I have nothing but praise for Half Price Books. Yesterday, they hosted me for a book signing from 1:00 – 3:00 in South Austin. The folks at that location, like the folks in Round Rock, could not have been more welcoming. They are also really smart people when it comes to marketing. Just as you enter the store, there is a large display of books that intuitively attract small children. Superman and Bat Man seemed to be the primary attraction yesterday, but every little kid that came through the door immediately ran to those books. Watching them put a smile on my face.
I arrived early to get set up. It has been so long since I’ve had a book signing that I wasn’t sure I’d remembered how the Square application for credit card charges worked on my iPad. I feared it would not be as simple as riding a bicycle. You know the old adage, “It is so simple you can’t forget”. When it comes to electronics, my ability to remember my password is at best a long shot. Anything beyond that is anybody’s guess. It could go either way and often does.
Thankfully, by 1:00 p.m. everything was in place and I had reminded myself to be friendly and engaging to anyone who made eye contact with me. I was located next to the front door and there was a steady stream of people in-and-out of the store.
The first lady I engaged in conversation was named Margie. She picked up the book, looked at the cover and asked, “Are you Don Forrester?” Somehow I refrained from nodding “yes” and saying, “That and a dollar-twenty-five will get you a cup of coffee where I buy mine.” Instead, I smiled and said, “Yes”. She replied, “Writing a book is quite an accomplishment. Congratulations. I’ve got a diary that my Grandmother wrote. I’d like to write a book around her story, but I just haven’t found the time to get started. I shared my story about how a friend asked if giving me a deadline would help me get my book written. She responded, “Oh, I am always ahead of deadlines. Giving me a deadline wouldn’t help. I never put anything off to another day. If I have an assignment due two weeks from now, before last week I would have it ready.
Okay, so I’m not the sharpest Crayola in the box and I intuitively sensed she and I had a lot in common. I will let you connect those dots and figure out what I’m trying to communicate. She didn’t ask for advice. Telling her that everything she’d just expressed sounded confusingly incongruent didn’t seem like a good way to entice her to want my book. Instead, I opted to celebrate the kinds words she shared related to the accomplishment of having a book with my name on the cover. We talked for several minutes, but at the end of the day, the only thing she has with “More Than Enough” written on it is the bookmark I gave her.
Next, a young woman picked up the book and asked, “Are you Don Forrester?” Turning the book over, she noticed my picture and said, “That is really a good picture.” She read the back cover of the book, looked at me and asked, “Will reading this book make me cry?” I answered, “Probably, but it will give you a lot more reasons to laugh. My stories will remind you of your stories and you’ll probably have an emotional reaction.” As we conversed, her boyfriend walked up. She turned to him and said, “I think I want this book.” He picked up another copy, quickly identified a line, held his finger under what he wanted her to see and said, “Yes, I think you’ll like this book.”
Thinking this sale was in the bag, “I offered to autograph the book for her and asked her name. She replied, “Anna”. She then asked the price and said, “Do you mind if I think about the purchase while I look at other books?” I was certainly agreeable with that and said, “I’m honored that you’re considering it.” Would she return? I didn’t know, but I knew I would be disappointed if she didn’t and the disappointment had nothing to do with the purchase price of the book. In fact, if the price were a barrier, I would have given it to her. I was drawn to her question, “Will this book make me cry?”
A short time later, I looked up and saw a friend. Her being in the store was simply by happenstance. She and her husband are incredible folks and our history goes back many years. In the course of the conversation, she said to me, “You are a closet Episcopalian. You are a perfect fit for our denomination”. She senses that because two or three times a year for the last forever, she and her husband have attended church where I attend. Isn’t there something magical and loving about kind words? That one conversation was worth the price of admission for my driving into Austin. If you want to boost my spirit, please let this kind lady be your mentor. I told her, mostly tongue-in-cheek, “I may have to come out of the closet. Not many people currently think I am a perfect fit.” Of course, if she knew me better, I fear she wouldn’t either.
As I was offering him a bookmark, the next person asked, “What’s your book about?” I replied, “It is about finding adventure in the midst of the ordinary. It is about everyday life. I promise you my stories will remind you of your stories. He replied, “Okay, thanks”. He then picked up a book and walked away. I was a little startled. The first thing that came to mind was, “Easy come, easy go.” I resisted the thought that I should tell him: “I was hoping to sell books rather than give them away”. It did cross my mind, but I didn’t want to embarrass him. If there was a miscommunication, I was willing to own it. I don’t always get it right.
The next person who engaged in conversation with me asked the same question: “What’s your book about?” I provided him the same answer I provided the previous fellow. I added, “Why don’t you look through the book and see what you think. I always read the first three pages of any book I purchase. I can usually tell within three pages whether I want it.”
As he thumbed through the book, I briefly engaged a couple of other people in conversation and gave away bookmarks. He closed the book and said, “I want to read this. It is very intriguing”. He paid for the book and asked if he could leave it with me while he shopped through the rest of the store. That certainly was not a problem.
Before the two-hour window of the book signing came to a close, the man who had thanked me for the book and walked away with it came back. He said, “It was not my intent to take your book without purchasing it. I just assumed I could add it to the other books I was purchasing. I didn’t know until now that I needed to pay you. I thanked him and told him I was honored that he wanted to read the book. Actually, I visited with both he and his wife. I didn’t notice earlier that he had anyone with him. They reside in Driftwood, which also is located in the greater Dripping Springs neighborhood.
As we talked, they shared their story. He said of his wife, “I think I asked her to marry me the day we first met. I don’t remember exactly when she said ‘yes’, but we were engaged for nineteen years. I guess that may be one of the longest engagements on record”. They proved to be a delightful couple and I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with them.
Fortunately, as my two-hour window of time came to close, the fellow who had left his book with me stopped by to pick it up. However, regardless of the time, I would not have left the store without ensuring he had his book. Interestingly he said, “I didn’t read the first three pages. I simply opened the book to page 151 where you talked about the most interesting man in the world. That did it for me. I knew then that I wanted to read the book. In case you’re wondering, the chapter is entitled “The Dos Equis Man”.
I told the man I’d like to autograph the book. He responded, “Please do”. I asked for his name and he said, “No, I don’t want you to personalize the book with my name. I simply want you to sign your name. When you become famous as a author the book will be worth more if it only includes your name.” I smiled with the thought, “None of that is likely to happen in my lifetime or yours.”
By the way, the young lady who wanted to think about the purchase and her boyfriend stopped back by to pick up a copy. She said, “I’ve thought it over. I really want the book! I knew it when I first pick it up.” I told Anna I would gladly autograph it for her. She said, there is an “h” on the end. My mother wanted to add a level of creativity by naming me Annah.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I had an absolutely delightful day. It refreshed my spirit and renewed my belief that just maybe there is something of value in the book. In addition, the ease at which I engaged in conversations with strangers helped me with the belief that eventually I may forget that I’m an introvert. It was really a good day.
All My Best!