While speaking on a panel at the Newburyport Literary Festival on Saturday, I was asked to recommend two books. I recommended my first novel, SOMETHING MISSING, though doing so made me a little uncomfortable, since I was the only author on the panel.
I also recommended THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX, the Newbury Award winning novel by Kate DiCamillo. It’s a brilliant and beautiful book about courage, sacrifice and the dangers of nonconformity, and it’s equally suited for children and adults. Then, in order to make up for my level of discomfort in recommending my own book, I suggested that audience members buy DiCamillo’s book before purchasing my own.
“I’d even be willing to sign Kate DiCamillo’s book if you’d like, if that will convince you to buy it. With my name or Kate’s name. Whatever you’d like.”
The comment garnered a laugh from the audience, but as I was signing books in the outer lobby, one of the audience members took me up on my offer, asking me to sign Kate DiCamillo’s name by proxy.
I have often told readers that I am perfectly comfortable with them signing my name by proxy in my books, since I believe in delegating responsibility whenever possible, but I have yet to see someone actually take me up on this.
But as requested, I signed Kate’s name to the book, adding an inscription that complimented my own wit, charm and good looks in order to ensure that the signature appeared very tongue-in-cheek and unlikely made by the hand of DiCamillo.
Later that night, I received a tweet from the woman whose book I signed. She hadn’t taken the time to look at the inscription at the time of the signing but noticed it several hours later and had a good laugh over it.
I’m hoping Kate DiCamillo won’t mind, since I did manage to sell a book for her. Many, in fact.
But it got me thinking:
At every bookstore appearance, I make it a point of recommending half a dozen other books to my audience in addition to my own. I try to recommend books in a variety of genres, including fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, children’s books and even a cookbook.
What if I was to ensure that, in addition to my own books, the bookstore had at least one of these titles in stock, adding during the recommendation portion of my talk that if anyone purchased one of these books in addition to my own (or even instead of my own), I would be willing to sign that author’s name by proxy?
Would authors be pleased that I am helping to sell their books?
Would they be annoyed with me for forging their signature?
Is this even amusing enough to make it worth the time and effort?
The idea certainly garnered a laugh on Saturday, and it made enough of an impression in the mind of one audience member to take me up on the offer, but perhaps this is the kind of thing that goes well if done spur-of-the-moment but not so well if it is planned and executed in a regular basis.