Some authors do it; others don't. But for those who do, why do authors cross out their name when signing books? We share author perspectives below.
When I attended my first book signing (for the Market Book series), a fellow editor advised me to cross out my name when signing copies. It's a practice I've kept up since, and I've seen other authors do it as well, but I still wonder, "Why do authors cross out name when signing book?"
Of course, like any well-connected editor, I knew how to get feedback on my question. I took to Facebook with the following query: "Authors! When you sign books, do you cross out the printed name in the book before signing your own? If so, why?"
And then, the replies started piling in. Below are a few of the more interesting answers I received.
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Tom C. Hunley
"In 2001 or 2002, I asked Rodney Jones why he did that in my book. He told me that it makes it more valuable for collectors. Also that if it has a date and location, it makes it even more valuable. So I've been crossing out my name and writing in a date and location pretty much ever since."
"I always put the date and location and a drawing. It's a message in a bottle, a signed and inscribed book."
"I'm a used/collectible bookseller and I don't recall having seen this before. Janet Evanovich, for example, doesn't cross out her name. It certainly does not make it more valuable. A date might help, and having the signature with no dedication (book owner's name) is more valuable."
"Wouldn't necessarily agree. A good dedication (to another author) makes it better still."
"I do a horizontal 's' through my printed name and then sign (although my signature isn't my full name). To me, this is how you personalize the thing--never mind this cold black type, here is my real self."
"Sometimes I cross my name out and sign. I do it out of respect for myself, for the idea of accomplishment, for the idea that writers are real people, that we can touch our manuscripts in ways that transcend the printed objects they've become. Our works become even more personal this way, because our signatures are more physically attributed to us in the world than even fingerprints."
"I never do. I design books. It seems like vandalism to deface a title page. Instead, I sign on the flyleaf, or, if there is none, on the half-title page."
Dinty W. Moore
"Refuse to do it. It feels like self-violation."
"I do it. I think it makes it friendlier, more personal."
"I do it. My understanding is that it dates to the historical tradition of small press runs, where the author would hand-sign each copy as an authentication of the text."
"I cross out the printed name only when I autograph a book written by a poet other than myself."
Christopher P. Locke
"Yep. Always. I feel I am replacing the mechanical me with the actual me. And I always date in the top right."
"I've done only because I've seen others do it, but usually I just sign my name (first only for good friends and relatives, full for everyone else). I will put date and place if it's at a special event."
"I do. When I used to browse second hand stores, I found that it was a quick way to identify if the book was signed by the author or the owner. So when I started publishing, that was what I did.
"...and I'm going to keep doing it now because some folk think we shouldn't."
"I do. I also include a little doodle of either a tea cup or a martini glass."
"I always sign in a color pen that's not black, so it is obvious that it wasn't printed as part of the black text."
"I do. I also usually sign with a <3 because I'm apparently 12. But being 12 is fun, so let's just go with it."
Georgia Ann Banks-Martin
"No, but I do try to sign in colorful inks, draw something, or actually say something, so that it is special."
Karen DeGroot Carter
"I don't and am always a little puzzled when authors do!"
Michael T. Young
"I have always done it because somewhere in the ancient past I read it was done but I can't remember why now. I believe it may be only a kind of etiquette which, if it had some substance in the past is now lost."
Annette Marie Hyder
"I don't and not only do I hate the thought of defacing the book but also, crossing my name out when I worked so hard to get it there? No. I would rather underline it and put hearts around it."
"No. I find it bizarre."
"I hate signing books, but I do it when I'm forced to as a small and desperate protest. Also the same reason I put two spaces after a period."
"I didn't, because I didn't know why people did it. Then I read about why here (in the comments thread mostly), and now I do, because it feels cool and old-fashioned in an Edith Wharton kind of way. Like something Newland Archer would do."
"I don't. I didn't know why people did it either for a long time, just knew they did. But I still don't do it. Hadn't really thought of why I don't, but perhaps I also don't like the idea of crossing out my own name after so much hard work to get it there on the book."
"Of course not. That's ridiculous."
Kendall A. Bell
"I've never done that and never will. I usually sign on the title page in a blank space and that's it."
"I always do. It's a throwback, but I also think it personalizes the signature and message you are leaving in the book."
"Because I'm the real deal."
Michael Dylan Welch
"I've never understood why some authors cross out their names when they sign a book. I never do. Where did this practice begin, and whatever on earth for? It's just messy, and feels like an affront to the designer who carefully designed the title page--and if the designers know what they're doing they usually leave space for a signing too."
"I sometimes draw an arrow to it and write 'That dude.'"
"Here's my input: May we all succeed to the point where we face such a decision."
"I sign my name, usually with a short note under the printed name. I'm odd man out on this. I've never heard of the crossing out."
"Yes, because that's the way we do it!"
"Yes. I don't know why except my publisher told me to."
"In the late 80s, when I was working as a secretary, my boss would have me print letters with his full formal name. He would then strike that out with a pen and put in his nickname. When I once printed a letter with his nickname (thinking I was being efficient), he made me redo it. It was his way of making a personal gesture, a 'This formality isn't our relationship.' But, do I do that signing my own book? No."
So at the end of the day (or blog post), I guess there's no "right" way of signing the book. There are personal reasons to cross out the name and valid reasons to leave the text alone.
That said, I'm going to continue crossing out my name when I sign. For no other reason than, it's what feels right to me.