Wednesday, September 23, 2009

150 signatures

People who scribble in books usually fall into one of two categories: authors or toddlers.

This tale is about a lesser-known third category—and it is a cautionary tale. Booksellers beware.

Once upon 2005, I went into a Barnes & Noble in New York to see if they had any of my books. To my surprise, they did, and I asked a bookseller if I could sign them. He asked me for ID.

Authors regularly walk into stores unannounced and ask to sign stock. Most of those authors, including me, are unrecognizable to the general public. Yet that was the first time a bookseller wanted me to prove I was the person I said I was.

Every previous time, I'd wondered why the bookseller didn't.

This time, I asked why he did.

He said he didn't used to. Once, however, the author of a successful mass-market paperback series strolled in and got instant permission to sign all copies of his books that the store carried—all 150 copies. (Other authors—I'll wait a moment while you dream of a store carrying that many copies of your books.)

Welcome back.

Only after that author left did the store determine that he was not, in fact, the author.

His prank had ruined 150 books. His crime was identity theft. His weapon was a Sharpie.

And he's still out there.


Booksteve said...

When I was managing Borders, we usually checked for ID's but not always. We would, however, settle for the author's picture on the back of the book.

My favorite real author story: A man came up from the back of my store and said, "I see you have some of my books. Do you allow an author to sign copies of his book here?" I replied rather condescendingly, "Oh, you have a book! You lucky customer! What's your book?" "Oh, well I have several. Wicked, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister..." I froze. "Uh....Mr. Maguire?" "Yes," he said. "Gregory Maguire?" "Yes." Only one of the biggest authors of the last few years!He flashed me his picture on the back of his new hardcover.

Paul Hoppe said...

Wow! That's awful. Hope such a thing doesn't happen often.

Anonymous said...

Surprising? Yes. Awful? No. As a former bookseller, I asked to see IDs too. Exactly for the reason that Booksteve mentions: there are some nutters out there who think it's a hoot to pretend to be authors, sign the books, and ruin the stock. Why? Why do some people think it's fun to spread computer viruses?

I'm glad you weren't egregiously offended when they asked to see ID. Some do, some don't. Ultimately, it's like someone asking to see a driver's license when you present a credit card: just making sure you're you.