It must be a dull week in Trollsville. I went by the Poisoned Pen (that’s my local independent bookstore, for those unfamiliar) yesterday afternoon to sign the latest pile of backlist titles (the Pen handles all my autographed books, and has done so for the last twenty-odd years) and while chatting with Patrick, the manager, was surprised (and displeased) to hear that some folk with too much time on their hands were posting intemperate messages on tumblr, claiming that the Poisoned Pen is a scam outfit, that they don’t really provide signed books, and that people who have pre-ordered BEES won’t get their copies signed.
This is a shot of my small office tonight (above image). I’m up in Flagstaff, in my old family house, just for the day. And what am I doing, in the middle of the night?
Signing tip-sheets. A tip-sheet (see image at left) is a loose sheet of paper, which will eventually be bound into a book as it’s produced. It’s a method of dealing with huge numbers of books, where shipping the actual books to and fro would be both expensive and laborious. I do this now and then—on request—for some of my publishers (in the US, the UK (including Australia and New Zealand(, and Canada, on this go) when a new book is coming out.
Normally, I might sign something like a thousand tip-sheets for a publisher. This time…
The UK asked for 8,000 tip-sheets.
Canada asked for a modest 2,000.
The US asked for 17,000.
(That’s 27,000 signatures, for those who are adding them up.)
This is NOT what I do for the Poisoned Pen. The Pen is an old-fashioned bookstore, that caters to people who truly love books, and to whom it makes a substantial difference as to whether a book was personally handled and signed by the author, rather than having a tip-sheet bound in ex post facto, so to speak.
I generally go by the Pen once or twice a month, and sign (and personalize, if requested) their orders. This usually amounts to 4-500 books at a time.
When I have a new book out, it’s all hands on deck, because I’m signing several thousand copies, and doing that requires a team of five people helping me:
Person 1 opens the cartons of books, dumps them and stacks the books at one end of the table.
Person 2 takes a book from the stack, opens it and finds the second title page (the one with both the book’s title and my printed name and a small, evocative photo). They then fold the dust jacket over the copyright and first title pages, so the jacket serves as a book-mark, allowing
Person 3 to open a book immediately to the right page. (This is called “flapping.” ) The flapped books are restacked next to—
Person 3. This person grabs a flapped book, opens it, turns it at a ninety-degree angle (because I sign uphill, not side to side) and sets the open book in front of me.
I sign it (fast), shut it and shove it toward—
Person 4, who grabs the hurtling book (you want a smooth surface for this, preferably wood, because plastic-topped tables build up a terrific charge of static electricity if you send books whizzing across them in large quantities, and people get shocked) and places it neatly on a growing stack.
Person 5 takes the stacks and puts them back into the original cartons (having run down to the other end of the table every other minute in order to retrieve said cartons), tapes the cartons shut and stacks them. There’s limited room in the backroom of a bookstore, and if you’re dealing with huge quantities, it’s lots easier to move the cartons from place to place than it is to load the books onto a cart and drive them to distant shelving, unload and come back. (This is also how you move a lot of books to an offsite signing/event venue.)
I can sign roughly 500 books per hour, doing this with help.
Awright. That’s how it works. Now—thanks to you all who’ve been ordering the book!—BEES is going to be kind of a big thing, apparently, in terms of copies needing to be signed, moved, etc.
I don’t know how many copies of of BEES have so far been ordered from the Poisoned Pen (let alone how many they’ll eventually sell), but they had 20,000 pre-orders by August (thank you!!), and at that point, the Pen’s owner put out word that while I will sign all the books people want signed, there’s a limit (physically) to how many I can sign by December 10th— that being the latest shipping date on which you might reasonably expect the book to be delivered by Christmas 2021. That limit is 20,000. (See, I can’t sign books until they arrive at the bookstore, which won’t be until November.) Ergo, if you want a signed book, handled by me personally <g>, you can certainly have it—but if you order it now, I might not be able to sign it in time for it to be shipped for Christmas delivery (especially not this year, when shipping and delivery is a lot bigger and more complex in every area of business). And I can’t personalize them, sorry. (If you really want a personalized book, just wait until January or February, when we’re not working under a shipping deadline.)
As for the tip-sheets… those are sent back to the publisher when they’re done [after I sign them]. The publisher decides which bookstore accounts will get the books with signed tipsheets; I have no control over that and no idea where the books may end up.
But if you see a dump (that’s what the cardboard stands set up by the cashier’s desk are called) or other display of BEES in a chain bookstore that says, “Signed Books”—that’s what they are. Books with a signed tipsheet bound in.
Now, to some people, it won’t make the slightest difference whether their signed book has a tipsheet (signed by me en masse), or was signed by me on the second title page (if you want to tell the difference easily, that’s how; the tip-sheets are blank, aside from my signature), as a complete book. To some people, it does make a substantial difference, and these are the Poisoned Pen’s book-loving customers.
I’ve known the Pen and its proprietor and managers for more than thirty-five years; I’ve been coming by to sign books for them for more than twenty of those years. (And no, there’s no extra charge for an autographed book.)
So, if you should happen to see any nasty little trolls grumping away to each other under some dank bridge… don’t bother dropping garbage on them; they make plenty of their own.
P.S. If you were keeping track…. 27,000 tip-sheets, plus 20,000 books is 47,000 signatures. Just for fun, try signing your name 25 times on a sheet of paper and see what it feels like… <g>
P.P.S. In the photos above with me in them, I am signing DRAGONFLY IN AMBER in hardcover and WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD when they came out in hardcover in the past. As I say, I do it pretty much all the time.
The image at left shows many copies of my books waiting to be signed by me in the storeroom at the Poisoned Pen.
I was amazed and impressed to read all the trouble you and the poisoned pen take for signed copies.
Personally I just love reading your Outlander books, particularly the descriptions of 18th century penicillin experiments and things like making black pudding. It’s a joy to read your books and whilst I look forward to the next, I will wait patiently and not complain. They are worth waiting for. Many thanks.
Wow I had no idea, that is a lot of work. I have been a fan since the Outlander came out, I have all the Outlander books and have ordered Go tell the Bees and am looking forward to getting it. I hope mine is signed, but if its not that’s ok too. I knew that someday there would be a movie too and am really looking forward to season 6. Thank you for this and God Bless
My hand is cramping just thinking of all that signing! I feel very fortunate to have the first 4 Outlander books (and the first companion) signed to me by you at the Scottish games in Pleasanton, CA many years ago (along with a photo of us together). I’m prepping for Bees by rereading books 1-8 (currently in #5) and will wait and go to the Poisoned Pen when signed Bees books will be available. So looking forward it! Best of everything to you and yours over the upcoming holiday season!
The Pleasanton Scottish games are a lot of fun. I remember going in about 2008, I think it was. If you’d like to share the photo, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
May you and yours be blessed through the upcoming 2021 holiday season, as well.
You are amazing…in so many ways.
I, and I think most, had no idea how much you put into your book signings.
I love your beautiful books and the intricate stories you weave.
I remember when libraries weren’t sure under which genre to place your books!
Thank you, too, for bringing the stories to life again on the screen.
I was so excited to run into last evening and have the chance to meet you again!
Thank you, Diana.
The Poisoned Pen is one of my all-time favorite book stores. Such careful curation of their offerings. I picked up a signed copy of Outlander when I lived in Scottsdale. Thanks for that partnership!
Bonjour à toutes et tous, merci de vos explications sur le fonctionnement caché de l édition…. effectivement quel parcours du combattant !!!
Personnellement j ai découvert la série par hasard il y a 8 ans maintenant, et vos livres m ont fait rire, pleurer, rêver…ils m ont réconforté et encouragée car chaque ligne m a fait réfléchir et je suis très impatiente de lire le dernier !!!!
Merci pour vos petites lignes qui aident à patienter….
Quand aux mauvaises langues….aucune importance !
Translation (using Google Translate):
Hello everyone, thank you for your explanations on the hidden functioning of the edition…. what an obstacle course !!!
Personally I discovered the series by chance 8 years ago now, and your books made me laugh, cry, dream… they comforted and encouraged me because each line made me think and
I can’t wait to read the last one !! !!
Thank you for your little lines which help to be patient….
When the bad tongues… .not important!
Good Day Diana,
I have journeyed with our beloved Jaime & Claire. They kept me company through sad times. I have learned a lot about Scotland and have fallen in love with its people and history.
Will you do book signings in New York?
I would love to have a personal signed copy of BEES.
P.S: I have waited patiently and will gladly wait longer.
Thanks to the pandemic, Diana’s schedule for book signings in the near future is unknown. You have to keep checking her appearances page periodically for new events. Click on the “Appearances” menu.
Like the article says, you can pre-order a copy of BEES signed by Diana from the Poisoned Pen, and they ship anywhere in the world.
Just want to drop you a quick note to say it is amazing how many books you sign. You truly care about your fans and signing each book for those who ask. I will be waiting until book 10 for my next and last (sigh) signed copy. Will have a book-ended set at that point (1 & 10).
Looking forward to Bees and the final installment in book 10. It will be sad to see Outlander end with book 10, but all good things must end. I have enjoyed the journey!
Diana is planning to write a prequel about Jamie’s parents after Book 10 of the OUTLANDER series is published. Plus a book about Master Raymond is in the works, too, some time in the future.
Then there’s the contemporary mystery set in Phoenix, Arizona, which has been on the back burner a long time!
So Diana is planning many good things after Book Ten.
I have been to the Pen for a few book signings with you and other authors and can attest it is NOT a scam. The authors have predicted some for those that just want it signed and those that want personalize can wait in the LONG line.
Thanks for all the information about your signed books! Wonderful that you do that.
I have to read on a Kindle e-reader so I can adjust the print and text due to eyesight difficulties.
I have read all of your books and seen all seasons of the TV series.
Several years ago I visited my cousin at her lake house in Maine and saw several Outlander books onher shelf. When I asked what they were about she said, “So you don’t know about Jaime and Claire?”
Started reading them on my e-reader that weekend in August and by November read every single one.
(So fortunate not to have to wait for any new ones.) Needless to say, I did nothing but read and neglectedeverything, but it was so worth it.
Will I be able to pre-order your book through Amazon for my Kindle?
Looking forward to immersing myself in their world again!
I have bought a signed copy of each of your books – including pre-ordering one of Bees – and have been more than happy with every purchase. Perhaps those who think they hadn’t gotten a signed copy simply haven’t found the signature where they expect it to be. A lot of authors sign the end papers or the first blank page – the tip sheets you described- but you do things differently! It can easily be overlooked between the typed title and author lines on the title page. I figured that out with my first purchase, looking very carefully for your signature. Now I know where to look and when I order a signed copy I GET a signed copy and I order them exclusively from the Poisoned Pen because I know you do go there to sign them yourself. As a fan, I am very grateful for the gift!
Thank you for this education in the publishing world. It’s interesting for us bibliophiles to learn. I’m sorry for the trolls. Sigh. . . We appreciate the hard work in researching, writing, rewriting, your stories & that you personally sign as many books as possible by the publisher’s deadlines. Please share more about your writing process & insights to the publishing world as you have time. Thank you.
PP is one of our favorite bookstores. I love in Illinois but often visit AZ. We ALWAYS make a point to go to the PP bookstore in Scottsdale. It’s one of the highlights (almost next to hiking the Grand Canyon). It’s a shame people are spreading these rumors about signings at the Poisened Pen. I can attest to its legitimate practice as I have several author signed books acquired through the Poisened Pen (including several of your Diana)
My Dear Diana,
You continue to touch my heart, and hearts of others with always giving back to your friends and fans. I know you sleep little and pour yourself into making all of us happy albeit signing a book or taking a professional patient from California to lunch!….sigh….I so love you❤️ Thank you for all you do for those of us who worship you. You’ve given us life long friends in Jamie and Claire. Thanks could never be enough!
Thank you so much! Bees is the first book I’ve set about to get a signed copy of, and I am excited. My husband was surprised when I ordered it and remarked that we would have to take that item off my Christmas list! Good husband!
I am a relatively “new” fan to Outlander having been introduced by a friend in 2014. I was recuperating from a joint replacement surgery and she was my exercise therapist. The book talk made those exercise sessions fly! The books and therapy talk saw me through after two more joint post surgery exercise days over the next 5 years.
When the TV series aired I was hooked there, too. Sam Heughan absolutely “was” Jaime, Catroina Balfe “was” Claire. I used the time between seasons to keep reading the series, then the Lord John and other side books, and a few Scottish history books along the way! And, I discovered that a few of my friends were also Outlander fans!
I am a senior, and have been reading for as long as I can remember. I follow several writers, and order ahead on the next nooks. But, your books are different—simply compelling and absorbing, with rich vocabulary (love e-book feature that lets you look up words on the fly!), and deep appreciation too historical accuracy and the times. Plus, time travel! What is not to like?
A pineapple ring a day did wonders for my carpal tunnel.
47,000 personally handwritten signatures seems unreal. Do you dream of writing your name?
That’s happened to me- the worst time working “Frappuccino Day” at Starbucks a long, long time ago.
And I didn’t even like them!
Anyway, I love all that you do! Best wishes to you and yours!
I knew it had to be hectic to pre-sign books, (since so many people would want them) but it’s one thing to know something and an entirely different one to hear it “straight from the horse’s mouth” so to speak. I adore the world you have created and the characters that fill them. Since beginning my own collection of short stories and books, my appreciation for writers has increased immensely. Thank you so much for all you do to share your works with the world, they have kept me company many a sleepless night. Thank you so much for all you do to share your works with the world, they have seen me through a lot.
Don’t waste your time and energy on the haters and trolls who feed on drama and vitriol. I have never been to the Pen, but if I’m ever in the area, I look forward to a lengthy visit (and by that I mean once I am there I may never leave). I am a huge fan of the both Outlander books and independent bookstores, so I am very grateful to both Diana and the Pen for all their work in keeping the fans happy and drawing in more book-a-holics like me. Can we clone the Pen and put one like it in Florida? Asking for a friend…. Best wishes to everyone for a peaceful and healing holiday season.
I am so impressed that you go to this effort for your fans! I met you at Books Inc in Mountain View, CA when you signed my copy of An Echo in the Bone. Back then you were still able to have a signing in a local bookstore :). I am waiting patiently for my signed copy and will treasure it whenever it arrives.
Thank you so much,
Thank you so much for signing all of those books…Well first… thank you for WRITING them ..xoxo I was a second grade teacher for 30 years and now I am a children’s author. I live in Goodyear. My husband is from Seligman . I remember the first book I ever signed for someone…I saw the look on their face afterwards and that they were so excited. I just couldn’t believe that was happening…that someone would be excited about my autograph…..Please know that with every signature , you are making someone’s day ..You put so much love and passion into your work ..and the Poisoned Pen does also . It is such a darling place …I took my friend there a few months ago so I could pre order the Bees for her with your signature. She is one of my best friends and I know that this will make her so extremely happy ..Thank you for everything you do …we are all very grateful .
Your fellow “Little Spring native” (AZ)
Karen Márquez Morales xo
I remember reading that there is an online bibliography or list or document of the medicinal herb references Diana used in the books. I can’t recall where I kept the information. Can you help me? Thank you so much for the books and if you can help me locate this information. Gratitude is memory of the heart and I love your works. Patricia Staples
Some information is in Diana’s OUTLANDISH COMPANION, Volumes I and II. She also has a list of books from her personal library on Library Thing, which includes some plant and medicinal books, I think. Diana’s profile on Library Thing:
OUTLANDISH COMPANION information on Diana’s website: