23 April 2006 by Published in: General musings 2 comments

As the author of eleven books, I’ve signed a lot of books in my life. As an example, the Civil War Preservation Trust purchased 2,200 copies of my book on the Battle of Trevilian Station, to be given away as a premium for a fundraiser to purchase battlefield land at Trevilians. I signed and numbered 2,000 book plates and 200 actual books, usually 200 per day, for eleven days. By the end of it, I thought I had perpetual writer’s cramp.

It happened again with my book on East Cavalry Field. CWPT was in the process of raising funds to pay for a preservation easement for a parcel of land across the street from the battlefield. This time, it was another 2,000 book plates, signed and numbered. I did the same thing again–200 per day until finished. Once again, I had what seemed to be a permanent case of writer’s cramp.

I just got done signing a bunch of copies of my new book for some of Ted’s customers. This is the first time that I’ve done this–Ted shipped me several cases of books and then forwards to me the invoices. I sign them, pack them, and then mail them. Ted will reimburse me for the postage and for the mailers once this is all said and done. However, this is the first time that I’ve ever done it this way. Hopefully, the four boxes that Ted sent won’t last very long, and he will have to send more. 🙂

I like signing books (within reason, that is). People seem to really enjoy having their book personalized–it makes something that is inherently impersonal and makes it their own. Some folks just want the signature. Others want date and signature. Still others want it truly personalized by including their name, and I usually try to do some sort of an inscription when I do that. I will, however, do it any way that the customer wants. The customer is always right, after all. And it’s all about making sure that the customer is happy. Happy customers are repeat customers.

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  1. Sun 23rd Apr 2006 at 9:33 pm

    I agree Eric. At first, I felt very awkward having people order auto copies or stand in line at an event to get my “autograph”. Then I realized what a wonderful thing it is to have people enjoy and value your work. In other words, I believe that it is actually me who benefits from these encounters and not them. I was the one who got to meet them – and discuss my work with them – and I am most grateful for their validation. They may have walked away with a personalized book (I usually write a scripture passage for the dedication) but I was the one left with their thoughts and inputs, likes and sometimes dislikes, that I incorporate into future works. If you think about it, the BEST editors are our readers and it is their input that ultimately makes us all better historians and authors. Although I only have 2 books out and have a long way to go before I can sit at your “lunch table” I do get the biggest thrill out of people coming up to me in line at the Wal-Mart Deli and telling me how much they enjoyed the books, or whatever article I had in the paper that week, or getting emails from some long-dead ballplayer’s family thanking me for remembering their great-grandfather enough to mention him in a baseball-almanac story. In other words – it’s US who should be thanking them for reading our words – not them thanking us for writing them.

  2. Mike Peters
    Tue 25th Apr 2006 at 6:11 pm

    Eric wrote:

    Some folks just want the signature.


    This could mean that the customer is more concerned with selling the book after the initial read. And it would be easier to do such, & at a greater profit, without a personalization.

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