Can you mail a copy of a book to an author & ask them to sign it?
December 24, 2016 11:46 PM   Subscribe

I remember reading a short piece by Isaac Asimov talking about people sending him books asking him to sign them. That was a long time ago. Is it still common practice to do this? Can I just send an admired author fan-mail that includes a copy of the book and return postage? Or do most authors nowadays only do that at designated book-signings? Are there any standards of etiquette in making such a request that I should know about?

This might be a stupid question, but I've never done this before so I figured it couldn't hurt to ask.

Is there a particular type of box that it would be best to send the book in?
posted by Sleeper to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've had people do just that; mail me the book and include return postage. Use whatever box you like, depending on how much you care about the condition of the book. If you use a padded envelope, include a fresh one for return.

You should probably send a letter first and see if it's OK to send a book; the author may be too busy and then you are out a book.

It's probably better, and more apt to get a response, if you phrase it as "I love your book please sign" instead of "Please write your name on these 5 copies so I can sell them for more."
posted by The otter lady at 11:52 PM on December 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


I have seen it more common for authors to sell signed copies directly lately, and obviously this will vary upon the author.

Alas, since it became vogue to send ricin and bombs in the mail, sending items to authors, even through their agent or publisher, seems to be frowned upon.

Regardless, except for A list authors, most writers are pretty responsive to emails or Facebook pages, so always worth it just to ask.
posted by Unsomnambulist at 11:54 PM on December 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Many of them publish this information on their web pages -- how to get a signed book, what you can mail to them to have signed and sent back, how to package it -- or have a contact e-mail for fan inquiries of this sort on their web page.

Some authors will sign your stuff and mail it back; others will send you a signed book from their stock but not yours that you mail them; others do book plates or bookmarks by mail, rather than messing around with mailing books. (Some, of course, don't do mail requests.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:01 AM on December 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


Yes, check webpages. Authors do this differently; many work with indie book stores to supply signed stock that can be mailed, some supply bookplates, some only do in-person signings. Sending an email first (or, if you can't find one, a letter to their literary agency) is good general practice.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:06 AM on December 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have been told that a book plate or other note to be pasted in, is easier for the author.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:04 AM on December 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


I worked with a prominent economist who published a popular press book. We got loads of autograph requests when his book came out and he was happy to sign them all!

A few tips:

* Include a padded return envelope with postage.

* Include a brief note explaining why you like the book and admire the author. If you have a personal anecdote to share, feel free. But be brief.

* If you want a specific note, such as "Good luck with your studies, Tim! Best wishes, [Name]," ask for it! Otherwise you are very likely to get the book back with just the signature.

* If you have a deadline, such as a birthday or holiday or something, say so! And give plenty of time - 3+ weeks would be safest. If you don't mention a deadline, I'm going to assume it's not urgent and will get to it when things are slow in the office.

* Don't send a letter asking if it's okay to send a book. That's ultra annoying. It's okay to call or email the author's office first, but dealing with inquiries via mail is a serious pain in the neck. It's almost 2017 for goodness' sake.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 9:10 AM on December 25, 2016


I'm assuming you're talking about well-known authors published by major companies (the distinction's significant; especially these days, anyone can be an author).

Here's what I'd suggest: first, send a note (c/o the publisher). Hand address it (return address, too), using a non-legal envelope (so it stands out as genuine fan mail and not some come-on). Make a terse (always be terse with busy people and strangers) but heartfelt statement of admiration (singling out some less-noticed subtlety for praise), and ask whether it's ok to send a book for signing...or if s/he'd prefer to sell you a signed copy directly. If you don't hear back in a couple months, send a copy for signing, along with a self-addressed and stamped return box/bag. It'll almost surely get done (see postscript at bottom).

Several advantages here. First, it'd be cheaper for you not to have to have to ship the book both ways. Second, you're exerting gentle pressure to be engaged with. Third, the author may have, as part of their contract, a boat load of cheap copies, and be grateful for a chance to unload some. And the whole thing might not cost you much more than just buying on Amazon...assuming the author doesn't mark up the price, which most won't do; they're well-aware of the Amazon price. Unless they're SUPER famous (e.g. Stephen King) they (correctly) won't expect their sig on the book to confer a monetary value, and so won't up-charge.

Postscript: if you do wind up simply sending a book, and don't get it back within a couple months, find out who the author's editor is (check the Acknowledgements page), and send that editor a note (via the publisher) tersely explaining what happened, and complaining that you're a die-hard fan and while you're okay not getting a sig, you're really upset about losing your copy of the book. They'll almost surely send you back a freebie (possibly with expedited sig). They're swimming in freebie copies, and are beholden to dedicated readers (i.e. customers).

posted by Quisp Lover at 9:47 AM on December 25, 2016


* Don't send a letter asking if it's okay to send a book. That's ultra annoying. It's okay to call or email the author's office first, but dealing with inquiries via mail is a serious pain in the neck. It's almost 2017 for goodness' sake.

Speaking as a midlist author (which most of us are; we have no "staff" to handle these things and are pretty much just regular people who also publish books), I'd much rather receive any form of correspondence (whether email or letter) asking about how to procure a signature than an actual book. Mostly because I have a stack of signed book plates I can drop in the mail at any time, along with other swag and promotional goodies. Shipping books requires a post office visit and is a massive pain in the ass.

Postscript: if you do wind up simply sending a book, and don't get it back within a couple months, find out who the author's editor is (check the Acknowledgements page), and send that editor a note (via the publisher) tersely explaining what happened, and complaining that you're a die-hard fan and while you're okay not getting a sig, you're really upset about losing your copy of the book.

Jesus Christ, please don't do this. The vast majority of authors have other jobs and obligations and shaming them for not sending a book back that they never promised to sign in the first place is ridic. Further, the proper contact person is the author's agent, not editor. Most authors will have their agents listed on their websites or the book's acknowledgments.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:38 AM on December 25, 2016 [16 favorites]


I handle my author-husband's Facebook pages, and coordinate sending signed bookplates out so he can concentrate on writing the books. Please, please, never send a book blindly to an author without making contact first.

We're always happy to field both emails and messages on Facebook from people who would like signed copies of things. We 100% suggest a bookplate over a signed book, because they can go out in the regular mail instead of requiring a special trip to our tiny, always-crowded post office. (Plus, as opposed to an earlier answer, we are definitely not "swimming in freebie copies"; almost all free copies we received of his books were earmarked and sent out long ago, so we're mostly down to a very limited amount of just-in-case-of-emergency stock. But bookplates, we have plenty.)

If a reader desperately wanted to send a book, and wouldn't settle for a bookplate, I'd still want to get that email first, so I could give them the correct address to send it to. (Not to the publisher, who's across the country from us and who knows how long it would take to get to us, nor to the agent, who's across the country in a different direction and same thing about who knows how long it would take.)
posted by themissy at 1:57 PM on December 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Check websites!
I just looked up a few of my favorites and of the four- three had links to their publisher where one could request their latest book signed-
One politely declines.
posted by calgirl at 2:01 PM on December 25, 2016


Check their website. I would be seriously creeped out if a stranger sent me a copy of my book to my house with the expectation that I would sign it and send it back.

(In large part because I try really hard to make sure that people can't find my house.)

However, if you e-mailed me or my agent, it could probably be arranged. And agreed with above-- my agent will pass on a request like that. My editor might not be my editor anymore, and a general publicity e-mail may never get forwarded.
posted by headspace at 5:31 PM on December 25, 2016


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