What Is a Book Signing?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari
Authors will sign their books at book signings.
Authors will sign their books at book signings.

A book signing is an event at which an author will sign copies of his or her book or publication. The book signing may be a public event or a private one, and it may be held in conjunction with another event such as a reading or lecture. The venue for such an event can vary significantly according to the writer, the topic of the book, the intended audience, and so on. Common venues for a signing include bookstores and libraries, colleges and universities, event and convention centers, and subject-specific venues that may relate in some way to the book or its author.

Book signings are often hosted at local bookstores.
Book signings are often hosted at local bookstores.

Fans, publishers, and authors alike often enjoy book signings for several reasons. Fans get a chance to meet a favorite author and get his or her autograph, which can increase the value of the book. It is also an opportunity for a fan to talk directly to a favorite author and ask him or her questions.The author in turn gets to meet his or her fans at a book signing, thereby increasing his or her visibility and ostensibly selling more copies of the book. The book signing can improve the author's public image as well, and he or she ends up getting publicity otherwise not possible.

Publishers often encourage authors to take part in a book signing to help improve book sales. The signing is, after all, a marketing tactic meant to move more units, though the secondary purpose of the signing is to improve relations with booksellers, fans, and even the author. In many cases, the signing is combined with a reading or lecture, in which the author will read an excerpt of his work to an audience of fans. Sometimes this reading is followed by a question and answer period, during which fans can ask the author questions about any variety of topics.

An author may choose to include a dedication in the signing as well. This dedication is usually addressed to a specific person or group, and the author can write whatever he or she deems appropriate in addition to his or her signature. This type of signature is not usually considered as valuable in terms of improving the resale value of the book, but it gives the signature a personal touch for a collector who does not intend to resell the unit. A collector with resale in mind will prefer just the author's signature with no dedication.

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Discussion Comments


@browncoat - I'm sure some authors would be glad to only have to put up with a few dumb questions. I've heard all kinds of stories about book signings and how terrible they can be (although I'm sure most of them are wonderful experiences).

One of my favorite stories was about how Stephen King once had to sign books until his fingers cracked and began to bleed, and then his fans wanted to get his blood on the books! So he kept signing for another few hours.

Now that's dedication to the fans.


@Mor - I actually don't like signings for that very reason. It seems like most of the time the book stores haven't planned for the amount of people (either too many or too few) and it gets very frustrating.

It might sound elitist of me, but I think people ask authors terrible questions as well. I once overheard someone saying they were going to ask an author whether he considered himself to be a god, because his characters were so vivid.

It just makes me kind of sad to be part of a big, shambling mass like that. I've made myself a promise that I won't get books signed unless I don't have to tell the person my name (as in, they already know me well enough to know my name).


I have some really good memories of celebrity book signings. Often it's not the signing that's the best part, it's getting to see your hero beforehand during the question and answer session and hear them talk that's wonderful. When I get to the head of the line and get my book signed it goes by really quick and you never get to say much to the person, or interact with them.

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    • Authors will sign their books at book signings.
      By: Andrzej Tokarski
      Authors will sign their books at book signings.
    • Book signings are often hosted at local bookstores.
      By: WavebreakmediaMicro
      Book signings are often hosted at local bookstores.