Yesterday I sat at a Barnes & Noble table for three hours surrounded by my two hiking guides. The weather was beautiful, a perfect autumn day to hike. But here I was, sitting at the front of the store smiling at customers as they came in.
It was going to be a long afternoon.
People entered the store, not expecting to be greeted personally. They were afraid to approach my table because they thought they would have to buy a book. Fathers tried to guide their children to the back of the store and avoid me, but the kids were attracted by the Nook displayed next to my table. Some hugged the wall so they didn’t have to make eye contact. I didn’t dare interrupt the customers buried in their cell phone.
Most of the customers I talked to were pleasant. They told me why they didn’t hike. People are always on the defensive about hiking. They would love to get out but for their knees, back trouble, time, spouse, or children.
“I used to put 60 lbs. on my back,” one old-timer told me, “but not now.”
“Hi. I’m the signing author this afternoon. I’ve written two hiking guides.” That’s my line when I approach the 35 to 70 year old crowd, the demographics of my readership. If they’re younger, they don’t buy books or maps, thinking they can get all the information from the web.
Most customers were polite, flipping through a book and walking away. At this point of the life of my books, I’m no longer intent on selling that extra copy. I just want people to know about the great hiking in Western North Carolina. The problem is that people who were really interested in the outdoors were outdoors at the time.
What could I do in between greeting people?
I could read. After all, it is a book store but it wouldn’t look right to be buried deep in a novel.
I could edit the manuscript for my new book The Mountains-to-Sea Trail across North Carolina which is due soon but I would look unapproachable.
What I will not do is play with my iPad, especially in a Barnes & Noble store. So I wrote the first draft of this blog.
So was it worth about four hours of my time on a beautiful afternoon? I sold four books, talked to a few potential hikers, wrote this blog, signed all the copies of my books in their inventory, and put on “Autographed by author” stickers. I chatted with the sales staff and told them about my new book coming out next March. I also got a free cup of coffee.
Yes, I think it was worth it.