Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

Bestselling author of Wool and other books. Currently sailing around the world.

The Future of Signed Books

Signed books. I love them both as a reader and a writer. I cherish the ones that I own, and one of my greatest thrills as an author is signing copies at events and chatting with readers. Every time an order comes through from my website and I get to sign and ship off a copy, I experience that same rush. But what about e-books? Is there some way to personalize them as well?

 

So much of what I do as an author in this digital era feels like the exploration of new territory. I often feel that I’m groping through some kind of mist, no idea where I’m heading, just feeling my way along and bumping from one obstacle to another discovery. The Kindle store has changed everything about distribution. It allows readers from all over the world to discover my books. Just a few years ago, I was struggling to have local bookstores carry my titles. Now I’m receiving emails from Germany, South Africa, Australia, and every state in the union. The Barnes and Noble down the mountain still doesn’t carry my books, and I don’t even try anymore. The rest of the world can read them anyway.

 

Social media is another great tool. The web allows me to interact and respond with readers on a daily basis. Why wait until I come to your town to ask me a question or tell me how much you enjoyed WOOL or the MOLLY FYDE series? You leave a review on Amazon, and I respond. You message me on Goodreads, and I write back. The interplay is continuous and immediate.

 

There are some drawbacks, however, like signed books. Yesterday I had the honor of speaking at the Annual Friends of the Library event in my hometown. It was surreal to be speaking as an author in the very library I grew up in as a wee child. My love of reading was fostered in that building, and there I was at the podium, talking about my books, reading from THE HURRICANE, chatting with everyone afterward.┬áThe rush for books at the signing table was intense. My awesome wife (who with her doctorate was a little overqualified for the task of selling books for an hour) had to come pull me away from the event coordinators to start signing books for the throngs that swamped her after the talk. While I was signing copies, I realized that there needed to be some way of doing this for digital readers. There just isn’t a great solution for signing e-books, not in a personalized manner (I have heard of readers collecting signatures on the backs of their Kindles or on their cases).

 

So I’m going to try something a little different (again). Quite a few of you have expressed your displeasure with my low e-book prices (and have demonstrated said displeasure by employing my Paypal button). What I thought I’d do for these fans is sign a piece of paper, take a picture of it and the book together, and email it to readers. The picture can be formatted and saved on your e-reader, kept on your computer, or dragged over into your recycle bin. You can open it in paint and draw a mustache over my goofy grin. So many options!

 

Any thoughts? Is there a better solution? And no, I do not take dance requests. Paypal doesn’t handle transfers of cash in large enough sums.

 

 

4 replies to “The Future of Signed Books”

Your suggestion would work for me seeing as I am one of the fans from far away South Africa and has forced all and sundry to get hooked on the Wool series.

This is an interesting conundrum, as I think the point of getting anything signed by someone one admires is a token of proof to self and others (if you’re into that sort of thing); that the exchange with the person of interest actually took place. Token of authenticity if you will;) However social networks and other soft media have filled that spot now, unless of course one is looking for the token of proof, so one can show off to the world off-line of how cool one is having met/spoken/interacted with the author. Personalizing it for each person would be the icing on the cake though:)

As thinkmillly wrote: This is an interesting conundrum. I too love the physical aspect of having signed items, they mark a point in history, a moment where two worlds touch which for the recipient is very special. I have heard of authors buying tablets like the Wacom Intuos4 and signing their books electronically, yet this still lacks personalization unless you take the time to write the person’s name and a small comment, or at least number it as a limited edition.

I know e-books are shaping the future of publishing, yet there’s still no comparison to a cold hard copy of a book, or even a kindle case, with the physical signature of your favorite authors.

For me, I guess I’m old fashioned and would rather buy or send something to the author for the signature and an SASE, or if International, IRCs (if I remember the acronym correctly), the author could use to send the item or signature back safely.

PODs books may be the ultimate solution for us old fashioned folk. But even a postcard photo with the author holding the book in question, mailed out could be as close as we see in the future to the real thing. Or if you search Color Q, lithographs of all books, with a space for personalization and a signature, or baseball cards are also options if you’re considering this kind of format for sending signatures. The nice thing about a lithograph, regardless of size, is they can be framed and add artwork to the home of the recipient.

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