How I feel about book signings depends on whether I'm approaching it as a writer or a reader. The writer in me loves the idea of meeting my public (especially as they mostly exist in my head at present). Signings are also a cost-effective way for publishers to support bookshops, sell books at full price and ensure that none of the signed copies can be sent back!
Speaking as a reader, a book is a book - whether it has a personalised scribble in the front, or not. I came out of a talk by Philip Pullman, Malorie Blackman and Frances Hardinge on Saturday, and my heart sank at the length of the signing queue. There were all these lovely piles of books and these brilliant authors waiting to sign them, but I couldn't conjure up the enthusiasm to connect the two halves. For the rest of the day, I wondered if I'd missed something, some shared social experience that was made all the more British by the fact it involved queuing.
I didn't help myself by compounding the sin. I can't believe I'm about to admit this, but I found and bought a copy of The Amber Spyglass for £2 in a remainders bookshop not ten minutes later! That's a 75% discount, but what price my self-esteem?
It was not ever thus. As a teenager, I became obsessed with a thrash metal band called "Dark Angel", because they were a) quite good and b) no-one else had heard of them. I got the back of my jacket signed by the band and drew a huge, slightly wonky logo in gold pen. I paraded around in this get-up with no little pride and to no little derision from my schoolmates, including the girl who was to remain the-great-unrequited-love-of my-life. Was it this experience that put me off signed items?
I returned to the literary festival yesterday with my daughter to hear Louisa Young (aka Zizou Corder), my mind made up to damn well get some stuff signed! The queue was much shorter, so I clutched a copy of Lionboy, the plastic foil cover making my hand sweat. My daughter had a copy of Halo, but sensibly she was reading it (in fact she didn't notice when we'd reached the front of the queue). The signing itself wasn't exactly an epiphany, but Louisa's a very nice lady with an extremely cool signature. If nothing else it suggested I need to start working on my own (very underwhelming) signature. I'm figuring the publishing industry might give me more time than I'd like for that little task.