When Signed Books Disappoint (Or How NOT To Sign A Book)

when signed books disappoint

I debated about writing this post for a few weeks after being questioned in another post about my refusal to buy John Grisham books anymore. But, after much thought- this story needs to be told. If you are an avid John Grisham fan, I suggest you stop right here and not read further. For everyone else- read on!

Once upon a time, a long time ago, T was not quite the avid book signing attendee that she is now. But, lo and behold, one day, one happy day-Β I was in an indie book store to see the Sweet Potato Queen, Jill Conner Browne read and sign from her latest (It should be noted that this was early 2008- just to give you a reference of time!) While there at the signing, I noticed a sign advertising signed copies available of John Grisham’s latest- THE APPEAL. This caused a happy dance in T of magnificent proportions.

Let me dial the years back a few and tell you of my beginnings with John Grisham: Way back in the day, when I was younger, I was a reader without books. See, YA was not as popular as it is nowΒ 15+ years later. And I had fallen in an area of not being able to find books to read- I was too old feeling for The BabySitters Club books and felt I had outgrown the stories of RL Stine. Since vampires and werewolves were lightyears from being invented by Stephanie Meyer, I was in a bad place. I was not sure where to turn for books. Enter John Grisham. His books were getting quite popular with THE FIRM and THE PELICAN BRIEF being made into movies, so I decided to give him a try. The stories about the law, mob ties and the mysteries were interesting to me- and I read them when I could. Then, after Francine Pascal released SVU, I abandoned John Grisham for more age appropriate books- even though THE PELICAN BRIEF (book and movie) still held good places in my bookish heart. Fast forward many years later, I’m in college. And John Grisham makes occasional trips to the town I attend college in for various events and some book signings. I long to go- but each time one is scheduled- outside forces conspire to keep me away (tests, study groups, etc). And then a few years later, I see the sign at the indie book store. I see that I can get a signed copy. I feel that fate has smiled upon me. I inquire at the register and learn that he will not be personalizing copies- it’ll just be his signature. I think “ok, not exactly what I want. But better to have just a signed copy than nothing at all!”

the appeal by john grisham

So, I make arrangements to reserve a signed copy, to have it sent to me mail (as opposed to picking the book up at the store because I was unsure when I would be back in the area). And then they told me the price: $25.99 for the book (plus shipping!) I, having been used to buying books at Walmart and Amazon- where they give you savings on the MSRP, felt some pain. (At this point in my life, I just did not spend that kind of money on books. I really did not. And it hurt my pocketbook.) But, I rationalized all that away and said “I’ll finally have a SIGNED book from John Grisham. It’ll be wonderful. Worth the money. I’ll start a signed book bookshelf where I will display all the glittering jewels that I’m going to start investing in!” And then I left the book store, happy as a clam, knowing that in 3 or so weeks my little hands would be clutching a copy of THE APPEAL signed by John Grisham.

3 weeks go by and I have told everybody about this book- oh that I can’t wait for it, oh it’s going to go right on my bookshelf. I am beyond excited. **I should pause in my story now and tell you, the readers of Traveling With T, that I have probably now been to at least 50 signings in my life. I have seen authors sign their names, I have seen them write long personal notes to the signee, I have seen them do many things- but I have never, in over 50 author signings, seen this:

how NOT to sign a book john grisham

So, you might be wondering what the big deal is- I mean, it’s signed. You got the signed book from John Grisham that you wanted.

And yes. It is signed. Yes, I now have a signed book. But, the way he signed it- I mean could John not have taken the extra 15 seconds to shift the book around? To me, it just was in bad taste- I mean do you think he would have appreciated receiving a signed book from an author that he admired looking like that?!

The John Grisham incident was a cautionary tale in many ways to me: I don’t buy books from signings that I will not be at (fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!) and I do not buy John Grisham books anymore. I refuse to spend my money with an author, who I had once admired, who would treat a book signing so callously as to not even make sure the book was turned the right way before signing it. I realize that by the time that John Grisham signed this book, it was in 2008- and considering the man had been signing books for others fans and book stores for a good 20 years- his hand was probably tired. He had probably forgot how a person feels about getting a signed book- I’m sure it had become a blasΓ© thing to him- BUT that is exactly why he needed to pull it together. You must remember the fans. They are who put you on the lists. Who buy your books. Who make it possible for you to have books to sign.

I get that John Grisham is feeling no pain from my choice to not buy anymore of his books. It’s a total non-issue for him. The royalty checks are rolling in, he’s getting attention for his latest book- you know, it’s just the same old for him. But I’ll never forget the disappointment I felt when I looked at this book, saw how it was signed. How when family asked to see the signed book, the book that I had been so excitedly chatting about, I reluctantly pulled it out to show them, only to have them pull a FACE like the infamous face mentioned in Sex and The City.

And, just in case you are curious, that bookshelf of signed books I wanted to have? I have it. But John Grisham’s book doesn’t make the cut. It’s in a pile of books elsewhere in my library-but not taking up prime real estate on my signed bookshelf.


Readers: Have you ever been disappointed by a signed book?


Happy Reading and Bookishly Yours,

T @ Traveling With T

T Traveling With T pic sign off

42 thoughts on “When Signed Books Disappoint (Or How NOT To Sign A Book)

  1. That signature says “do not care”. I don’t blame you for being peeved about it. That’s a bummer especially when you’re so excited.

    I also had a weird reading stage at that age. It’s like you’re not quite the right age for a lot of books. Luckily kids now (kids these days, lol) have a lot more options!

    • “Do not Care”- you nailed it in 3 words. Exactly how I felt. So, I decided that since he didn’t care and he had plenty of money (obviously, why would you sign a book like that?!) that I wouldn’t spend anymore of my money on him. And I haven’t.

      πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ I’m so glad you could understand the weird reading stage- kids these days are SO lucky πŸ˜‰

  2. lauriewjn says:

    The idea of a signature is to show some kind of meaningful personal connection to the author, there is nothing personal about the signature you got. I completely understand your feelings. I’m not too crazy about John Grisham right now anyway with his recent remarks about child porn online.
    I do have a few books with signatures, but for me, the only ones that were really special were the ones where I met the author in person, my favorite is my copy of Rocket Boys, signed by Homer Hickam. There is just something really special about meeting one of your favorite authors face to face.

    • I prefer to actually get to meet the author (it’s just more meaningful!) Agreed- there is nothing personal about this signature. My dad asked me “Are you sure he didn’t have someone else sign it?” Given his recent spotlight moments, I can’t say I’m just loving him- but he was on my grumpy list many years ago!

      Thank you for stopping by to comment- and for your thoughtful comment!

  3. That sucks. Seriously though. I get that he probably signs hundreds (or thousands) of copies at a time, but yeah, at least turn it around. It doesn’t take that much effort. Sorry about that.

    • Thanks so much! I mean, really, how much effort would it take to turn the book around? I wonder how many others have signed books that look like this?!

      And thank you for stopping by to comment- I totally appreciate it!

  4. I was a little disappointed just looking at the photo, and I have no personal investment in this! I definitely would have been annoyed to receive that book, too, especially at a point in my life where $26 is a not insignificant amount of money to spend on something I don’t really need.

    I only have a few signed books–two from signings at my school, one with a signed bookplate from a giveaway, one with a lovely personalized bookplate from an author I know. But, yeah, none of them look like this.

    • BINGO! You totally nailed how I felt. I mean 26 bucks for a book was an investment- and one that I wanted to be able to show off for years. Now, it’s my not so secret shame book. I was SO annoyed- and seriously will not order books from stores because of this. I NEED to see you sign the damn book (or have a friend I trust see it!)

  5. I don’t even know what to say- it’s rude and lazy. It looks like bad Chinese calligraphy. He’s not the only author signing books. If Hillary Clinton can manage to sign horizontally then so can he.

    I don’t have any experiences like that but do have a couple of personalized where they’ve had to cross out or write over the first letter of my name because they started with a ‘K’- one even left it like that so I’m not thrilled about that one.

    • Thank you, thank you, thank you! I completely agree- rude, lazy and looks like Chines calligraphy. And can I just say you win the internet with your comment about Hilary Clinton?!

      Ugh, I hate when that kind of stuff happens. I loved it at BEA when they went through the crowd getting our names down on Post-its just to make sure they had it right! And the author that left the K- that frosts my cookies!

  6. writingmom2013 says:

    I only bought a signed book once that I wasn’t able to attend the signing for in person – a Holly Black novel. But Holly is amazing, and her signature was everything I was hoping for. πŸ™‚

    I did go to a book signing, though, where the author wrote “Don’t Eat” before signing his name. I’m sure he meant don’t eat the book, but that signature was always a bit puzzling to me. Not a sign of not caring, but… it kind of struck me as “off.” I’m probably just being sensitive, though, because I’ve been around so many eating disorders.

    • I’m so glad your experience turned out better than mine! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      I’ll admit the “Don’t Eat” thing sounds kind of strange- maybe it was sarcasm that just didn’t come across very good?

      I do think authors need to be careful about how they sign books!

  7. Books in the Burbs says:

    You bring up great valid points!! If a reader takes the time to purchase a specific book, the author needs to be kind enough to write his/her name properly. I suspect he had no idea, but it should be under the ethical codes of “Signing Events”;). I seriously thought you were going to refer to not buying his books anymore because of the boycotts readers started, based on his comments about child phonography and his friend, who was convicted of it.

    • Thank you! I think back to what if that had been a gift for someone?! It would have totally been un-giveable! I knew that his latest comments had caused quite a stir- I was not aware of the boycott!

      YES. If a reader takes time to purchase a book- you should take the time to sign it in the best manner possible. You should act like this is your first book signing each and every time you do this!

  8. ondbookshelf says:

    I have also been to several book signings, and while I have never gotten a signature that looks like that, I do find that some authors are just so much more personable and engaging. Some of them you can tell that it’s just something they are told by the publishers that they have to do. Some are so friendly and can’t thank you enough for coming out, and for reading their books. Somehow I’m going to put Mr. Grisham in the first category. And I completely agree…….without the readers, they have no one to appreciate their craft.

    • I agree. Some authors do have a hard time chatting, being personable, etc at these events b/c it’s not in their comfort zone. Others, I think, have just gotten almost jaded to the whole process- like, in some ways, they are just phoning it in!
      When authors forget about what the reader does, it’s not good!

  9. momssmallvictories says:

    That’s very unfortunate. Honestly, I thought he was making an artistic statement, like your typical author will sign it horizontally so I the great John Grisham will sign it vertically and illegibly. But either way I would be disappointed too after spending so much money and it leaving a bad memory on your book shelf. I have a few signed books and even Michelle Obama signed hers legibily and horizontally.

    • lol- maybe I’ll try to look at it like he was making an artistic statement πŸ™‚

      Yep. I just feel this should have been a prized feather in my collection- and it’s just not. And come on, when the First Lady can take time to sign books correctly- well, really, no one else has an excuse.

  10. This is such an important post, Tamara–I think you were heartfelt to share it. It’s like a lullaby to readers and writers. We are there because of each other. We have to cherish that. Every book is read anew, and every book signed is a treasure for both the reader…and the author.

    • Thank you so much for commenting- Jenny! I appreciate hearing from you, being that you are an author, on this matter.
      I think that John Grisham may be jaded about the whole author/reader relationship- which ultimately is a sad thing.
      Love hearing your thoughts πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  11. Britney Adams says:

    That was just wrong!! I completely understand your annoyance and disappointment! My book signing disappointment came when an author misspelled my name (after I spelled it for her) and then slapped a bookplate over the mistake. I came to a book signing for a bookplate!!

  12. I am not a fan of Grisham – his personality – but this is pretty shitty. In a time where he is in danger of losing a big chunk of his readers and he doesn’t take 10 seconds to sign his name properly? It’s like he’s taken some “No Fucks Given” drugs.

    • See, when I was reading him- I liked the books, but also liked that he was an MS author- it was just kinda cool, you know? THIS, though, put him on my “Do not Buy” list- and we won’t even discuss his much more recent behavior. He must have quite a big supply of that drug πŸ˜‰

    • YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! Listen, I get that he signs hundreds, thousands, copies of books- but you gotta treat each book signing with the enthusiasm that you used for the first one. Chicken scratching at the checkout machine in grocery store? Acceptable. This? Unacceptable.

  13. I would be disappointed in that also. He could have signed the book the right way. I have ordered signed books and understand the author sometimes can only sign in short hand but at least turn the book correctly. I also can’t even tell if that is a J or G or what heck letter is that. It looks like scribble. Sorry you were so disappointed and spend so much money for nothing.

    • YES! Like I would be basically ok with the style he used- I mean, my handwriting is atrocious. BUT, the book being turned all funny AND him signing all crazy? No mam. That was 26+ bucks down the tube.

  14. I’ve bough these pre-signed books before and have a problem with signatures that aren’t really legible, like this one. It bugs me that I can’t find a trace of his name there.

  15. I’ve got dozens of signed books – but what I’ve discovered is that if you don’t actually attend the signing, the personal investment drops pretty quickly.

    Obviously, he signed that way because he had a stack of books pre-staged facing him, and the long side gave him more room to work with – so the horizontal signing doesn’t bother me, nor does the rushed, lazy signature. That’s the problem – he’s not signing for YOU. He’s signing just the page, without a connection to a fan. Had he been at the signing, the signature would have looked just as bad, but it would have had the personal connection and you wouldn’t have cared.

    The Easton Press publishes expensive limited editions, and if you see some of the sigs – they’re terrible! But because they’re presented in a first-class package, it doesn’t (usually) bother me.

    Having attended signings, the authors who ‘care’ about their signatures is pretty low – but of course at a signing they’ll most always scrawl your name, which is what makes it neat. For example, Barack Obama signs just a “BO” and it’s no better than the Grisham – BUT he added my name, and that’s the cool part. Hillary Clinton signed her entire name, along with Rodham, AND added my name, and it’s absolutely perfect. It amazes me that she did that – at a rally, surrounded by a scrum of people. Stephen King signs his name, but rarely personalizes – but his sig is pretty good. Dan Brown’s signature is Grisham-like, but in a signing he’ll personalize it however you want.

    Long story short, buying a pre-signed book has eliminated the personal connection, which is the primary benefit of a signed book. So while I think the Grisham signature is rushed and cockeyed, neither of those traits bug me. It’s signed – and, after all, it gave you a good story! Haha

    • Ahhh- so let me clarify some things that I may not have been clear about: This actually wasn’t a signing. The only option was to get a book with just his signature- I don’t know if he stopped by the store and signed some stock they had OR if he signed elsewhere and pub sent them to store to sell. So, for me, while I totally agree by NOT seeing him the personal investment is less meaningful- since forces had conspired again me actually seeing him- I just made peace with having a signed book.

      And I get that for ease, having the book turned the wrong way prob did help in the book signing. But, I always wonder why- when I find his books pre-signed in stores why they are signed horizontally and not vertically (the signature sometimes looks a bit better as well).

      For me, I still feel that he is of an entitled nature- and I have no desire to support him financially- I’ll let others do that.

      However, you are right- I do have a good story! Thanks for dropping by!

  16. The saddest book signing related thing that happened to me was at the very 1st signing I ever went to. We were given sticky notes so that the author could just copy our names or whatever while doing a personalized signature. I wanted to use my “real” first name, which is not very common and not phonetically spelled. When I got to the front of the line, the author looked at the name I’d written, frowned and looked at me and asked what my name was, and after I said it out loud she proceeded to spell out what she thought she heard me say, completely ignoring the note! The author and event were otherwise very nice and I did love the book, but… 😦

    • Oh my stars. I just can’t even. Words escape me. I mean what was the point of the whole post it notes? I’m glad the author and event (otherwise) was very nice- but STILL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😦

  17. Rachel says:

    I understand how this isn’t exactly ideal, but you have to understand: he has probably signed thousands of books, hundreds at a time. I’m sure he has developed a process that makes it go as fast as possible, and part of that is that it’s signed vertically. I wouldn’t be that upset about how the author signed your book, he still signed it. I’d rather him spend his time writing fantastic books than trying to make sure every copy he signs is done so horizontally. As someone who signs documents all day, I’ve got to tell you, signing your name over and over can be horrible. Your hand cramps, your handwriting goes out the window, and at the end of it all, the only thing you have to show for it is a bunch of scribbles on a bunch of pages. If you want a personal experience and a quality signed copy, you can attend a signing. It gives you a higher quality experience. You couldn’t dedicate your time to stand in line and wait for a signed copy, why would you expect him to dedicate more time to signing a book that he already put weeks, months, or years into writing?

    • I’m going to clear up a few points in your comment that you got wrong:

      1. We’ll have to agree to disagree on how his way of signing my book. However, and I have not done super extensive looking into this.. but when I go to other indie stores and see his books signed- not personalized or anything.. just signed that you can purchase off the shelf- he does manage to sign them more in a more pleasing manner. Was his hand tired? Did the book seller hand him the book so he could sign vertically? Was he signing all books vertically that day? Was the sky purple? Was he more focused on a plot point? IDK… which brings me to my second point…

      2. THERE WAS NOT AN OPTION TO MEET HIM TO GET BOOK SIGNED. I would have dedicated my time in line to see him then. IF IT HAD BEEN AN OPTION. By the time this book came out, he had gotten to be a big author. One who didn’t go on tour so much. He was just stopping by the book store to sign books that had been ordered by the book store (They weren’t even revealing which day he was coming by!) The book store had a poster explaining that they were NOT having an event. They were just collecting orders for signed books that they would ship at a later date. SO, again… IF I COULD HAVE BEEN THERE I WOULD HAVE BEEN.

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