There’s nothing automatic about an autograph

There's nothing automatic about an autograph by Bob Karolevitz Book-signing is not as easy as it looks. As a matter of fact, it�s usually easier to write 30,000 words than it is to pen the couple for an autograph.

For instance, people want their names written correctly, but there are lots of ways to spell Jean and Alan and Catherine, etc.

Then there are birthday wishes, old-timer greetings, anniversary felicitations and all sorts of messages which the autographee dictates when all you want to do is sign your John Henry.

�Oh, just sign it to me,� they say.

But I don�t know who �me� is. For some reason, when I�m autographing, I draw a blank on everybody, including my wife what�s-her-name. My sainted mother could show up and I wouldn�t recognize her.

When a dear friend wants an autograph, you can�t very well say, �And who are you?� So I end up harumphing a lot until a light dawns ��or I can cross another ex-friend off my Christmas list because I can�t remember his or her name.

Women are the worst because they change their hair styles so often.

I screw up other ways, too. I can recall signing a book for Tim Johnson and calling him a Congressman when he was already a U.S. Senator. It was embarrassing, to say the least ��and you can�t unring a bell or recover gracefully from a faux pas!

Then there was the time when the bindery person put the book jacket on wrong, and I inadvertently autographed a purchase for a lady, upside down and backwards (the signature, not the lady).

She didn�t notice the error then, but an hour later she returned with a legitimate complaint: �You signed my book upside down on the back page.�

Because the customer is always right (it sez here), I smiled warmly and offered to replace the faulty volume with another one, signed correctly. But as an after-thought, I said: �Actually, you�ve got a genuine Polish autograph there.�

And the lady replied, as she clutched the original book with the upside down and backwards signature, �I�ll take it!� and she walked away completely satisfied.

On that occasion it turned out well, but I�ve spoiled others by spelling Jeanne and Allen wrong ��or otherwise goofing up one way or another. I sometimes wish my hand-writing was not so legible so that the autograph-seeker wouldn�t know who signed it. Like a doctor�s signature on a prescription blank, that is.

Another thing about autographing is that you have to sit around for a couple of hours wearing a chorus girl smile so that everyone will think you�re happy. It�s a hellish price to pay just to sell a few books. I try to liven up the situation by joking: �With my signature and $1.59 you can buy a cup of coffee almost anywhere.�

I�ve never been on a promotion tour, so I don�t know how the big writers do it. Oh, I�ve been at Al Neuharth�s party for his Confessions of an S.O.B., and I liked the way his gals had names spelled right so he wouldn�t make a mistake. However, in 37 books, I never had an entourage.

I guess signing sessions are just one of the drawbacks of writing. Shucks, all I wanted to do was produce another book ��but Phyllis, the practical one, says I should sell them, too.

And that means autographing whether I feel like it or not!

� 2005 Robert F. Karolevitz

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