Is the Autograph Stamp the Next Thing?

Suzanne Collins' stamp is very appealing.

In my nearly three decades of bookselling I have seen many booksignings and many, many author’s signatures. There are the legible and illegible; the large, the small; the “best wishes” and the book specific clever remark; and variations on all of these.  Illustrators of children’s books are fun, because they often draw in each book, though that makes their lines go slowly.

Over the years, there have been some especially unusual signatures. Ken Kesey, who took a very long time to autograph – actually all night long—used an assortment of colored markers from our art department and boldly decorated the front page of each book. Da Chen combined his traditional Chinese signature stamp with brush calligraphy (plus a few songs on his flute!). Allen Ginsberg drew his ‘ass hole” symbol, a circle around a dot.  And probably most unexpectedly, Alexander Cockburn turned the tables, and asked us sign the book he read from, so that at the end of a tour, he would have a memory of all his hosts (I took this as inspiration when I went on the road for Clay and did the same).

Last night Suzanne Collins, who is suffering from a hand strain, used a specially designed stamp to autograph for her fans.  No one objected that it wasn’t a “real” signature. The stamp is quite stunning and includes her name in her perfect penmanship and a mockingjay bird. Once her limited tour is over, the stamps will be retired (she had 3 so that she always had enough ink), making the stamped books collectible.

One of the nice things about stamping instead of autographing is that it eliminated the sometimes-awkward moments of personalizing and, even better, made the lines go quickly. Best of all, the moments each guest had at the autograph table with Suzanne, were now spent in individual interaction. Suzanne actually had time to chat with the boy who read Mockingjay in Braille.

I still like hand-signed books. I can’t imagine every author commissioning stamps. But in this case, it worked beautifully. Bravo. Posted by Suzy


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