Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Signature moves

It happened again yesterday. Someone laughed at me in the grocery store.

It wasn't because I was walking around in pajama pants and slippers with the hem of my nightie hanging out from under my sweatshirt. Everyone's used to that by now.

It's always the same situation. The clerk rings up my purchase, I slide my credit card and scrawl my signature on the receipt.

Then someone laughs. Usually the clerk or the person standing behind me.

"That's your signature? Are you a doctor?"

I usually tell the truth. I worked in the marketing department of a medical center for almost eight years, and doctors used to make fun of my signature.

Here's a sample:
I think the "T" and the "F" are pretty clear, but admittedly there are no other distinguishable letters.

Still, it's how I've signed my name for as long as I can remember.

It dawned on me today that this could pose a problem when it comes time to sign books. Feeling self conscious, I dug through my bookshelves to survey all the signed author copies.

The results were disheartening. Nearly all the signatures are legible. While plenty of them are sloppy or have an overabundance of flourish, they also have letters. More than two of them.

I decided to take a stab at a nice signature. I wasn't very pleased with the results. To me, it looks like something produced by an orangutan on Valium.
For the record, the rest of my penmanship is pretty good. It's just my signature that needs help.

What do you think? Are author signatures supposed to be legible? What's your signature like? Do I need to enlist the services of a handwriting coach, or do I just smile and say, "this is me, take it or leave it?"

Kinda like how I dress for the grocery store.

45 comments :

Simon C. Larter said...

If you squint, my signature looks a bit like your normal one. You can make out an S and an L, and perhaps a couple of loops that might look Picasso-ishly like a T.

My excuse is that I worked in the returns department of a toystore at Christmastime. We had to sign every return slip. I got tired of writing my name out. Deal.

(That's what I'll say to readers who complain about my signature being illegible: "Deal." That, or "Suck it up, punk.")

Matthew MacNish said...

My signature is an M-scribble, M, R-scribble. I suppose I'll have to change that with the pen name but I've been writing it this way for years, so I'm not sure I'll be able to pull that off. Crap.

I don't think it matters that much though. I have a few signed books where the author's name is not that legible. Granted, they're the minority ...

Sheila Siler said...

While I admire your similarities to a doctor's scrawl, as an author I think it would be nice if you created a "pen signature" :)

Sarah W said...

But won't different signatures eventually confuse the authenticator, when your personal correspondence comes up for auction at Southby's? I'm just sayin'.

Seriously, I think as long as your autograph is consistent, it probably doesn't matter what it looks like. Your name is clearly printed on the cover, right?

DawnApril said...

I agree with Sarah. And not just because my signature looks like a big d with a really long bridal train.

lynnrush said...

I say sign how you normally sign! It's you! :)

Linda G. said...

I like your original signature. Everyone will know it's you -- I mean, who else is going to sign your books? Plus, it's labor saving. Given the sheer volume of books I know you'll have to sign, this is a good thing. :)

abby mumford said...

i completely agree with linda and, in fact, i've always wanted a simpler, scrawlier, easier signature. go with the original. your hand (and fans) will thank you.

my signature is basically my name in neat, i just learned cursive, cursive because i write everything in print, the only time i write in cursive is my signature which is why it looks like i'm in third grade.

Trisha Leigh said...

I have the handwriting of a preschooler with ADD who scribbled on the wall as they ran past, so I sympathize. I say, sign YOUR signature. When you're famous, it'll be awesome :)

Jen J. Danna said...

I personally think your original signature is fine, but I also understand the desire of a reader to have a book signed with a signature that actually looks like the author's name. Granted, who else is going to be signing that book but the author? So does it matter? Keeping that in mind, probably not.

The problem I've recently discovered in signing contracts etc. is that I'm really rusty going back to my maiden name signature after almost 20 years of not signing it. It kind of looks like someone in grade 2 wrote it. Going to have to work on that...

Teri Anne Stanley said...

I agree with Linda--go with the original, it's WAY cooler looking, and as long as the "Teri Anne, you are the greatest, most inspiring blog commenter and twitter stalker ever, I couldn't have done it without you" is legible, I don't care what your siggie looks like.

Michelle Wolfson said...

I say go authentic.

Danica Avet said...

I really liked the signature. It seems very you!

I have to print everything so I can read it. My signature changes depending on my mood. With my real name, I'll sometimes use a print S, sometimes I'll use a cursive S. For my author name though, I just sort of write two big letters and make loopy attempts for the rest.

Elise said...

My signature is an "E" and a squiggle. Changing it is torture -- I'm stickin' with the squiggle.

Jessica Lemmon said...

One of the things we were told to do in art school is come up with a signature/logo to put on our artwork. I came up with a "jl" that sort of looks like a yin yang sign.

Keep your TF--- Why not? Linda's right, if someone opens a Tawna Fenske book and it reads TF--- I doubt they'll stare at it and wonder, "What does that SAY?!" ;)

Suz said...

Better than signing with just an X.

Noelle Pierce said...

Sign how you normally sign! It'll be faster, and your hand will thank you later. I'm not happy with how my last name looks signed, but I chose the pen name, so it's really my own fault.

Malin said...

I make an EKG. I so need to change my name so I can get away from my horrid signature. Is that good enough reason to have a pen name?

Caryn Caldwell said...

Do whatever wil be fastest and least painful when signing lots and lots of books in a row.

I decided to do a signature makeover before I got married, practicing many versions of my first name + hubby's last (much like a thirteen-year-old with a severe crush, a case of boredom, and a handy notebook). Despite my diligence and good intentions, my current signature looks almost exactly like the one I used in my single years - despite an entirely different last name.

Missy said...

Don't mess with a good thing. After all, you are going to be signing tons of books. Your hand will get tired with the effort of that fake signature.

I write professional summary reports for the clients I serve. My signature looks like yours: you can make out the first letter, the first letter of my middle initial is questionable, and you can make out the last letter.

Another point to consider, I am not sure if you and Pythag are planning on little ones. You surely don't want them being capable of forging your signature.

Keep the original. After all, it's authentic.

dianehenders said...

Love your blog, Tawna!

My vote: Skip the "nice" signature. Never apologize.

Your original is free and relaxed. The other one looks scrunched up and uncomfortable, kinda like you're trying to cram the real you into a box.

And if I love your book, I'm going to want to see the real you in your signature.

Danielle said...

I've talked to some author-friends about this in the past, and they have 'author signatures' that are different from 'personal signatures.' One says she does it because she wants people to be able to read her signature.

Another told me that he has a separate 'author signature' to prevent identity theft - so that no one can use a book he signed to forge checks etc. He's a bit paranoid.

EmmaK said...

My signature varies with my mood. Some days it is very neat and 'in control' whereas some days it is messy and 'premenstrual' - I love both your signatures!

Kimberly Sabatini said...

Must be a Wolf Pack issue-I've had the same worry LOL! After the early years of three kids and their stuff hanging off of me--my signature is pretty darn similar to yours. *grin*

Jen - Devourer of Books said...

I had one author tell me that his publisher STRONGLY suggested that he create a pen signature for signing books, regardless of whether his original signature was legible, for - I guess - the safety of his identity. I have no idea whether this is a widespread suggestion among publishers or limited to just one person in the imprint which bought his book, but I suppose it is something to consider.

@MissM_Jones said...

I wish I had a standard signature. It changes every time I sign something. Sometimes it's legible. Most of the time it isn't.

Tere Kirkland said...

LOL, mine is very doctorly, too. But seriously, do people really have nothing better to do in the grocery line than make fun of other people's penmanship? ;)

I've worried the same thing about signing books, so don't feel bad!

KateGladstone said...

About 1/2 of authorial signatures in books are legible: one author (Richard Wilbur) actually re-worked his to be both perfectly legible & easy to write without cramping at high speed over days of book-signing. As a handwriting coach (whom people have asked for help re-modeling their signatures and other writing), I have various resources on offer: see my web-site at http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com
(NOTE: one of the resources I recommend is a $1.99 iPad/iPhone app called BETTER LETTERS: just types its name into the iPad App Store search-field, and it will come up.)

lora96 said...

Don't change on our account. Some cutesy-poo curly signature wouldn't suit you. You're bold. We like that about you.

PS My writing sucks. I have to teach cursive to second graders every year and it is the slowest most deliberate and precise cursive ever seen because it is a CHORE.

C.E. Wood said...

Totally stay with the doctor sig... it's perfect.

Fel said...

As I have 16 letters in my name in total, I can't be bothered to write each one out in a legible fashion. Whenever I sign for a courier package they always have to ask my last name. Hell, I can't even read it and I know what it's supposed to say.

I say stick with what works best for you.

SM Schmidt said...

Whatever feels comfortable is the best signature to go with.

Personally I like a semi legible signature so I can prove, yes this is the author who signed it.

But I'm a hypocrite who can't be bothered to write all seven letters of my last name after writing the nine letters in my first. But I did know a friend who would write a smiley face on the atm thing for his signature. It's not like the atm even looks at the signature.

Patty Blount said...

Keep it real, Tawna!

Patrick Alan said...

I just forged a check with your signature.

That's how I roll.

Abby Stevens said...

My signature is very legible (and some say, even pretty), but I doubt it would be if I had to sign 100 books. I'm sure I would create a shorthand signature at that point. Also, for legal reasons, it's probably advisable to have a different author signature than your legal signature.

Personally I prefer to be able to distinguish a few of the letters of the author's name, so a T-squiggle F-squiggle would be fine by me, so long as the whole thing wasn't just one squiggly line.

As you said, "this is me, take it or leave it."

Sierra Godfrey said...

I like your first one. It looks more....signaturey.

I too sign like a loon, and in fact don't even write out "Sierra." Just S and my last name. Why? Because I'm lazy. It takes time and effort to write out all those r's! I've got better things to do! Like eat chocolate donuts or wrestle crocodiles!

I've only been called on it once, though. A clerk didn't like that S wasn't written out. I told her I'd be happy not to make the purchase if she had a problem. She very grudgingly accepted my signature. I resolved after that to never, ever write out Sierra again if I didn't want to.

Jeffe Kennedy said...

My signature is similarly illegible, so with my first book, I took to printing my name along with the signature. So I put my [J....K....y] by my byline, then a personal note, date, followed by a nice printed "Jeffe" - it's worked out fine.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Stick with your usual signature. It's unique & memorable, and fits your personality. Penmanship was a big deal when I was in school, meaning the teacher actually walked around the room with ruler in hand, wopping the knuckles of anyone who wasn't holding the pen correctly or sitting properly, etc. Thanks to that, I still have a pretty neat old-fashioned way of writing, though the longer I write, the less neat and old-fshioned looking it becomes. Hmmm, how about a real nice-looking rubber-stamp signature ...?

Janna Qualman said...

I think all that matters is that you can tell it belongs to the author--in which case I think you're good with your T and F. :)

I've hopped over from Sharla's. It's nice to "meet" you! Best with all you have going on.

B. WHITTINGTON said...

You have so many friends I didn't think I'd ever get through them to post this!!!
I like the new and improved signature. Very nice.
That will work great. And when you get rich and famous it won't matter if anyone can read your signature.
So that's my two cents.
Blessings, Barb
What makes me sad is the schools are not teaching good penmanship. Some of my grandchildren do not have nice handwriting. It was essential when I went to school. Then again- I am old!!!

Tawna Fenske said...

Thanks so much for all the lovely comments, guys! (And especially for your support of my sloppy signature). I'm now leaning toward just keeping it real and going with my regular old scrawl.

Tawna

kmullican said...

Hell - I think a sloppy signature is much more believable... I mean an author...using a pen? Really?

terripatrick said...

Yep, keep it real or your fingers will cramp.

Jason said...

Two opinions on this one. First is as a collector of sports autographs for a long time, I like the ones I can read better. Second is those are also easier to fake. Just saying. Also, if you have to think about it, you are going to make mistakes and it's going to be inconsistent - and easier to fake. Just stick with what you do. :) I say this as someone who apparently spends way too much time on the computer because I can barely write anymore. Even printing I leave out letters and wish I could use a backspace. Whenever I have to write a check, rarely anymore, I'll leave letters of a word like "twenty". It's kind of sad. I need a stamp, like the "hanko" the Japanese use for signature authenticity.

kd easley said...

My author sig is different than my normal one, but my author name is different as well, so I say just do what feels right and make sure you can do it over and over and over again, cause you're gonna be signing a lot. :)