Editor’s note: Pat is taking a break from this right now until he can find a better way to do it . Keep an eye out for more details…
People have been asking me this question more and more often lately, and strangely enough, the question has been getting more and more difficult to answer.
First, I should explain something. While I’ve been a writer for a long time. I’ve been a *PUBLISHED* writer for a very short time. As of right now, my novel has only been out for a little more than four months.
This means that I’m still a total geek about most things. I still get a glowy, warm feeling whenever someone likes the book enough to post up another five star review on Amazon. I keep looking back at the Amazon page to see my sales rank is. And when someone tells me they like the book, I feel like a mom must feel when someone compliments her baby.
I still read all my fanmail, and I respond to all of it, too. (Though right now I’m really behind, and I apologize to everyone who hasn’t received a response yet. Sorry.)
The other thing I did for a couple of months, was agree to sign any books that people wanted to send me. It was just cool for me that anyone would buy my book, let alone care enough to want my signature. So whenever asked me this question, I gave them my address. Then when the books showed up, I signed them and sent them back.
After a few months, a couple things started to change my feelings on the matter.
First, the number of people asking for me to sign their books has been slowly increasing. This is a problem because it probably takes me around half an hour to unwrap, sign, repackage and drop the book off at the post office. While I love the thought of making a fan happy, that’s time I could be spending working on book two, or doing the dishes, or kissing girls. There’s only so many hours in the day, and I’ve been very, VERY busy lately.
Second, I became aware that some of the people who wanted me to sign their books weren’t fans, but book collectors. Or rather, signed book re-sellers. Imagine my surprise when I found copies of my book out there selling for hundreds of dollars.
At first I was stunned. Then I was flattered. Then I started to realize that I might be getting hustled a little. I don’t mind taking twenty minutes out of my day to get someone a signed copy of my book if they’re geeking out over it. I’m less thrilled about spending that time so that someone else can make 100 bucks off the deal.
Now I’m not implying that all those people out there selling my books screwed me. Many of them approached me honestly and asked for signed copies specifically to sell. Some of them were even generous enough to cut me in on a piece of the action.
But a few people did hustle me. That and my busy schedule made me think I should give a firm, polite “NO” to this question once and for all. I even made a humorous flow chart to soften the blow of this news to hopeful folks out there:
As you can see, the best possible result is that I end up eating tacos. And honestly, I can do that whether or not you send me a book to sign.
This was all about a month ago. I was ready to pack it all in when I got the following e-mail.
I managed to pick up an Advanced Copy of NOTW at a small used
bookstore. I felt a bit guilty about buying a book that clearly states “Not for Sale” on every surface of the binding… but I’ve purchased four legit copies so far (attempt at justification), and have distributed them to those I deem worthy (coupled with altruism)… And I know that you’re a bang up guy (flattery), and would likely not hold this against me.
So the favor is this: If I pack the book up in a self addressed, postage paid box and send it to you, would you be willing to sign it and drop it in the post?
I would make sure it was carefully packed in bags of high-quality Ethiopian coffee (I assume whole bean is acceptable), and safely wrapped with other “recyclable” material. Interested? ; )
Thanks, Pat — I know you’re a busy guy, so don’t feel obligated to reply if you don’t have the time. I completely understand-
This letter was not only flattering and funny, but the guy was smart enough to realize that I didn’t make any money off of him buying an ARC of the book. What’s more, he recognized that I was a busy guy, and that signing the book would take time out of my schedule. So he agreed to send me a present to make it up to me.
So I e-mailed him back with my address and gave him the thumbs up, then forgot about it. A week or so later, I get this in the mail:
In the middle is the ARC copy of the book. The rest of the stuff is the “packing material.” Chocolatey sugar-bomb cereal, coffee, candy, and a Powell’s Bookstore T-shirt. It was like Santa wanted my autograph.
Then, again, just a few days ago I got a bottle of wine in the mail as a thank you present from someone who asked me to sign a few books a month ago.
This made me re-re-consider my position on the book signing. Not just because I was getting swag. But because it made it clear to me that for some people, getting a signed book was a really big deal. I know that feeling. I’ve had it myself in the past.
So here’s what I’ve decided. If you want me to sign your book, I will. But here’s the price:
You need to send me something cool.
It doesn’t need to be expensive, or big, or edible, or rare. (The guy who sent me the ARC clearly went overboard.) It just needs to be something that I’ll pull out of the package and think, “Hey, that’s pretty cool.”
Then I’ll play with it, wear it, show it off, or put it on a shelf. And when I’m signing your book, packing it back up, and walking to the post office, I’ll feel happy. Because the coolness of your gift will convince me that getting a signed book is kind-of important to you. Then, even if you decide to sell the book on e-bay, I won’t really mind because you took the time to send me a present as a way to say thank you.
- The step-by-step instructions.
1. Find something cool.
2. Write me a brief note that includes:
- Your return address.
- Your email address in case I have to contact you.
- An explanation of exactly what you’d like written in the book(s). If you don’t include instructions, I’ll just do a simple signature and send it back.
3. Send a check for seven bucks per book to cover postage and the cost of good packing materials to keep the book safe when I send it back to you.
3a. DO NOT send anything other than a check or money order. (or cash, if you really need to.) Don’t try to be helpful and send a pre-paid Fed-ex sticker or a postal coupon. Those things are a huge pain in the ass for us to deal with. They’re anti-helpful. They waste my time and delay your book getting back to you in a timely fashion.
3b. If you want the book sent back to you faster. Make the check out for 15 bucks and we’ll ship it using priority mail.
3c. If you need the book shipped overseas, read the instructions in Warnings and Addendums below.
4. Package everything carefully. (Details in Warnings and Addendums below.)
5. Mail the package to me at:Patrick Rothfuss
PO Box 186
Stevens Point, WI 54481
For UPS or FED-EX, you’ll have to use this address:Patrick Rothfuss
Stevens Point, WI 54481
- What if I don’t want to go through all that? Can I just buy a signed book directly from you?
Sure. I do sell signed hardcover copies of The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear. All proceeds go to Worldbuilders, the charity I started a couple years ago.
This option is simpler. You can just go visit our online store. Or follow steps 2, 3 and 5 up above.
Warnings and Addendums
You really need to package your stuff up carefully.
Padding is important, but the true key is to making sure your book can’t move around inside the package itself.
I also strongly recommend you take the book jacket off the book and keep it at your house, as it’s the most easily damaged part of the book.
If you have any doubts about your packing job, think to yourself: “If I threw this package across the room, into the wall, would the book get hurt?” If the answer is, “yes” then you need to pack it more carefully. These things get really knocked around sometimes. And if your book shows up damaged, I’ll have no real choice but to shed a single tear, sign it, and send it back in its crippled state….
I try to get books signed and mailed back to people as soon as possible. But sometimes I’m busy. Or I’m on vacation. Or whatever.
This means if you desperately need a book for some special event, you need to send it to me a couple weeks in advance. Ideally, you should send it to me a month in advance, just to be safe.
- Overseas shipping.
If the book needs to be shipped overseas, it will cost me 40 dollars to get it back to you. 55 dollars if you send both Name of the Wind and Wise Man’s Fear.
Here’s the trick, you need to make the check or money order out in US Dollars or my bank won’t cash it.
- What not to ship.
While I appreciate all gifts people send me. Some things simply don’t travel very well.
Homemade cookies, for example, don’t survive a long journey and two days in a PO box very well. Liquids are also dangerous. If they’re not packaged carefully, things can break and ruin your book.
My advice is simple. Think twice and package carefully.
There we go. All updated and shiny new as of July 2010. Hope this is helpful.