was always puzzled by the way poet Billy Collins signed my Sailing Alone Around the Room and The Trouble With Poetry. On both copies he crossed out the “Billy” on the byline before making his autograph. To this day I don’t know whether he was signing my book or making a last-minute correction.
Truthfully, I’ve only gotten a handful of books signed in person. But I’ve acquired plenty other autographed copies the lazy way.
After doing signings, authors sometimes leave their John Hancock on a number of unsold copies, then those books either sell or go into circulation as remainders, which is like going on nationwide clearance. That’s why if you look hard enough through the remainders section of your local bookstore, you might find autographed hardcovers for as cheap as five bucks, even from very popular authors who signed them at some shop across the country.
That’s how I got this S is for Silence, pre-vandalized by its author Sue Grafton. I’ll probably read it someday.
When you find these remainders, which the authors have signed for readers they’ll never meet, they contain just the autograph — no pithy phrases or salutations.
Or so I thought, until I came across a book by Karna Small Bodman called Checkmate, a political thriller written by a “former White House insider.”
“Could this happen?
That’s like Stephen King signing his books with,
“Read this in the dark — IF YOU DARE!”
I thought this was just a one-time error, but then I found a second copy that Bodman autographed, and it too had the same Reading Rainbow-esque question and imperative.
But let’s appreciate something here: it’s tiring enough to scribble on all those books when you’re just leaving your signature. To add your own handwritten tagline? That’s dedication.