Jul 12 2013 11:00am

Neil Gaiman Possibly Breaks Book Signing World Record, Doesn’t Recommend It

Neil Gaiman book signing world record kitty

Not content with a New York Times chart-topping novel in The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, author Neil Gaiman might also have scooped a world record for the number of books signed in a single sitting—though it’s not an accolade he particularly wants.

As the US leg of his marathon—and  last—book promotional tour comes to a close this weekend in Cambridge, Mass (he goes off to the San Diego Comic Con after that, then Canada, before returning to the UK in August), Gaiman has signed upwards of 40,000 books.

It might well be enough to put him into the Guinness Book of Records. The most books signed by one author in a single session is 4,649 by Sammy Lee of Hong Kong, who signed his book Autopilot Leadership Model in China on January 19, 2013. The Guinness people had a Twitter exchange with Gaiman last month after he tweeted that he’d signed 1,200 books and someone commented that it might be a record.

Guinness World Records responded:

Most books signed by author in a single session is 4,649! If you’d like to beat it sometime Neil, let us know! :)

Gaiman replied:

Scary. I’ve done more than that sometimes but it’s horrible.

As impressive as the 1,200 was—and you can see a wonderful video of it (thankfully speeded up) on the Headline books sub-site Men Who Stare At Books, followers of Gaiman’s Twitter account (@neilhimself) will have seen his regular updates throughout the signing tour detailing ever greater numbers of autographed items.

So has he broken the record? Gaiman says, “Many of these signings were at about 2,500 copies of Ocean & another 2,000+ other things. Perhaps this is madness that shouldn’t be celebrated!“

No one who has stood in line waiting for Gaiman’s autograph—sometimes until 1 or  2 AM on the current tour—will doubt his commitment, charm and endurance, and his willingness to chat and sign his older works. He would be the last one to complain, of course, but the tour has not been without its scars.  

“Am now icing my forearm after signings because it’s swelling and it hurts,” he says, insisting, “The people are lovely but I’ll be glad when the signings are done.”

Neil Gaiman book signing world record icing his hand

Fact-fans among you might want to know just what tools Gaiman’s using for this mammoth signing tour. His weapon of choice is the Pilot Custom 823 Fountain Pen, which retails for a cool $360. But as Gaiman tweeted on July 8:

If you are doing a big signing tour, & signing (so far) about 27,000 signatures, having one pen that copes & writes pretty is wonderful.

And close study of his Twitter account even reveals his favourite inks—a purple Noodlers Black Swan English Rose he used in Atlanta and a red Mont Blanc Bordeaux, a gift from students at the Clarion West writing workshop Gaiman recently attended.  

While Gaiman might not particularly want the world record, even if it turns out he’s bust it, the honour of signing most books in a single session is one that seems to be sought after.

Canadian writer Ryan North tweeted in June: “I signed 4340 books yesterday alone! That’s over twice the previous world record” and two years ago UK former glamour model Katie Price made a bid to break the existing world record when she held a signing for her latest novel The Comeback Girl in Leeds.

Although the artist formerly known as Jordan said she “came close” to breaking the then record of 1,951 held by the Russian ex-World Champion in chess Anatoli Karpov since 2006, she ultimately didn’t, although she might have trumped Neil Gaiman’s standard outfit of black T-shirt and jeans by turning up in a sparkly bra, a gold catsuit inscribed with lines from her new book, and a belt made out of miniature versions of the cover.

Photo by Kyle Cassidy

David Barnett is an author and journalist whose novel Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl is released by Tor in the US and Snowbooks in the UK this September.

1. RobertX
A long time ago, I took one of my Sandman graphic novels for him to sign. He signed it by drawing a picture (charicature) of Sandman himself.
Jeremy Goff
2. JeremyM
I went to his signing in Chicago just this week and it was awesome. There were only 800 - 1000 people at the event which was small for him on this tour. I wish I had the extra time that I could have stayed to get things signed after he spoke but I had to exchange my copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane for a pre-signed copy and leave early. So, not only did he sign for everyone there, but pre-signed for those who couldn't/didn't want to stick round until midnight or later. My hand and arm hurt just thinking about it.
Alexander Gieg
3. alexgieg
I don't know whether I'm weird in regards to this, but I never found signing or a signed book interesting. I've been to some book signing events over the years, and even though I had that author's book, sometimes purchased earlier, sometimes at the event, I never asked any of them to sign it for me. What for? Exchanging two or three words with them to thank them for the work usually feels more than enough. Besides, I mostly felt pity for the maddening scribbling they were doing. That visibly hurts!

On the other hand I once purchased two small books I thought an author I follow would like and gave them to him at such an event. He appreciated it but then asked me to write something in there. My, didn't it feel odd? :)
4. Sarah Kathleen
I was at his tour stop in Lexington yesterday, and he was incredibly kind and gracious--I can't imagine how exhausted he must have been (the awful rock band bleeding through the walls certainly didn't help matters), but it felt like he was glad to see every single one of us. And he wrote "mind the gap" in my copy of Neverwhere, which doesn't SEEM like much, but that's an additional three words times however many copies of Neverwhere he's signed on the tour... What I mean is, he's not phoning it in. And I appreciate that more than I can say.
5. stazimel
I saw him in Nashville on Wednesday July 10, in our awful humidity, and he was still great and friendly. Stunning amount of signing going on!
6. Sas
Might want to check your numbers - I quite doubt that 2 500 and 2 000 together make 40 000...

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