Conference and Book Event Guilt | Personalizations


I was chatting with Kristina from Gone Pecan and Ginger from GReads briefly the other night as many book trades were flying around on the #booksfortrade hashtag on Twitter. When it came down to it, the question was, “Would you want a book from someone if it was personalized to them?” meaning, would you still want the book even if it had someone else’s name it? No matter what your answer (I’m sure there are conditions to whether you’d say yes or no), it made me stop and think how many books I got personalized that I wasn’t sure I would love. Or even thought that I would love and ended up — er– not finishing.

Some people may not mind someone else’s name in a book but I think that instantly decreases down a book’s desireability. I’ve passed on a lot of books that were personalized to someone else even if I wanted to own that book because… well, that’s always going to be meant for someone else. It’s also hard to give those books away too. Usually I have to give them away in the mass giveaways because no one really wants them.

So why do I keep doing this? It’s conference and signing guilt. I thought I was getting better at this… I had stopped getting books personalized at local author signings if I hadn’t read the book yet or really wasn’t sure I would fall in love with it because there were too many times that my gut feeling was right… and yet I came home from ALA in January 2015 with too many books personalized to me. Some I knew that I was so on the fence about and yet I couldn’t say no.

It’s tough. You’re face-to-face with an author who’s doing what they can to get you excited for their book. This is their blood, sweat, and tears. This is their baby. And I always feel like saying that I just want my book signed and not personalized means that I’m already doubting their work before I’ve even started it. I mean, I guess that might be true in some cases, but what’s so terrible about that? Everyone is entitled to feel what they feel when they read. We can’t all love every author’s book and it’s okay to feel a little doubt.

I especially struggle with this at author events with multiple authors or at conferences. One author? No problem. That’s who I’m there to see. Two authors? I usually try to read both books before the event so even if I don’t like Author B’s book I just… don’t buy that book for the event. I already know. But many authors? Conferences? For some reason I just can’t say no. I look them in the eye!!! (The eye contact. It kills me.) Especially at conferences. I don’t know why but I just can’t say no! I think I feel like they’re working so hard to promote their book and I’m eager to read and always hope to like the book.

This is how it always goes down: 
I wait in line.
I wait in line for 15 minutes.
I wait in line for 30 minutes. (Conferences, yo. BEA signing lines are beasts.)
I finally get to the front of the line, totally jazzed by all of the excited fans that I’ve just talked to.
The author greets me a warm hello!
I say HELLO back (albeit probably a bit scared/nervous/awkward because that’s me)
They either A) ask me if i want the book personalized or B) ask me what my name is, already poised to personalize.
I freeze.
And then I think about how bad I feel if I just say “signature only, please” because I feel like that’s basically saying “I don’t have confidence that I will like your book so just sign it in case I need to give it away later.”

Sometimes it’s a good choice! Don’t get me wrong. I’ve gotten books personalized before and I am like “YES! I knew I would love this!” And other times I feel even more guilty not finishing/not liking a book because my name is in there too! It was a promise to like the book! (Okay, not really. More like a promise I made to myself.)

Guys, it’s a true problem sometimes. I just feel THE GUILT when I have to actively turn down a personalization. I know I don’t have to get a book personalized. I know it’s okay to say that I don’t want my name in that book! But I feel like it hurts and instills doubt when I don’t! As a reader and collector, though, I’m doing the best that I can to stop letting that guilt get the best of me! I’ve gotten a lot better about signings (and I try to prepare and read beforehand so I know exactly what I will want personalized and what I won’t). Hopefully I’ll behave at BEA this year!

Here are some questions you can ask yourself if you’re debating (maybe while you’re in line!): 
Have I read other books by this author before?
If so, how much did I enjoy them?
Have any of my friends aka truster reviewers read this book and which way do they lean?
Is it a format of the book you would want to keep? (I have some personalized ARCs and I would rather have a finished copy… but don’t need two.)
What would I do with this personalized book if I ended up not wanting to keep it?
Is it a desirable title that maybe someone else would want if I end up not keeping it?

It is always okay to say that you just want the book signed and not personalized! I’m not very good at saying no to personalizations… but I need to get better at that because it’s inevitable that you will dislike or feel less-than-stellar feelings about a book. That’s okay! But don’t stick yourself with a personalized copy because of guilt! Trust me. I’ve been there too many times!

Do you suffer from personalization guilt? What do you do with your books that you have personalized that you don’t want to keep anymore? What’s your best advice to those suffering from this phenomenon?

[bctt tweet=”Do you suffer from Personalization Guilt? Let’s discuss with this discussions from @bookaddictguide! ” via=”no”]

Hi, I'm Brittany!
Hi, I'm Brittany!

I'm an avid reader, candle-maker, and audiobook lover! Here you'll find book reviews, fun blog posts, and my other loves of photography & craft beer!

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23 thoughts on “Conference and Book Event Guilt | Personalizations

  1. Rebecca @ The Library Canary

    This is such an awesome post! That guilt is a real thing. Last year when I went to BEA for the first time I got everything personalized because I felt so bad asking an author to just sign a book. This year I was a LOT better and I’m really happy about that. Especially with ARCs. If I love the book I’m going to want the finished copy and hopefully I’ll have another opportunity to get that finished copy signed. But I want to be able to share ARCs with everyone else who is as excited for the book as I am. So I think of it that way when I ask for just a signature. It’s not that I’m doubting their ability. It’s that I want to love the book AND be able to share it with others. Even though the author doesn’t know that reasoning, I feel better thinking about it that way. 😀 Hope you did well at BEA! Also… so sad I didn’t run into you on the floor at all! 🙁

  2. Sarah (@EscapingSarah)

    I have a couple of friends who are also named “Sarah,” so if I end up not loving the book, I always pass those signed and personalized copies on to them! It’s a pretty good system.

    You shouldn’t feel guilty about not getting something personalized because I remember reading a blog post by an author a long time ago who mentioned how books that *aren’t* personalized, but just signed (specifically and particularly first edition hardcovers) end up being much more valuable in the future. Also, it’s good if the author dates the book because the closer to release date the date is, the more valuable it also becomes.

    This means that someone’s copy of a signed first edition of HARRY POTTER with just J.K. Rowling’s signature in it is worth more than a copy that is signed AND personalized. This is, of course, from a strictly monetary standpoint–from a personal value standpoint, I’d opt for the personalization on that book! But if you decide you just want to get a signature and not a personalization, that actually might show that you are a “serious collector.” 🙂

    1. Sarah (@EscapingSarah)

      I meant to add at the end of the last sentence “and have faith that their work is going to become worth something someday!”

  3. Alexa S.

    In the earliest days of my attending signings and conferences, I had a hard time saying that I didn’t want to get things personalized. It was always because I felt like the author was taking their time to do this for me, and I wanted to mark the moment with my name in a book, THEIR book, to make it special. These days, however, especially when it comes to ARCs, I don’t get them personalized anymore (unless it’s an ARC I know I’m going to cherish and keep forever), just because I always pass mine on. I think, if you’re polite about it, it’s not a big deal to say that you want yours to not be personalized 🙂

  4. Kel @ Booked til Tuesday

    I know what you mean! Especially when you’re at a multiple author signing and you ask one author to personalize but not the others… But yeah, it’s either turn on the distant polite face and say, “Just your name, please” 🙂 or sometimes I’ll say, “No personalization, but would you mind adding a random little doodle?” You can get some interesting things that way, and it stays unique, but not unique to you.

  5. Nikki

    I absolutely feel this. I feel it EVERY TIME I get a book signed that I haven’t read, no matter the author. WHAT IF I DON’T LIKE IT?! WHAT IF I WANT TO GIVE IT AWAY?! I got way too many books personalized last year at BEA, and I’ve decided to absolutely stop this year, except for a couple, like Six of Crows. It’s not worth it, only to end up not liking it, wanting to give it away, and then having your giveaway options be severely limited since it’s personalized to you. =/ I’ve decided that when I don’t want personalization, I’ll just tell the author that I usually end up giving away my ARC’s to other people who want to read them. They can’t be unhappy with that, right?

  6. Asheley (@BookwormAsheley)

    These are great questions you’re asking, B. Maybe I have an interesting perspective?
    I am using my books to build a library for my entire family, which includes three rising-young adults. So I love getting signed books, but I look at *most of these books as theirs too. I’m never rude to authors but I try to just get them signed sometimes because then L, G, and J feel ownership over them too when they’re reading them. And THEY ARE at the place now where they’re reading them! (Seriously, right this exact minute, I have one in the other room reading Divergent and one reading The Raven Boys.) I know that not all of us in the community are at this place in our lives and many of us think primarily of potentially giving the books away, but there is certainly no shame in NOT having a name put in the book if we plan to keep it. This is my main reason why.
    Of course, I do still love personalization in books. I’m just offering my perspective on why it is not difficult for me to NOT get my name in the book and why authors LOVE hearing how their book is being placed in a home library for more-than-just-me to enjoy. I’ve always had very positive reactions and great conversation when I’ve brought it up.

  7. Breenah

    I’ve never gotten a book signed because I live in SE Kansas and nobody comes here, ha! I do have a couple I’ve won in giveaways that were personalized. Personally, I don’t care if I buy/win a used book that was personalized, but that’s because I don’t usually keep books long after I’ve read them. I’m not a big re-reader so when I’m done I usually give them to my grandma to read (she’ll read anything and she says she’s gonna read as much as she can before her eyes finally give out) then I’ll put them on Book Mooch to trade for another one I want to read. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    I do understand the guilt though, I’m sure I’d have a hard time saying not to personalize if I were standing right in front of the author.

  8. April @ Between the Pages

    As a first timer to BEA and to meeting Authors, this is really good information. I’m afraid I won’t have the courage to ask for a signature only, especially if I’m getting the book for someone else. I’mm going to try really hard to remember the questions you said to ask yourself while I’m waiting in line at BEA next week.

  9. Cassi @ My Thoughts Literally

    I totally agree with you. I probably wouldn’t accept a book with someone else’s name in it and I also wouldn’t give one away. I came back from BEA last year with so many books personalized to me that I never even read. I feel as guilty about that as I feel about them not personalizing it. I feel like it says to them that I don’t care that much. I’m probably overthinking it though. They may just be glad they can save the ink on their pen and their hand from cramping up.

    I find it easier to get just signatures at local author events because the few that I have been to I am getting multiple books signed by the same author so I’ll just have them personalize one special one and then I don’t feel so bad about not having the others with my name. But it’s harder at conventions and stuff because you don’t have multiple books and you have waited in those massive lines.

    I know personally I don’t think any less about the books with just a signature. Like when I see my personalized copy of Code Name Verity next to my signed copy of The Raven Boys I don’t think “if only I would have had Maggie write my name in there.” I just think about the event and how funny and sweet both authors were. This year at BEA I am going to try and only get the books that I know I am going to love and/or keep forever personalized. Let’s see how that goes.


  10. Candice @ The Grown-Up YA

    Wait, they ASK you if want it personalized? Oh… this is going to cause me so much anxiety. The only book event I’ve been to was a book festival and while we were in line to get books autographed someone with a pad of sticky notes came by and asked us for our names. She would then write it on a sticky note and then you’d put it inside your book cover. It was great because the author could see your name, sign it, and there was no awkward “Oh, please make it out to…” moment. I’ve always thought that if I was going to ask someone to sign their book I’d just want them to sign it; I think I’d feel awkward asking them to “please make it out to Candice. That’s Candice with an I, not an A.”
    I can see your point about it being uncomfortable asking for just an autograph rather than a personalized signature. I would have never thought authors would think that I was unsure about their book(s) by not asking them to write my name; now I’m going to stress out about this! haha 🙂

    1. Brittany Post author

      Haha NOOOOO what have I done!? That wasn’t supposed to instill fear!
      I mean, some lines DO have the post-its. I’m actually not sure how they handle it because I feel like last year it was really random. The first year I went, I kept my post-it and stuck it in my badge or both years I would just hold up my badge so they had the spelling of my name. But sometimes I get up there and they’re signing so they need to know if you want it signed or personalized too and for some reason I feel so bad saying “just signed”! But Hannah’s and Nicole’s comments had some nice ideas to say just signed but still have pleasant conversation or a reason why! I don’t know why but I just feel so bad when I don’t want it made out to me!

  11. Hannah @ So Obsessed With

    As with anything, I think it’s all a matter of the tone of your voice and your facial expressions. BEA last year was my first time attending a book conference, and I got almost everything there signed but not personalized. When I approached the author, I’d say something to the effect of “Just signed, please! I’m going to pass it on to some friends / host a giveaway for it / donate it to a local teacher / etc. after I read it.” And I’d keep talking or ask them a question and we’d usually have a great chat about how fun it is to share books or loving a book so much you want to shove it in everyone’s hands, etc. If you’re smiling and excited and are clearly interested in them/their book, I don’t think anyone will think twice about you not getting it personalized.

    I’ve attended a few multi author signings, and that’s when I usually have the internal debate about what books I’m going to buy. I try to make up my mind before I get to the event, but sometimes an author makes a great impression during the talk and changes my mind! And then I think I’ll just check out the book from the library later on BUT WHAT IF I LOVE IT AND REGRET NOT GETTING A SIGNED COPY WHILE I HAD THE CHANCE? Haha!

    1. Brittany Post author

      Ooooh that’s an excellent point and some excellent advice! I’m SOOO bad at talking to authors! Even now I just always get so flustered and my conversations end up being so awkward but each year I try to be a little better! I think I may have to go into the signing with some questions prepared because I’m not so good at the spontaneous conversation haha! I get all flustered.
      I’ve definitely had that debate too! I went to a mutli-author signing and hadn’t read Melissa Grey’s book yet but she was SO much fun and everyone really liked the book so I wanted to buy her book right then and there! Couldn’t afford it at the time though since I had purchased it as a gift for someone else and bought a copy of another author’s book. But I have definitely felt the sway to purchase a book after an event! 🙂

  12. Nicole @ The Quiet Concert

    UGH I STRUGGLE WITH THIS SO MUCH TOO! I feel guilty asking just for a signature and I’m not even a collector so even when I love a book I still don’t want to keep the ARC! This year at BEA I have vowed not to get any personalizations even if it is super awkward. I figured I can just tell them why – “I don’t collect ARCs” or “I plan on buying a physical copy” even if this last one might not come true. Hopefully I stay strong!

    1. Brittany Post author

      YES. It’s always at conferences!!! I think I have a hard time because I don’t know what else to talk about (I go completely brain dead around authors) so when they ask me I’m always like, “Ummmm sure!” because I have nothing else planned to say. I’m not good at spontaneous!
      Those are good ideas!!! I will have to keep those in mind. They’re most likely true too! I guess I should steer clear of “I don’t collect ARCs” since I’m sure some authors know that I do but that’s a nice thing to keep in mind — have a reason ready why I don’t need a personalization. I think that’s even maybe more for ME to make me feel better about saying no than the authors haha! 😀

  13. Kelsey

    I only have a few that are signed and most of them I’ve liked so far anyway, and I just don’t think I could give them away at all. If they were personalized and I didn’t like the book, I think I would still keep it, since it’s almost like a gift to me. I have less than 10 of them so it doesn’t take up too much space lol. I don’t think I would want one that’s personalized in someone else’s name though, a regular signature yes but it wouldn’t feel like it was meant for me.

    1. Brittany Post author

      I can understand that! I guess I don’t feel like it’s a gift since I purchased it myself and didn’t like it (for those times I haven’t enjoyed the book) so I don’t feel too much guilt on giving it away! But on the flip side, the ones that I’ve LOVED and have personalized definitely do feel like presents to me! 😀
      Sadly I just don’t have the room to keep the books I haven’t enjoyed! And yes, I agree — I usually don’t trade/keep books with someone else’s name inside. I just feels like it will always be someone else’s book! I only did that once to get a rare old ARC for my Anna and the French Kiss collection and I was okay with that because I wasn’t sure when I’d find another one and I have other copies that don’t have someone else’s name in there 🙂
      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

  14. Rebecca @ Reading Wishes

    I’ve never experienced this exactly, but I experienced guilt when I bought one authors book and didn’t buy anyone else’s. Oh, well. But I do have some advice for you: authors are just happy you’re there, you turned up. Not everyone’s made of money and even though they’d love and appreciate if you bought their book, they wouldn’t want you feeling guilty about it! As for do I personalise, do I not? When they ask if you’d like it personalised, maybe just ask if they could please sign it and say that you might be doing a giveaway for it latter on. If I was the author, I wouldn’t have a problem with that at all!

    1. Brittany Post author

      I do that too! I feel bad when I don’t have every author’s book at an event, but I’ve felt a bit better about that lately. I think because money has been a BIT tighter lately so I know that I realistically can’t afford to buy them all and I’m sure they know that too!
      Regarding your advice — That’s what I do now. I wasn’t so good at it before and it was really hard for me to turn down a personalization, especially when I was asked for it but I’ve (mostly) learned my lesson haha! I know they wouldn’t want me feeling guilty about it but sometimes I’m that person who wants to make everyone happy so it’s me going overboard to please them and make sure I don’t hurt their feelings LOL. It’s not always logical but that’s the guilt that plagues me sometimes!
      Solid advice, though! I’ve definitely been learning that.

  15. Bree

    Hahaha guilty. I went to my one and only author reading. Popular author. New to me. Thick book addict. So carried away by the event, I purchased book and felt the need to have the book signed. Then I hated the book and felt guilty when I gave it away.

    1. Brittany Post author

      I hate when that happens! Sometimes I just convinced myself that I KNOW I will love it and when it doesn’t work out, I just get so upset. Partially because I was let down and then because I don’t know what to do with the book!

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