When I talked about where to discard books when you are ready to, I hinted at a couple of tricky situations. You probably already know what they are. One is when you have a book which you no longer want, but it is signed by the author. Could be several reasons for this. The one most common for me, is that I got caught up in the excitement of a dynamic author talk/reading and bought a book, only to realize later, it’s not my kind of thing at all. I have a lot of writer friends, and I used to buy all their books just to be supportive. A good motive, sure, but I ended up with stuff I didn’t really want. One time I really did want a book from an author, but she was sharing a table with another writer whom I did not know. It felt awkward ignoring the second author, so, sure enough I bought both of their books. In all of these cases, of course, the author graciously autographed the items to me. But then, how do you get rid of them? Yeah, I can pass them on in one of the ways described in the previous post. But, (call me over-sensitive), I’m not comfortable having my name end up in books being perused by other book buyers. (And with a name like mine, it couldn’t very well be anyone else.)
In the past, I have solved this by 1) razoring out the offending page, as long as it does not make the book unusable for someone else, or 2) using liberal black marker to obliterate my personal information. (I know, some of my friends will be appalled to read about defacing a book in any way. Tough.)
I also don’t like to just dump a signed copy, because, wouldn’t you know it, somehow the author him or herself will stumble across it, and I don’t want to be a factor in the chagrin they must feel at finding their hard work reduced to a giveaway pile. Worse still, if the author is a friend, I’ll be running into her any minute now along with her hurt feelings and insulted ego. Sure, every writer knows this is the ultimate fate of many of their books. One bestselling author (I can’t remember who), jokingly remarked that being a bestselling author meant that he could brag that he had more books in landfills than any other writer.
Now, I have a new method. I don’t let authors, whether they are my friends or not, sign their books when I buy them. After all, I buy books at signings to support the author’s work, not obtain a souvenir or treasure. (I have a few exceptions, perhaps two or three signed books that I do cherish, including Schindler’s List, signed by Thomas Keneally.)
And when I sign my own book for others, I sign on the first page of the front matter, which is blank. That way, if they, sometime in the future, want to razor that page out, the rest of the book remains undamaged. In the next post, I’ll tell about how one of my own books ended up at a used book store, but with a much more positive ending.