Sunday, April 10, 2011

Old Friends

I had a book launch the other day at Barnes & Noble. As usual I was a bit nervous in the days leading up to this first event for my new novel, Rook, Rhyme & Sinker. I had no reason to be nervous. It’s not like this was my first signing event, as I’ve done many now in an assortment of venues. Still, it makes me nervous at the thought of sitting behind that familiar table, peering out over a stack of crisp, new books. I try to stay positive but a few thoughts manage to sneak through. What if no one shows up? What if the books haven’t arrived? What if I spend the first hour talking to mystery readers and then realize my zipper was down?

But the day arrived. I took a deep breath, and with pen in hand, I entered Barnes & Noble, ready for how the world intended to greet my latest literary effort. The staff at Barnes & Nobel is wonderful. We talked a little; catching up on things from when I was there last. Then I fielded a question or two from customers. “What isle are the cookbooks in?” “Do you have Dan Brown’s new book?” All this greeted with a smile as I stand proudly by a large sign stating, “Meet Mystery Writer R. Michael Phillips.” An announcement, directing customers to my presence, comes over the PA system and interest starts to swell around the table. The conversation turns to mysteries. My fears subside as I sign my first book of the day. People clustered around a table will always attract others, so the inquisitive nature of the public takes over. One last check to make sure I’m not having a wardrobe malfunction and it’s time to sign some books.

For me, I can’t tell you how much I enjoy meeting new people and talking about writing, mysteries, authors we both enjoy, etc. But the most exciting part is how an event like this affords you the opportunity to reconnect with old friends. I’ll expound on this further by saying a great deal of the success of the event and excitement of reconnecting is made possible by the advent of Social Networks. This is especially true for those of us who have not yet made it to the NY Times Best Sellers List.

This event was particularly exciting for me as I was surprised by the attendance of a couple high school friends; two cute girls back then who are now beautiful, successful women whom I haven’t seen in years. And more years than I care to remember or we’ll ever admit to I might add. They looked great, and brought with them the same spirit and enjoyment of life that made them standout as special so many years ago. We caught up on life, and quickly closed the gap between then and now.

So, you may ask, “Was the event a success?” I signed a lot of books, so from a retail point of view I would say it probably was. But to me success goes beyond the monetary element of the event. I’ll borrow a page from that credit card campaign and restate there are some things money still can’t buy. “One mystery novel- $14.99. Reconnecting will old friends- Priceless!”