As an author I have mixed feelings about book collecting, because I write to be read not for someone else’s pension fund. I hope that my readers will want to own the whole series, and at formal events I will continue to sign new copies. (NB it is tactful to buy these at the shop or library which is hosting the event.) Because of increasing arthritis in my hands I am now limiting the number of signings and absolutely restricting signatures on old editions. Please respect this. Do you want me to give up writing because I can no longer use my hands to type?
Signings are fewer these days and mainly in the UK, but I cannot receive books for signing through the post. It is too burdensome arranging delivery and collection. Please don’t ask.
At first collectors of first editions were welcome. Later I began to view them with reserve. Some collectors brazenly tell me they have not read a word. Dealers are trading – lucratively – in a something I produced to give a different kind of pleasure. Professional dealers sometimes exploit the fact I believe them to be readers. The words ‘just a signature please’ mean the book is to be sold on. If you want me to like you, ask for a dedication so I know you really want it for yourself or to give as a gift.
Incidentally, if and when I do it, I sign books for nothing. Any seller who charges extra for my signature is exploiting you. You deserve better treatment – and so do I.
For Flavia Albia’s exploration of book collecting, see A Capitol Death