Three memorable incidents from a decade of book signings
I’ve had dozens of book signings over the past decade, beginning with the publication of my first thriller, Category 5, in 2005, and ending with my historical fiction novel, How Much Do You Love Me?, in 2014. Both Borders (until they departed) and Barnes and Noble bookstores have been receptive and very good to me.
I’ve written previously about what I’ve learned about conducting a successful book signing: http://www.paulmarktag.com/how-to-conduct-a-successful-book-signing/. But here, I recall three memorable incidents that are special to me:
Incident #1. Never judge a book by its cover!
This event occurred in the early days of my book signings. It was a cold, rainy day outside a California Borders. But before I tell you what happened, let me provide some background. I’ve learned how important it is to engage in conversation with potential buyers. Unless you can market your book and be a friendly person to talk to, you won’t have many sales. Still, in so doing, when someone walks by, I have to decide whether that person might buy my book. Some general rules prevail: women always buy more books than men; teenagers rarely buy your books.
So here’s what happened! Did I mention that it was a cold, rainy evening? This lady walks into the store, barefoot as I recall. Her clothes were disheveled and I, stereotypically (no credit to me, that’s for sure), decided that she was a homeless bag lady. I debated whether to ask her if she liked thrillers, but decided not to discriminate. I told her about my book, and to my surprise, she asked to purchase one, and I signed it. She then got to thinking that one of her relatives might like a copy. By the time she finished, I had signed five books. To this day, she holds my single-person sales record. I learned my lesson and decided, then and there, that it’s never wise to prejudge someone when it comes to selling a book.
Incident #2. Be gracious when the opportunity arises!
This event occurred a year or two ago. I had this one fan who had purchased one or two of my books previously. During a December signing (which is always a great time to sell books), he returned to buy another one. First, he wanted to have a picture taken with me (not an uncommon occurrence) and seemed genuinely appreciative for that. But what happened next blew me away. He handed me a Christmas card, which by itself was a nice gesture. But, then, I opened it and was stunned to discover a $50 Macy’s gift card. Shocked, I ran after him, explaining that a gift like that was much too generous. He disagreed and left the store.
Number #3. It’s a small world after all!
This event occurred just weeks ago at the Barnes and Noble in San Mateo, California. I don’t know what the odds are for what happened, but they must be tiny indeed.
I sold one of my thrillers to a young couple. The lady asked that I make it out to her father-in-law. As I wrote, I remarked that his last name was the same as someone in my graduating high school class back in Pennsylvania, a continent away. Long story short, her father-in-law was, in fact, my high school classmate. I bet I could spend a lifetime doing signings and never again have something like that happen.
From research to writing fiction: how one transitioned into another
Here is a nice article written about me on Penn State | News
Stories from My Life: California or Bust, 7,000 Miles in Ten Days
In my series, “Stories from My Life,” I have focused on incidents or experiences that are interesting, humorous, or make a philosophical point. This story hopefully falls into the first two categories.
In the summer of 1966, when I was 20 years old, a friend of mine, Neil Shirk, and I did something special: we drove from Pennsylvania to California and back. At the time we were students at Pennsylvania State University; I had just finished my junior year and, in fact, would graduate that December.
Our first step was to find a suitable vehicle to make the trip. To that end, we borrowed my mother’s Chevrolet Corvair (black, stick shift), a 1960 model I think. This vehicle was later referenced in Ralph Nader’s book Unsafe at Any Speed, in which he derided Detroit’s penchant for emphasizing comfort over safety in vehicle design. The car had a few problems but, truth be told, was fun to drive. I especially enjoyed winter driving when the rear-engine design made it quite good in snow.
In planning our trip, special attention was paid to cost. We agreed to $100 each. So how, you ask, could we accomplish this mission on so little money? Especially since gasoline was a key expenditure. The Corvair got around 25 MPG. With gas running 32 cents (over 40 in the western mountains) per gallon, this meant that half of our cash went to gasoline. To keep our trip within budget, we decided to pitch a tent at night and eat canned food that we heated over an outdoor fire. We may have stayed in a hotel once or twice. I have no memories of eating in a restaurant, although we must have had occasionally, at least for lunch.
Seven thousand miles in 10 days meant 700 miles per day, which didn’t leave a lot of time for nondriving activities. We took the northern route out and the southern back. Noteworthy stops included the Golden Gate Bridge, Disneyland, the Hoover dam, and the Grand Canyon. A special highlight for me was visiting Universal Studios in the Los Angeles area, where I saw the house used for the movie Psycho. Prior to that, I remember arriving in Monterey, California, and heading south on Route 1. The sign read something like “Curves, next 74 miles.” At the time neither of us appreciated that the views from this highway are among the most beautiful in the world. (Please see above photo of California coastline and iconic Bixby Bridge, some 15 miles south of Monterey.)
Outside of a trip to the emergency room for me, there weren’t any disasters. As I recall, I had woken up in my sleeping bag shivering terribly. Looking back, I think I had a case of hypothermia.
We arrived safely back in Pennsylvania, returning Mom’s car with four nearly bald tires. Little did I know at the time that some six years later I would be moving to the West Coast and working in Monterey.
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