Our Reading Lives

Conflicting Emotions About Signed Books

This is a guest post from Erin McCoy. Erin is a coffee shop explorer and yogi who moved to Minnesota over a decade ago. She’s had the pleasure of studying both music theory and student development theory on her quest to earn degrees in music and academic advising. Erin owns an inordinate number of romance novels, coffee mugs, black pens and bottles of vodka distilled in the Midwest. She lives with her husband, daughter, and a dog named Dixie. Twitter Handle: @ErinMickC

Perhaps the steepest learning curve I’ve had to conquer as an active new-to-romance reader is the romance community. Like many book-centric communities, Romancelandia (as it’s often called) has a focus on reader-to-reader and reader-to-author interaction. For some readers, including me, this translates to conferences and book signings. In every instance of a romance event that I’ve attended, I’ve walked away with a huge pile of signed books.

Seeing a book personalized and signed, purchasing that book and then placing it just so on my bookshelf gives me a tremendous reader high. I take #shelfie pics of my signed books, have a spreadsheet full of books I’d like to add to my signed book collection and show off the collection to any guest who walks through the door of my home. I’m not gonna lie, it feels like an exclusive club that I’m a part of; it feels like I’ve taken romance collecting to a new level.

I’m certainly not alone. There is a long legacy of owning signed books. You don’t have to look at eBay for very long to find out that a first edition of any Harry Potter book signed by JK Rowling is a hot commodity. Even as an avid signed book collector, I’m not looking to buy first editions of Hemingway or Rowling, though. All of my signed books are paperback romances that just about anyone could buy an unsigned version of at their romance-friendly local bookstore. That doesn’t diminish their significance to me.

The best part of owning a signed book is remembering the event that led to that acquisition. When I purchase a signed, personalized copy of a romance book at a conference or book signing, I remember that reader/author interaction. In many cases, that book purchase is not about the book, it’s about the romance community. I’m buying the reader/author experience and interaction. Through that lens, it doesn’t feel right to buy just any used, signed book.

letting go maya banks coverLetting Go by Maya Banks is the only signed book I’ve ever bought used. Ms. Banks rarely does signings and I had never dared to dream that I might own a signed book of hers one day until I came upon Letting Go at a local shop. When I first saw the gold “Signed by Author” sticker though, I didn’t immediately drop the signed book into my shopping basket. Without the author interaction, it felt strange to consider putting the impersonal, used, signed book on the same exact shelf as the extremely personal, signed books. It felt as though I would own the pages of the book, but not the real heart and essence of the author’s signature. It felt a whole lot like playing second fiddle. Even so, I reasoned, someone was going to buy the book, it might as well be me.

Now that the signed copy of Letting Go is on my bookshelf, I have to admit, it’s not the same as having a signed book that I obtained directly via a reader/author interaction. I cherish the book anyway. After all, it very well may be the only signed Maya Banks book that I’ll ever have in my collection. If I happen to meet Ms. Banks one day and have her sign a book for me, perhaps I’ll feel differently about my worn copy of Letting Go. Until that point, I treasure the thought that I have a signed copy of a book by one of my very favorite authors that just happened to have been acquired by at least two different bibliophiles.