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What Every Autograph Collector Should Know About Celebrity Book Signings

Bill Russell autographed bookA dream of mine is to have a private library in my home—360 degrees of floor-to-ceiling shelves where I have to climb one of those rolling wooden ladders to reach the top. That’s how much I love books.

In my autograph library (which requires at most a stepstool) there is a small but growing nook where you’ll find a stack of signed novels and memoirs. During my teenage years I acquired authors I admired—Michael Crichton, Dave Eggers, Chuck Palahniuk. Later I discovered that book signings offered an opportunity to obtain autographs from tough-signing athletes and celebrities—Alec Baldwin (I wish I could transcribe the conversation in this video, any lip readers out there?) and Bill Russell stand out. Those of you who have read my series on the 9 Best Places to Get a Celebrity Autograph know how important it is to look out for side projects because that person is motivated to promote awareness of a venture outside the context of why they are famous (e.g., when a ballplayer or actor writes a book).

TOP 3 REASONS WHY I LOVE CELEBRITY BOOK SIGNINGS

1. It’s a much less expensive way to get a desirable autograph. If you’ve been reading Autograph University you know I rarely purchase autographs. I’m an in person grapher through and through who values the story over the item itself. But like those signed CD booklets Newbury Comics offers, you’re basically getting the autograph for free, right? (Also, it’s a great way to stock up on high-quality Autograph University giveaways without breaking the bank—hint, hint…wink, wink…nudge, nudge). And while I don’t disagree with many collectors who view books as a second-class item, I’m satisfied with the value I get in return—particularly if it’s a signing I can attend in person where I can interact with the celebrity.

Just for giggles, let’s compare what I spent on several recently released books signed by Hall of Famers with their prices for signing a flat through a promoter:

Signed book

Flat

Bobby Orr

$20.96

$189

Reggie Jackson

$18.86

$79

John Stockton

$25.99

Doesn’t do signings

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

$16.99

$100

Phil Jackson

$18.44

Doesn’t do signings

Julius Erving

$27.99

$129

 

So would I prefer to have 8x10s signed by all these guys—absolutely. But for what I’m paying I feel pretty good about it. And you can almost always cut out the autograph cleanly from the title page and matte it with a photo. Just don’t tell me you did it, the thought of taking scissors to a book pains me.

NOTE: While it’s no guarantee, some book signings allow you to bring outside items to get autographed. Each event is different and typically depends on the author’s preferences and how long they are appearing at the event (i.e., if they have a small window to sign they are less likely to spend time on multiple items).

2. You can get autographed books in your underwear. Many book stores will take phone and online orders for signed books. My advice is to call as soon as the in store signing is announced to see if they will take orders remotely. In some cases you’ll be waitlisted as those who attend in person receive priority and some celebs can only commit to a certain time period. In the case of Dr. J, I was put on a list and later informed that he didn’t have enough time to sign phone orders…but the bookstore was going to ship 400 books to his house to be signed and returned. Independent shops almost always accept orders while I have had no luck with Barnes & Noble brick and mortar stores. That said, head over to bn.com and type “signed edition” into the search box and see what you get. I scored Orr, Reggie Jackson and Phil Jackson that way.

Here are some of my favorite online resources and book stores to keep track of upcoming book signings:

Book Signing Event Databases

Bookstores

3. You gain insight into the subject’s life. Reading a memoir allows me to expand my base of knowledge about someone in a way getting a photo signed can’t. Admittedly, I tend to purchase signed books more quickly than I read them but it’s a missed opportunity if you don’t take the time to consume the words that come after that autographed title page. Even a children’s book written by a person famous for something else gives you a sense of a creative side you may not have seen. Now you may be saying, “Matt, what about when I get a novel signed by the author? What do I learn then?” Well, to be frank…not much. But if you’re attending a book signing event have a question ready (e.g., about their writing process, a character that resonated with you) to enhance your experience beyond a hi and a handshake.

Are signed books a part of your collection? If they are, what are your favorite resources for obtaining them?

About the author: is the founder of Autograph University. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and two sons. Connect with him on Twitter at @mattraymond.

6 comments… add one

  • James November 25, 2013, 1:26 pm

    Great article! I’m a massive fan of signed books as well. Hoping to go to a Sarah Palin signing in less than 2 weeks. In Virginia.. that’s the best we can hope for! lol

  • Matt Raymond December 3, 2013, 7:56 pm

    Good luck James, let us know how you do.

  • Nathan Kelly November 27, 2013, 12:22 am

    Thank you for sharing your tips! I am an avid signed book collector (and any other ‘graph I can get my hands on — who am I kidding?!) and share your dream of a floor-to-ceiling library showcasing my collection. I look forward to seeing what more you share — thank you for taking the time to do so! I love talking about my collection and autographs in general. If you want to take a look at my collection so far, please see it at: freewebs.com/nathansautos

    Cheers!

    — Nathan

  • Matt Raymond December 3, 2013, 7:58 pm

    Thanks for the comments Nathan, I really appreciate it. Cool site.

  • Matt April 13, 2015, 12:54 pm

    Hey Matt,

    The only books that I have gotten signed were from Emeril Lagasse, Giada De Laurentiis and Paul Stanley. I have met a lot more celebs and taken pictures and received signed stuff from them

  • Stephen Duncan November 24, 2015, 10:02 am

    I have over 75 signed books in my collection. I agree 1000% with this story and review. Book signings are a win/win!!
    http://www.rockandrollcollection.com

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