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Writer's Privilege

Those attending book signings should follow a few simple rules.


You find out that your favorite author is going to be signing her new book at a local store. You're thrilled. But you wonder: Can I bring some of the author's older books to be signed without committing a major faux pas?

With book signings becoming increasingly popular, the events have spawned their own set of rules regarding the do's and don'ts of proper book-signing behavior.

Individual authors and their publishers will lay down certain ground rules for their signings. And different bookstores have different rules. It's probably best to call the store beforehand to check what's OK with the author. But here are some general guidelines:

* Smaller independent bookstores are more likely than the big chain stores to insist that you buy the book being signed.

Del Howison, owner of Dark Delicacies, a Burbank store that specializes in horror, sci-fi and fantasy titles, said, "We had to post a notice in the store 'Book purchase required for signatures.' By buying the books cheaply at Barnes and Noble, [customers are] not supporting the bookstore that's sponsoring the book signing."

A big national chain, such as Borders, takes a different view.

"We don't discourage people from bringing in books they've bought somewhere else," said Jill Tewsley, a marketing manager at Borders corporate offices in Ann Arbor, Mich. "We want to make the experience for the author and the customer as pleasurable as possible."

While talking to the author is allowed at a signing, it's not good for one person to monopolize the writer's time, all agreed.

"It's great if people talk to the authors. I think most authors really like that," Tewsley said. "The ground rule is to keep in mind how many other people are there."

"The author wants to know you're a fan, but they don't want to discuss the horsepower of the engine of the Starship Enterprise," Howison said. "Also, a signing is an inappropriate time and place to discuss your own writing with the author."

* Is it OK to bring in older books by the author for her to sign?

"Obviously, we prefer that people purchase the book here," said Lita Weissman, community relations coordinator at the Borders store in Sherman Oaks. "We allow people to bring their old books; we only need to sticker them so there's no confusion about the ownership. So, if someone brings a bag of books, all the books in the bag will have either a sticker or a sale receipt."

Howison advises people not to come with a full bag or box of books. "Four or five is OK, but if you want to have more signed, be prepared to go through the line twice," he said.

Weissman agreed.

"In many cases, authors are thrilled to know that people are still reading their books," Weissman said. "Sometimes, if they have 40 to 50 books, we'll ask them to wait until the others have had their one book signed."

* Is it OK to shoot a photo of the author?

"Most authors don't mind to have their photo taken if you ask them first," Howison said.

Weissman said she will sometimes assign a staff member to shoot the pictures to save time.

What the author will readily sign is also a matter of concern. Howison advises to check with the bookstore beforehand if the author will sign an advanced reading copy (also known as an ARC). "Many authors will refuse because they're not making any money," Howison said.

The same rule applies to memorabilia--posters, T-shirts, etc.--associated with the author or the author's work.

"Memorabilia is OK with some authors and not OK with others," said Howison.

Both Weissman and Howison said if you can't make it to a signing, most bookstores will get your new book signed if you request it.

"The bookstore wants you to have a good time," Howison said.


Events on Tap

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan will sign her books "I Love You, Ronnie: The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan" and "My Turn," Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library's Museum Store, 40 Presidential Drive, Simi Valley. (805) 522-9953.

* Jonathan Collins will sign and discuss "Insights From the Coffeehouse" tonight at 7:30 at Borders Books & Music, 14651 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. Author Robyn Todd will sign and discuss "How to Survive Your Boyfriend's Divorce" Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. (818) 728-6593.

* Jamie Green and her band will perform Saturday at 8 p.m. at Borders Books & Music, 9301 Tampa Ave., Northridge. (818) 886-5443.

* Northridge Branch Library, 9051 Darby Ave., will host a talk and slide show by James Underdown on 10 well-known topics involving the supernatural on Saturday at 3 p.m. The Amityville Horror, crop circles, Roswell and the Shroud of Turin will be among those discussed. Free. (818) 886-3640.

* Platt Branch Library, 23600 Victory Blvd., Woodland Hills, will hold a used book sale Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (818) 340-9386.

* Granada Hills Branch Library, 10640 Petit Ave., will hold a used book sale Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. (818) 368-5687.

* Stephanie Satie will perform her one-woman show, "Refugees," dealing with the immigrant experience in America, Sunday at 2 p.m. at the North Hollywood Regional Library, 5211 Tujunga Ave. (818) 766-7185.

* Author Griffin Hart will discuss and sign his book "Wyakin" Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, 245 N. Glendale Ave., Glendale. (818) 246-4677.

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