Pick up a pencil. Right NOW pick up a pencil. Or if you prefer a pen, if you can find one, and write you name. In script. If you remember how.
Now, look at your signature. The name you wrote is probably shared by millions, but the way you wrote it is unique and special and no one else in the entire world can write your name the way that you do. It’s yours alone.
Now, on your keyboard, or your laptop, or whatever device you’re reading this right now, type your name. Use whatever font, size or color you want, it won’t matter because all those millions who shares your name can do the exact same thing in the exact same way. Electronically typed, your name is indistinguishable millions of others and what makes that name truly your own is gone.
Your signature contains a small piece of your personality, a tiny microscopic atom of your very soul that flows from your brain down your arm, to your hand and fingers, through the instrument that writes the word onto a piece of paper. For an author, their signature scrawled on the face page of your book is forever inscribed on the first page of our book.
Artists sign their paintings; chisel their name in sculptures made of marble, or glass, or bronze. Their unique signature tells the world that their creation is theirs and theirs alone. For as long as that piece of art exists the artist’s signature, and in a way the artist themselves, lives on for eternity.
But you can’t sign an ebook.
There was a time, not that long ago, that bookstores would hold book signing events for authors. There would be lines of fans waiting for a chance to see the creator of the worlds that existed within the covers of the books they carried with them for the author to sign. Each signature, a unique, individual part of that authors personality that each fan took with them when that brief moment in the presence of the author had passed. That signature would last many years, sometimes long after the author had also passed on.
But those days are long gone. Bookstores are vanishing, and book signings are vanishing with them. The birth of the ebook was the death of personally signed books.
With every new technological advancement, we are moving further and further away from personal contact. We don’t hear other’s voices, we read text messages. We don’t interact at social functions, we “go to meetings” on webinars, or video conference. We are so desperate for physical contact there is now a new cottage industry of paid “huggers” those who will cuddle with you for a price.
Our new “social media” is anything BUT, and we’re all jumping on the anti-social bandwagon.
Why write a letter when an email will do? Why take the time to shop for that perfect card , sign your name and hand write the address when it is so much quicker and easier to send an ecard? Why buy a book when you can read electronic texts, one that looks exactly like the other, lacking any personality or uniqueness. We are becoming homogenized clones, losing our individuality and uniqueness to the technological cyber world.
Text all looks exactly the same no matter who the writer. One book looks exactly the same as another. Words on a computer screen, ipad or cellphone are cold disconnected and distant. There was a reason we used to cuddle up with a good book, now we pay to cuddle up with a perfect stranger.
As authors, we must strive to keep that very special part of ourselves alive. On one hand, we want to sell as many books as we can, whether they are hard copies or ebooks. I recently sold several copies of Undercover Reunion to one of the organizers of Arundel – 17, an annual Man from U.N.C.L.E. convention which takes place in Sussex, England. Although I was unable to attend the event in person, I printed labels with the organization’s logo, signed each one and mailed it to her to put on the front page of the books.
I sent a few extras in the event that other attendees wanted to purchase the “signed” book. Each label was personally signed by me. Knowing my signature, a tiny part of me, would be traveling across the ocean to attend a convention, I was very careful to make each letter look a bit like the author who could not attend in person. It felt wonderful!
Now, pick up that pen write your name. Then look at your signature. That very unique individual signature that represents you and only you and write it again. Now, imagine you’re sitting at a table, a stack of your best- selling novel on your left and a huge line of fans in front of you waiting for you to give them that unique part of you that only you can give. Your signature. Your first edition will be passed on to their children and grandchildren and even if it ends up at a garage sale or a used bookstore, it will always have a part of you that flowed from your hand through the pen onto that page.
That is immortality.
And it is what we have all lost because you can’t sign an ebook.
Now, I need a hug.