7 book signing tips for children’s authors

7 book signing tips for children's authorsThere are a lot of things that are different for an author who writes books for children—especially picture books. I’ve talked about some of these things before, but I’ve never specifically addressed how to actually sign the books. Most of the generic book signing tips and guidelines apply (see my 14 book signing tips for authors and 11 MORE book signing tips for authors, among others. Here are some specific things to keep in mind for children’s picture book authors:

  1. No cursive. I was born in 1958, so handwriting was a big thing in school. We learned to write beautiful cursive script, and that’s what our generation uses for formal occasions. Today’s children, however, are often not taught cursive. Schools in our area have dropped it, and many others around the country as well. If you handwrite a clever little note to the children, odds are they won’t be able to read it. This doesn’t apply to the signature itself, but…
  2. Who Pooped signatureUse a clearer signature. When I’m signing a check or a legal document, my signature is a scrawl. If you didn’t already know my name, you’d never be able to decipher the signature. As grownups, we get this. An illegible scribble is the standard for signatures. Little kids don’t necessarily get it. If the family is plopping down $11.95 for a copy of my book, I figure the least I can do is make it readable. I know kids who don’t read cursive won’t be able to read a signature, but the letters are close enough to identify if you know what you’re looking for. Speaking of which…
  3. Sign on the title page near where your name appears. When the child is looking at the book, they see your name printed in the book and your name signed close by. The younger the child, the harder time they have grasping that you’re the person who created this book. That proximity of printed name and signature helps reinforce it.
  4. If you’re the illustrator, draw something. Nothing fancy. Even a little smiley face. What you drew doesn’t matter. What matters is that you drew it just for them (anecdote below).
  5. Always include the child’s name. You probably do this anyway, but it’s doubly important for little children. One of the first things they will learn to spell and recognize is their own name, and it’s infinitely cool to them when they see their own name in the book.
  6. Always ask the spelling. Again, you probably already do this, but it’s more important with children’s books. If you are signing a book for a 60-year-old named Ellen, it’s almost a sure bet that her name is spelled E-L-L-E-N. Young parents today are much more likely to use unique (strange, odd, phonetic…) spellings than their parents or grandparents. A six-year-old with that name is much more likely than previous generations to spell it Ellyn or Elin or Ellan or Ellin or Elhen or Elen.
  7. Talk directly to the child. I see far too many authors of children’s books that speak to the parents and barely make eye contact with the kids. The book is for the kids. The experience is for the kids. Ask children what their names are and how to spell them, and look to the parents for confirmation if you can’t understand. Children are used to being ignored by grownups. Be the exception.

I promised an anecdote:

Tippi Hedren signature
The cover to Tippi Hedren’s book, The Cats of Shambala, and a closeup of her signature in the book.

At a Cheetah Conservation Fund event years ago, I met Tippi Hedren, the actress who became famous for the Alfred Hitchcock film, The Birds. She had written a book called The Cats of Shambala, and I bought a copy. When she signed it for me, she added three simple little birds around her signature (see the picture under the book cover at right). I told her the birds were really a cute touch.

“I wish I’d never started that,” she said.

When I asked why, she told me about when she first started drawing little birds. It was a random thing. Sometimes she’d draw two, sometimes three, sometimes four. Then, when she drew two birds by her signature in a book, a fan complained.

“How come my friend got three birds in her book and I only got two in mine?”

The little birds had stopped being a cute improvisation and became a part of her signature; an expectation rather than an extra.

Be prepared, as this could happen to you, too.

When I sign Who Pooped books I always write the same thing: “Watch where you step,” unless people ask me to do something else. That makes my life easier, as I’m not scrambling to think of something clever for each book I sign, and people really seem to like it.

I’ll add a little caveat to all of this. A really good book signing for me is a hundred books in three hours. Call it an average of 30 books per hour. With two minutes per customer, I have plenty of time to chat, write my little personalized greeting, and even get pictures with fans. If you are Mo Willems (Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus) or Eric Litwin (Pete the Cat), then you’ll have massive lines and no time for such frivolity. Of course, if you’re Mo Willems or Eric Litwin, you’re probably not reading my blog.

Book signing
If they want a picture with you, do it! Here, I’m signing books in Yellowstone Park. Most of the time, the parents just want the kids in the picture, but sometimes they join in, too.

book signing book banner


  1. I think a Japanese word or phrase would be a perfect fit given the book title. I know it’s hard to break in to publishing. See my blog post called “Selling your print on demand book to bookstores” for tips. I used to sell a fair number of POD books when I had my store. Part of the trick is not making it obvious that it’s POD! Good luck.

  2. I, too, have just written my first children’s book, An American Cat in Japan, and was wondering about how to sign it. I may use a Japanese phrase like Arigato! I’ve been learning about the publishing world. I don’t know how anyone gets in without connections. My book is “print on demand” therefore book stores will not stock it. Any advice?

  3. I just wrote my first children’s book Blankets of Love. A true story about my late daughter and me. A tradition that we started and now with my grandchildren, making .blankets for the elderly in assisted living homes. My Launch Party is coming soon so your tips were very helpful. Thank you so much and God Bless You in your writing adventures.

  4. Thanks for the tips, I just wrote my first children’s book, The Adventures of Gunner The Poodle Pony, and am so excited to share his story and sign the books for the kids.

    1. I just wrote my first children’s book. “Jay Says Grace”. I am super excited. It was inspired by my grandson Jaylin and the characters in the book are my grandchildren and Godchildren! Congratulation to you and continued success!

  5. Mr. Robson, I really enjoyed reading your tips for signing children’s books! It was pleasant and to the point. Some things you brought up I had never really thought about. Thank you so much! I haven’t read your book, but I plan to look for it soon! God Bless You!

    1. Thank you, Angela! The book includes the tips from my website and also book signing tips, tricks, and stories from a bunch of other authors in various genres. I hope you enjoy it!

  6. Thank you for your tips! I just published my firs children’st book, Chester Becomes President, that I actually wrote when I was 12 years old. I am now 31!

  7. Dear Mr. Robson,
    Thank you for your very helpful book-signing tips! I just published my 1st children’s book, and am looking forward to my first signing in the very near future. God Bless- 🙂

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