MA’AM, I HATE TO DISAPPOINT YOU, BUT I'M NOT JOHN GRISHAM
I’m going to have a sleepless night. That’s because tomorrow I’m having a book-signing for my sixth non- bestseller, Milk and Sugar: The Complete Book of Seersucker.
The signing will take place at Burke’s Bookstore, a legendary Memphis literary institution that has been in business since 1875.
Over the years, Burke’s has been the site of signings for a wide range of writers including John Grisham (he had his very first signing at Burke’s), Richard Ford, Ann Beattie, and even Archie Manning.
And tomorrow, Burke’s will host a signing for the non-legendary Bill Haltom.
So why will I have a sleepless night this evening? Simple. I’m always worried that absolutely no one is going to show up for my book-signing.
Book-signings can be exhilarating, but they can also be pretty demoralizing. I once had a book-signing at a store in Cincinnati in which I sold exactly one book. And it was bought by Claudia’s Aunt Geneva, who lives in Cincinnati.
That’s right. I flew all the way to Cincinnati to sell a book to Aunt Geneva.
On another occasion, at a book-signing in Jonesboro, Arkansas, I deeply disappointed by a very nice lady who was excited to see me, until she realized I was not who she thought I was.
I was sitting at a table in the book store with a stack of books in front of me and a pen in hand, just waiting to sign books for my legions of fans. But there was no line in front of the table.
For a while, I sipped coffee and prayed that someone would come buy a copy of my book. I was even willing to give the copies away.
Finally, a lady slowly approached the table, greeting me with a big smile. She seemed genuinely excited to see me. She was being escorted to the table by a young woman who appeared to be her daughter.
I returned the older woman’s smile and warmly said, “Good morning, ma’am. Would you like a signed copy of my book?”
“Oh yes!” she quickly responded. “I love your writing. I’ve read every one of your books!”
I was confused by this response since the book-signing that day was for my very first book, and therefore there was no way that this nice lady had read “every one” of my books, since there was only one, and she had not yet read it.
After a few seconds of awkward silence, I asked her, “Which of my books is your favorite?” Without hesitation she responded, “A Time to Kill!”
At that point the younger woman interrupted and said, “Momma, I told you this man is not John Grisham.”
Momma quickly responded, “It said in the Jonesboro Sun this morning, that John Grisham was coming to the Walden Bookstore to sign books today, so this must be him!”
“No, Momma,” the daughter replied. “The Jonesboro Sun said a lawyer from Memphis was coming to the store today to sign books. It did not say that he was John Grisham.”
At this point, the smile faded from the woman’s face. She looked at me and in a trembling voice said, “So you’re not John Grisham?”
“No ma’am,” I responded. “I hate to disappoint you, but I’m not John Grisham.” “Well then who are you?” demanded the extremely disappointed reader.
“I’m just a lawyer from Memphis who loves to write,” I confessed.
In retrospect, I was way too honest. I should have just taken my pen in hand and signed my book for her with the inscription, “Best Wishes. Sincerely, John Grisham.”
Well, I just hope and pray a few folks show up at Burke’s Bookstore tomorrow, and I hope that sweet lady from Jonesboro doesn’t have her daughter drive her to Memphis in the hopes of getting a book signed by John Grisham.