Personally Yours: Personalizing Your Inscriptions

Image by Melissa Bowersock
Image by Melissa Bowersock

Ever been to a book-signing or book festival where you’ve had to sign and personalize books over and over? Ever run out of ways to do that? Yeah, it’s tough, huh? (Don’t we all wish?)

Truly, though, how much thought do you give your dedications? Some readers may request specific things, but most are just happy to have their name and yours, maybe a sentence or two. Or some might say, “Be creative.” You know, that thing we can turn on at the drop of a hat?

I do try to be creative, but it’s not something I leave to the last minute as I’m sitting with the pen poised. I really have put some advance thought into it. What I try to do is make the sentiment of the signing match the story of the book. I’ll give you some examples.

My action/adventure Queen’s Gold is quite a wild ride, dashing from the US to Mexico in search of ancient Aztec gold. For this one I usually say, “Hope you enjoy the ride!”

My fantasy The Blue Crystal is akin to The Lord of the Rings, a sword and sorcery fantasy of magic and wizards both good and evil. My spiritual novel Goddess Rising is an epic saga of a future time when civilization has been destroyed and the few remaining people have reverted to a magical Goddess worship as they await a female savior who is prophesied to lead them back to greatness. For both of these books, I sign, “May all your journeys be magical.”

My only non-fiction (to date), the biography of my aunt who was an Army nurse and prisoner-of-war, is a true-life story of great hardship and struggle. Writing something light and fluffy just doesn’t feel right, so I might say, “Here’s to strong women everywhere,” or “Keep those family stories alive.”

On the rare occasion when I am signing multiple books and have all my genres on display, I usually fall back to the generic, “Best wishes,” for expediency. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve noticed that my brain doesn’t always operate at full capacity at a book signing. I may be so distracted by the goings on that I get careless, and when I’m writing in indelible ink, I really want to be sure I’m saying the right thing. In this case, I’d rather stick to the non-specific and be safe rather than write “Enjoy the ride!” at the front of my aunt’s story.

Some other generic but still heartfelt personalizations that I’ve used are:

“Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.”

“Hope you enjoy it.”

“Thanks for your support.” Okay, not the most creative, but still sincere.

An interesting twist to this that has come to my attention is that some authors are selling personalized books online and giving buyers the option of dictating their own message. For a time, I listed a few of my signed books on Amazon in the “collectible” category, but never got much response to that. I don’t sell books direct on my website—never seemed to have the time to set up a shopping cart there. Another author I know who doesn’t have shopping on his website is selling his autographed books on ebay. It’s just a matter of sending folks that way from his website or Facebook, etc. Once people buy the book, they then fill out the “message to seller” dialog box to say what they want the dedication to be.

I’d love to hear how others approach this issue, so please, chime in!

Author: Melissa Bowersock

Melissa Bowersock is the award-winning author of twelve novels and one non-fiction title. She lives in a small community in northern Arizona. Learn more about Melissa from her Amazon author page and her blog.

14 thoughts on “Personally Yours: Personalizing Your Inscriptions”

  1. I loved this. Great ideas. I usually just say “best wishes” unless they request more. On Can You Hear the Music? I sometimes say, “I hope you enjoy Andy and Corey’s adventure.

    1. Thanks, Sandy, but you already had the idea going. If you’ve got a rush going on and can’t spare the time for the whole sentence, you could always shorten it to, “Enjoy the adventure,” or something like that.

  2. I love the idea of matching it to the genre of the book. My standby has always been, “Happy reading” or, like you, “Hope you enjoy it”. I think I need to expand. 🙂

    1. And I really like the non-specific, “Happy reading”! That’s one I’ll have to remember. Just put some thought into it and I’m sure you’ll come up with some for your specific books. I think fantasies lend themselves well to this.

  3. A close friend and I were talking about this last night. I still haven’t signed her book. She said it didn’t have to be personalized (although I want it to be); so I told her I’d just write

    ” For (insert name here),
    (well-meant, heart-felt message),
    (signature emotion) Sara”

    on the inside cover. Whad’da think? 🙂

    But seriously, I agree. Even if you don’t know the person, you should make them feel like they’re unique, special to you.

    Thanks for the suggestions!!

    1. Sara, funny story! For a good friend, yes, it would be easy to get all balled up in it, but this is exactly why I suggest thinking about it before you need it! Thanks for sharing.

  4. It’s been a while since I did a book signing, Melissa, as most of mine have just been eBooks, but that’s about to change and the timing of your post couldn’t have been better. Thank you.

  5. I sell quite a number of books at my public speaking events and signing takes time (Oh happy day!). To cope, I’ve halved the time by starting off before the event with, “Best wishes” followed by my name, already written in many books. It’s been a real win—It’s easy to write a few preceding words—I usually go with ” For — I hope you enjoy reading my story.” At times I have to tailor it specifically, but it’s never a problem.

    1. Ester, what a great idea! I don’t think I ever would have thought of that, but that’s a great time-saver. Thanks very much for sharing that with us. I have a feeling a few of us will start using that!

  6. I REALLY hate this. My “handwriting” (actually I just print any more, and it’s getting illegible as my cursive) is ugly and juvenile and unreadable. The whole idea oaf book signings bugs me.

    1. In China, men carry “chops”, little stamps made of plastic or ivory or whatever that imprint the characters of their name in red ink. I always liked the idea, but don’t know if people would go for it. And, of course, not personalization

      1. Lin, maybe you should have been a doctor! Ester’s idea might work for you, though, since you would have time to write a bit more carefully. And you know your adoring public won’t care if your signature is legible or not. Hang in there, Dr. Robinson.

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