The invitation from the reputable book store seemed genuine and exciting, so I packed my book bags and drove 100 miles to present a program and sign books. The momentary glamour was offset by the reality that I made enough money to pay for my gas to drive back home. But I did meet some interesting characters.
The Eye-Averter. These people wander into a bookstore intending only to use the bathroom and/or read sports magazines in the comfortable chairs in the back of the store. When they see me sitting at the table with my books on display, they quickly look away as if I were an evil sorcerer ready to destroy their sex lives, rob their money, and foist a command that they read books without pictures.
The Writer Wannabe. These visitors are eager to discuss my advice for how they could write a book, get an agent, and become published within a year because their mom/lover/therapist told them they could write. I usually engage in polite conversation and then point them to the writing resource section of the store.
The Bumbling Book Destroyer. At every book signing, at least one person picks up my book, pretends to read and absorb every word, smudges a few pages, and bends the cover. Then they leave the mangled, unsellable book and wander off to harm other innocent volumes. I feel as if they bruised my child.
The Vindictive Giver. Several buyers will request that I write a personalized message to their former friends or ex-lovers. It's with mild acquiescence that I write in my book Menopause Sucks, "Fred, I hope you read this and understand why I burned down the barn."
The Prohibition Reader. More than one potential buyer has picked up my book Midlife Cabernet or Drinking with Dead Women Writers and asked, with a barbed tone of judgement, if I promoted the consumption of alcoholic beverages. I assure them that I only guzzle a bottle of wine after the books signing event is over, and I am totally hilarious after just one glass. Two glasses could prompt a skit and a few bawdy songs.
The Humorless Customer. This person usually objects to the titles of my books and asks if I'm making fun of middle-aged women who suffer from hot flashes and drink too much. I always answer, "Yes."
The Cheapskate. One more than one occasion, someone will quietly mention that I was a distant relative or the friend of a friend and could she have a discount? I usually whisper back, "No."
The Identity Questioner. Often a potential reader will turn over my book, study my photograph on the back cover, and ask, "Is that really you?" Depending upon my mood and how many books I've sold, I either answer, "Oh no! Who is that using my name?" or, "Yes, I paid the photographer a lot of money to erase most of the imperfections."
The Loyal Fan. A huge reward for any writer sitting at a book signing table is when that one special angel comes rushing up so excited to buy the book. We love these people. And we relish the thought that somewhere someone is taking a few hours to read what took us months, or years, to write.
When I enter a store and see a writer sitting behind a stack of books, I always pause and offer encouragement. I'll consider buying the book, unless it's a manifesto about the pending doom of civilization or how-to advice for cooking snakes. I'm drawn to humorous tales about strong women embracing their lives. There are so many abundant stories yet to be told.