I always assumed it was a, "I don't have enough time in the world to sign the autographs of everyone of my fans who want one, so charging for it will whittle down the demand to a more manageable state"
Halle-freaking-lujiah.I met an actor from a popular SF show at a convention some years ago. He was a nice guy, but he'd only ever been to Creation type conventions, where after you pay $$$ to walk through the door, it costs more $$ or $$$ to do anything else at their conventions. So he's at this fan-run convention now. Poor guy was completely boggled to hear that all the writers signing autographs were doing it for free. [sigh]And to Dave, the way you keep yourself from spending your entire life signing is by saying, "Okay, I'm going to be at this table from 2 to 4 signing autographs. If you want one, get in line early." There, see? Easy.
Also, if you're going to do the "I'm signing from x to y time," it's also standard and polite to have a "queue minder" who keeps track of the average time it's taking you to sign things and begins telling people at a certain point "don't get in the queue, so-and-so is going to be breaking at y, so you will just be disappointed if you try to wait now. He/she will be back tomorrow from q to z, so pop up as early as you can." This avoids the signer feeling like he's obligated to stick around and miss dinner/some other event (so many of them do anyway) and prevents the fan standing in line for an hour only to be told that he won't be getting the coveted autograph.
It depends on who is collecting the money. If it's the con, many times they are trying to recoup the costs of getting the person out there in the first place (airfare, hotel, appearance fees, etc...). Otherwise it's whatever you and the person can work out. I know at SDCC if someone is in the Sails Pavilion (i.e. autograph area) they are only required to sign the convention souvenir book for free. Occasionally there will be an exception to what you can have signed, but those are announced in advance. Normally I just pony up the $20 for one of the 8x10's sitting on the table and have them sign that.
I don't really understand the appeal of autographs anyway. I only really like them if they are on a cheque.
Dave really brings up a good point. There's also - and this only applies to some charging autographs, of course - people who collect autograph fees to then give to charity. It turns not-so fans away, thus wasting less time of the people in line and the celebrity.Gabriel is right as well, but sometimes conventions aren't well managed. Or heaven help if a volunteer says a dozen people can probably be squeezed in, but then the celebrity really needs to be run off somewhere. Things don't always run smoothly.
I don't understand why it's a problem if they make some cash for themselves? That doesn't seem like the sort of thing that should require justification.
Exactly! Celebrities usually became famous because they worked very hard to become famous. Why shouldn't they leverage that asset to make money? Especially since a creator's signature on a comic or other work usually increases the resale value of that work. Why shouldn't the creator be able to recapture some of that value? Besides, if you have to sit at a desk for a couple of hours signing your name repeatedly, that sounds a lot like work. Why should they work for free?
I don't think they even require that justification though. It's not like anybody's getting hurt. They're not engaging in any sort of deception that would invalidate the transaction. All sounds pretty above board regardless of how much work went into it all.
A lot of older actors, particularly from the age where their popular shows don't pay residuals, came to rely on autograph shows in California to pay their medical bills, because they couldn't get very many new jobs and all the repeats in the world didn't bring in any new cash.
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