Musings on inscribing a book to someone

Today’s post was prompted by my recent Goodreads Giveway, which netted me … (drum roll) … 945 participants! Woo!

Moving on. So two people won, and now I need to send them their copies of Imminent Danger, complete with the dreaded BOOK INSCRIPTION!!!

Why dreaded, you ask? Is your book rastafarian? Does every copy come with an adorable origami set of miniature dreadlocks?

No, of course not. Don’t be silly. I’ve been dreading the BOOK INSCRIPTION!!! for some time now, because I have absolutely no idea what to write as an inscription. First of all, there’s the debate between “To” versus “For”. Examples:

To Juarhala, prettiest gal this side o’ tha Pecos


For Juarhala, my dearest and most loyal sycophant

“For” strikes me as more personal, whereas “To” is more when you’re writing a letter to someone. Hmmmm. Thoughts?


And then, of course, there’s the dodgy matter of what to actually write in the inscription itself. Just “For/To + Name” is kind of boring. You need to personalize that shizzle to really make it … erm … fizzle. So, what to write?

For my close friends, nothing short of an epic, full-page letter will suffice. I’ve known them for a long time, they helped with the book, and they expect The Iliad in return. Fair enough. God knows what I’ll actually write in said epic letter — I think it will have to be an on-the-spot inspiration type of deal — but that doesn’t stop me from worrying that, when I’m on the spot, I’ll have absolutely no idea what to write, or write something so stupid they’ll quietly hide my book in a corner and never mention it again.

But now that I’ve got a book signing at Chapters on May 25th (huzzah!), I need to figure out what to write for people I’ve met only casually, or for the first time. Do I try to personalize the message to each person? Do I ask them what they want me to write? Or do I come up with a witty, generic phrase? Here are some possible generic phrases of questionable wittiness:

For XXX. Reach for the stars! Michelle

To XXX. Follow your dreams! Michelle

For XXX. Pew pew pew! Michelle

To XXX. SHWOOP! Michelle

To XXX. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it! Michelle

For XXX. Enjoy the book, and thank you so much for your support! Michelle

To XXX. Best wishes, Michelle

For XXX. Dangerously yours, Michelle.

Bah. As you can see, I clearly have no idea what I’m doing. Any and all suggestions, as always, are welcome!!!


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Categories: Self Publishing, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 49 Comments

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49 thoughts on “Musings on inscribing a book to someone

  1. inkspeare

    One word of advice – don’t write it yet, wait until you get their address because if the person forgets, or does not send the address, you will get stuck with a copy that cannot be regifted – That happened to me, LOL. I emailed the winner two times, and no answer. So, I am stuck with a copy that has the name of that winner already written 😦

    • Ahhh that sucks! Yeah, I had my pen out and everything, and then I was like … wait. I should probably make sure these people actually exist first. They’ve both emailed me back, though, so full steam ahead on that front!

  2. HA! Best unrelated media ever.

    I always think of Empire Record when I think of book signings. I imagine it going something like Rex Manning’s in-store appearance. Fans singing to you, some girl saying, “This is for my mom, I’ve never heard of you,” fun stuff like that. 🙂

    If you want to write a few words in the books, you can borrow a few of mine. Wallaby, prognosticate, and defenestration are good ones.

  3. Michelle – this is a fabulous post! I laughed from beginning to end … “Is your book rastafarian?” – too funny. 🙂 I’m afraid I don’t have much inscription advice for you, but I voted for “for XXX” not “to XXX”. I agree, it’s a tad more personal. All the best at your book signing next month!

    • Thanks! I tend to get silly when suffering from lack of sleep – good to know I’m not making a total fool of myself with my ridiculous jokes, lol.

  4. For sounds better, but beyond that I have no idea. I’m terrified of the idea of signing a book for strangers. I tried to think of a catchphrase and came up with nothing. Congrats on the up-coming book signing though.

    • Thanks! It happened totally by accident. I was wandering around Chapters trying to find my book, and ran into the “Task Manager”, who was like, “… you wrote a book? Why aren’t you coming in for a signing?” And I was like “… um, I totally intended to do that. Where do I sign up?”

  5. “Imminently yours, Michelle.”

    Wait? So you are or you aren’t? Will you be after I read your book? Or did you become so as soon as the words were written? I don’t know!!!!

    I don’t know why that amuses me so much. I’m also a big fan of “Pew, pew, pew!”

    • Lol and the philosophical debate continues to rage. What is reality? Does writing on the screen indicate consciousness?

      I like “pew pew pew” too. Unfortunately, I don’t actually use that phrase in the book. I do use “zwoosh”. Think that works as a substitute?

  6. For those I don’t know, I go with: To (Name), Best wishes. Hope you enjoy! And then my signature, of course. But it does feel a bit bland nonetheless.

    • It’s a bit bland, yes, but I think it’s effective if you have no idea who the person is. I guess I’m hoping that, when the signing occurs, the person buying the book will say something that will trigger me to write the perfect inscription. Fingers crossed 😀

  7. I am a “for” supporter. To me it just sounds more proper for a person you just don’t know all that well, “to” sort of makes me think of “To whom it may concern” and then I think rigid, stiff greeting. See I can type a whole comment lol

  8. I love the Wizard of Oz description. Bang on!

    With the signing, I can honestly say I’ve never reached the fantasy of signing books. We’ll okay, I have, but not in enough detail to see what I write.

    To sounds more likely though that might be a UK thing 🙂

    • Ah, see, I never thought about inscription preferences changing based on nationality. But it makes total sense. So if I have any British customers, I should sign it “to”? 😀

      • I think that’s how we’d do it although I can’t speak for the whole of the UK. I don’t speak for the whole of my household 🙂

  9. I researched this and found that the book retains a higher value if it simply has an author’s signature rather than an inscription, so I know it’s a bit of a feeble excuse, but I generally try to get away with that one, or if someone tells me exactly what they want I do it, but reluctantly. I haven’t signed any for a while and, for a variety of reasons, last year’s attempts at paperback sales at fairs were disastrous.

    • I hadn’t even thought of that! Yeah, I guess re-sale value would go up if the book isn’t made out to a specific person, wouldn’t it? Where does the author sign, exactly? On the inside title page?

  10. Michelle, I think I used to put “To or For.” Then either Follow your dreams or Best of Luck. Once at a book signing the woman only wanted my signature and the date because she said a book is worth more with just signature and date. I never heard that before, but she collected signed books, so I wouldn’t question her. Now, I take something from inside my book that both characters have said once, at a very important moment. For your signing, make sure to have a notepad to write the name down first, especially if the name is uncommon so you don’t mess up the spelling. Mostly, readers are talking to you as you’re signing, and it’s easy to get distracted. Best of luck at your book signing and have fun!

    • Oooh, excellent tip with the notepad! Yeah, I was just discussing with Andy Szpuk how some people prefer just the author signature for re-sale value. Each to their own, I guess! I would rather have the book made out specially to me, but then, I don’t sell autographed books, so … 😀 And I like the idea of using a quote from the book, except only people who had already read the book would get it …

  11. I signed my book with something more or less like, “To XXX. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!” I didn’t want to intimidate a total stranger by being too personal. 😉

    • True, true. Crossing the “too personal” line is always awkward. For a while, I thought it would be fun to inscribe a book with, “To XXX. May you find your own Varrin one day!” (Varrin’s the smexy space pirate) Except then I realized that A) that only works if the person is a girl and single, B) it’s awkward to ask if they’re single, and C) it could be construed as rude if the person is overly-sensitive toward the state of their love life. Back to the drawing board!

  12. I voted ‘for’ because it seems more personal to me 😉

    I love the unrelated media – too funny! 😀

    • The best part is that it’s a “summary” I would never have thought of in a million years … and yet it’s 100% accurate. 😀

  13. Brilliant post. I have no experience whatsoever but I would probably go for “For” as it sounds more personal? I’d never thought of the re-sale value either – maybe it’s one of those things that will just fall into place on the day? Good luck!

    • Thanks 🙂 Yeah, “For” is striking me as the best option so far … unless, like you mentioned, re-sale value and whatnot. I guess the easiest thing to do will just be to ask them if they want something particular inscribed in the book, and go off of that!

  14. I often think about what I would write in the front cover of my as yet non-existent book to an as yet non-existent fan. I think about this a lot. I think about this way too much! 🙂
    I have no idea what you could write. It’s obviously personal and has to come from you, not us. 🙂 You’ll have an epiphany one day and you’ll wonder how you could have never considered that statement.
    On a slightly off-topic topic (!), Maybe you could try this (just don’t get caught!):

    • Stephen King is awesome, no questions asked. I love that they thought he was some sort of crazy scribbling deviant! Although I guess I would assume the same, if I saw some random guy dressed in sweat pants and a hoodie writing in a book. Hmm … it’s a tempting idea to try, but I don’t think I have the guts. Not yet, anyway. Maybe in a few years 😀

  15. This is a very interesting question, and I’m jealous that you’re actually at a point where you get to think about it. (PB JELLY)
    ANYWAY! My 2 cents, not having read through any of the comments. I like all of those little things you included. 🙂 They’re all fun, and who doesn’t enjoy getting things a little bit personalized? As you’re a newer writer, you still have the luxury of including things like that in your books, especially at this first signing, so I would go for it. Brevity is more important when you’re at a signing with like a thousand people, in which case, probably the most you can do is scribble your name and move on. Not that I don’t think you deserve a thousand fans! But for your first signing you will probably enjoy more time to talk, to casually chat, and to write up a little line or two for each person individually. I know I would enjoy that. ^^

    • PB jelly? Eek. That’s the stickiest kind of jelly there is. I’m so sorry for subjecting you to such a fate!

      Right. Personalized one or two lines … I think I can probably manage that. Like you said, I doubt I’ll be swarmed by thousands of loyal fans, lol. I know my mom’s stopping by … and that’s about it at the moment 😀

      • I would totally stop by, if I wasn’t stuck here in Michigan! This is one of those times when I wish my uncle constantly joking that I’m ‘practically in Canada’ were true, lol. But I mean, hey, if you’re ever in the States… 😉

      • BTW, I had Immin Dang on the brain again today and was feeling artsy, so you get the next in the series of drawings detailing the book–Eris’ face getting molested by Captain Hroshk! (Oh yay!)
        Actually coming up with the design for the Ssrisk was hard, but I went with the descriptions and relied heavily on lizard designs. He’s pretty detailed atm–may have to come up with a more cartoon-streamlined design in future. Anyway, enjoy!

  16. I did a quick survey of all the author-signed books on my shelf for you. Most of them were “to,” but I voted for “for” because the book signed “For Grace” (Matthew Pearl, The Dante CLub) gave me more warm and fuzzies than the “To Grace”s. Also perfectly legitimate is skipping the salutation, and going straight to the name, à la Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley (sadly, I have not met Robin Mckinley—the autographed book I have is made out to Charles). This reads “Charles- Best Wishes! Robin McKinley”, or “Grace, [mysterious pictogram that is either the female gender symbol or a sword]’s rule! Tamora Pierce.” And if you are Sean Astin, apparently no personalization is necessary; the author name is enough.
    So basically, you can do whatever you want, and your fans will be stoked about it regardless.

    • Excellent detective work! Ah, see, I hadn’t even thought of leaving out to/for entirely, but that totally works! Hmmmm … lots to think about …

  17. Loved this post, Michelle. I voted for “for” because it is personal; however I think if you are writing them a message, you are sending it to them, so “to” might be better. If you are just writing their name and your name, “for” might be better. Too complicated?

    • No, that makes total sense! Maybe I should just make it a policy of asking everyone exactly what they want me to write before I write anything, lol. That would definitely save me some headaches down the road.

  18. My inscriptions generally are pretty straightforward. Because of the Sixties content and the fact that my book is all about a ‘retired’ hippie-type I simply write “For ______” then freehand a peace symbol then my name.

    • Oooh I like it! I don’t think there’s any particular symbol I could extract from my book to do something similar … well, except for a star, as it’s set in space, but I don’t think it works quite as well as your peace symbol 😀

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