A young guy, dressed all in black (with a piercing in an unusual place), walked up to my book signing table at a local store tonight to say hello. He picked up my book and turned it over.
“This your book?” he mumbled.
I nodded, leaning forward in my seat. “Yes,” I answered, smiling.
“So you wrote it?” he asked again, eyebrows knitting together as he squinted at the back cover.
“Yes, I wrote it,” I said, adding my standard, “do you have any teen girls in your life? This is a novel for young adult girls.”
He glanced up briefly over the book cover as he continued to read. “Um, I have a couple of cousins.” He adjusted his droopy pants. After considering for a while, he put the book back down on the stack in front of me. “Well…I would buy it…but I didn’t bring any money.”
I gave him a sympathetic look and shrugged. “Ah…that’s too bad.”
Then his eyes fell on my fine-point Sharpie pens, two of them, lying side by side on the table. He pointed at them. “Ah! Those are great pens, aren’t they? I LOVE those pens!” he exclaimed. Then he shoved his hands in his pockets and backed away slowly, like a monkey hoping to get away from a tiger before it pounces.
“Yeah. They’re great. I really love them, too,” I called after him, deciding not to pounce.
And so it was, my first of a very few conversations and I wished the line-up at my table was as long as the line-up for coffee.
My second favourite response are the old women at craft fairs. They pick it up, read the back, and then I love watching their eyebrows fly up when they figure out the subject matter. “Oh dear,” they say, “I can’t read that!”
They promptly drop the book and walk away.
I can’t say I enjoy doing this type of thing. I’ve spent many years volunteering behind a table, waiting for someone to buy something from me, looking at passersby in the eyes with a pleasant-but-not-threatening smile—whether it was for the development agency Compassion International, hoping families leaving a concert would sign-up to sponsor a child, or to sell tickets for some charitable event—and now, to sell copies of my own first novel.
But I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s really useless unless people are expecting you and have come to the store purposely to buy what you’re selling. This is largely affected by how well-known your book is in the first place, and notoriety has to be achieved in other ways.
In one of his lectures and biographical sketches regarding education, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Leave this military hurry and adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.”
Lifted out of context and applied to my current situation, I find I have little patience, and little awareness of the world around me.
Right now, life is just a goal. I find that the distance between my message and my audience is far too great. But I’ve only just started the journey.
Maybe a walk in the woods would help.
Take a deep breath or two. Look at the stars.
There’s always tomorrow.