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Flogging My Wares

Yesterday I had a book signing, probably one of the fantasies of those seeking to be published. The wannabe author imagines being seated at a table in an upscale bookstore surrounded by fresh copies of The Great Work. It is just before 10 a.m. and faces of anxious customers peer through the windows hoping for a glimpse of their hero. At 10 the doors open and they flood in to grab the precious copies. The book seller is prepared with burly salespeople, ID cards around their necks, earpieces connected to radios. The salespeople shepherd the faithful into orderly lines and they queue up to the table. The author greets each reader with a smile.

The readers offer compliments like, “I couldn’t put it down,” and ask questions like, “where did you get that character?” The author replies with a standard set of platitudes, “Thank you very much,” “It just came to me,” and “I’m glad you liked it. How would you like it signed?”

The books fly off the table and the displays. Clerks hurriedly unpack more boxes to fill the demand before the crowd gets rowdy. Fortunately the retailer has seen the brilliance of the book and has opted for most of the run just to be on the safe side.

As in the rest of life, reality is different. I stood next to the table and greeted visitors, about one every two minutes, “Hi, we’re featuring my history book today,” or “Hello, are you interested in history?” Most smiled and continued on. Some simply ignored me. No one stopped. Almost no one. I managed to sell three books, both copies of the first one and one of the new one. The last copy sold a minute after I was supposed to go off duty. My share of the sales paid for half my parking.

I did get to say, “How do you want it signed?”

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