I sat at my table near the food court in the mall, watching people pass and hoping they would decide to stop and buy one of my books. I’m kind of new to this book-signing gig, and I’m not famous, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Unfortunately, there were no lines waiting to buy my book and get my autograph.
However, I decided to make the most of my time by observing people, taking notes about behavior and expressions. You never know when you might need a new character in your next novel.
To those of you who have had book-signings, these observations may be familiar, but for those who aren’t, let me describe the way people react to seeing an author stationed at a table with her/his books.
First, there are the folks that wear blinders. These are the ones that know you’re there, but keep their eyes focused straight ahead when passing your table, lest eye contact with you is harmful to their health.
Next, are the people that look at you, then realizing you might accost them to buy something, immediately glance away, assuring you won’t lure them over.
Then there are the polite smilers. As they walk past, they make brief eye contact, then smile, almost sympathetically, to let you know they’re sorry they’re not buying your book.
And there are the curious. These are the folks that just want to check out what you’re doing. They stop, ask questions and pretend to be interested. Sometimes they’ll ask, “Did you write this?” I bite my sarcastic tongue, smile and say, “Yes!” They pick up the book, flip through it, then lay it back down on the table and bid you good day as they walk away.
Finally, there are the buyers. These can be people you know or know you who really want a copy of your book. Then there are those who’ve stumbled across your path and are fascinated to discover that you are a real live author. These people brighten an author’s day. Not only do they buy, they act like you’re somebody special.
When my husband came to see how I was doing, I asked him to sit in for me a few moments so I could run get a Starbucks. Too bad I couldn’t have sold a book to each person in line getting coffee. I glanced over at my table and saw my husband engaged in serious discussion with a gentleman. I wondered if the two knew each other. But when I approached, I discovered my husband had engaged him in conversation and apparently convinced him to buy one of my books. When the man offered me a credit card, I had to refuse, since I have no ability to process credit cards. His hand drooped, and I suggested he use the nearby ATM. He said he would. When he left, I told my husband I doubted he’d return. And I was right. We saw him in the area a couple more times, but he didn’t come back to my table. I never saw him smile, and I wondered what it was that his body language was saying.
Later, as we loaded my car in the parking lot with the books I had left, my husband spotted the man getting in his car across from us. My husband said, “That’s a lonely man.” Then he grabbed one of my books and ran over to the car. I worried that my husband was accosting the poor man as he tried to leave. Then I realized what my husband was doing. He was giving the book away. I heard him say, “Merry Christmas,” as he stepped back from the car smiling, then walked back to ours.
“You old softie!” I told him, seeing the moisture in his eyes.
But the realization struck me that what my husband did was see a need and fill it. He saw a lonely man and wanted to give him a gift to bless his day. And that reminded me why Christian writers write.
It’s not for wealth or fame, but to bless others as God has called us to do.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Eph. 2:10