I would start: Picture This! Yes, that emphatically, with exclamation point stressed, palms out, as if to stop traffic. I did. More than once. Some poor unsuspecting individual would ask the innocent question, “what would you recommend,” and that’s all  the encouragement I’d need. ‘I’m ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille’. Lights, camera, action, and I’m off–describing in dramatic detail the characters, plot line, and sinister implications within the classic noir book by William Irish, aka, Cornell Woolrich. By the fifth descriptive line of my spiel, they were hooked. I’d guide them to the register, assuring they’d thank me, and go back to shelving or writing invoices, a happy camper who once again achieved the thrill of victory;  another reader will experience the depths of the human soul Woolrich so acutely plunged.

This type of sales technique is not everyone’s taste. Most enjoy quietude, relying on soft dulcet tones explaining the finer literary points within. And nothing wrong with this style. Perfect for Anne Sexton poetry, or a touchingly maudlin Oprah pick. But pulp fiction is lurid. Loud. Passionate. And when well written, spellbinding.

I Married a Dead Man is all that, and more. Tense, questioning, empathy for each character, well, almost all, for the villain of the piece deserves none.

Well, go on with the plot then, you say? (Even if you’re not saying, I’m compelled to anyway)

Picture this, an unwed pregnant woman boards a train. Now, remember, this is back when bringing a ‘bastard’ into the world was not only looked upon with shame, but could ostracise the hapless mother for life. OK. Unwed mother enters the community ladies room, where an joyful bride asks Unwed to hold  her spanking new wedding ring while she washes her hands.

!!BAM!!

In that second, the train crashes, all hell breaks out, chaos ensues, and yep, you guessed it, bride is dead, her unseen groom, also gone, unwed mother is mistaken for new bride–the groom’s family has not yet met their daughter in law, so she’s gathered into the bosom of the remaining members. Did I mention the dead groom had an unmarried brother??? Oh, yeah, you see where I’m sending you.

Take it from there! And undoubtably, each customer did. I don’t believe I lost one sale on this book. Granted, there may have been less than one percent who didn’t enjoy the book, but all others returned glowing over the complex and troubled conclusion of the story.

So what’s the point of my sharing? Sometimes if a bookseller has a particular title he or she is crazy about, maybe crazy enthusiasm isn’t such a bad thing to communicate to a customer. My excitement caught their attention and held it, coaxing them to feel they need to finish the story I started to attain my level of joy in the written word. Or, maybe my obvious enjoyment of the book convinced them it was worth trying, or perhaps they were afraid I was a maniac who if thwarted in a sale, may go postal snatching the 40 ton Hubin and smash their pointy heads–whoops–wait, that’s another story altogether.

In simpler terms, my enthusiasm runneth over into their need for stimulation, result, they may as well give it a shot. In reality, most customers were entertained, amused by my expressiveness, leaving the store with broad smiles and eager anticipation. No lie.

Yeah, well, when I state I sold zillions, naturally that’s an exaggeration. Sales probably only ran into the billions.

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3 thoughts on “I Married a Dead Man–The Book I Sold Zillions Of”

  1. I’m that way with Once Upon a Town by Bob Greene. It’s the story of North Platte, Nebraska during World War II. Hearing that some local lads were to come through on a troop train, the ladies got together and baked goodies and went down to the station to meet the train. The men turned out to be strangers but the ladies passed out the goodies anyway. The reaction of the men was so heartfelt that the town got together and for the rest of the war, they met every single troop train with coffee, home baked food and social contact. Six million men, trains night and day. During rationing!

    I wave my arms around while telling this,and I sell one every month or two. I’ll probably saturate the market soon, but it makes a good gift and it’s like, you know. Heartwarming.

  2. Well, Caro, you have me hooked!
    Sounds wonderful. We all need at least one book to feel passionate about.
    Dead Man is the one I acted out, but my bookselling was constantly expressive. lol. If I found a new author I loved, look out customers!
    However, if I saw a particular customer needed lower power, tee hee, I toned it down.

  3. It’s really true — I have a couple of titles like this, and I can’t keep them in stock in my used bookshop because of the fact that almost every time I recommend them, the customer buys them. I couldn’t believe it the first few times it happened, but since then it’s kept repeating itself.

    I think you hit the nail on the head — enthusiasm makes the difference.

    What the small-shop world needs is more people to get excited about what they’re doing, instead of just doing it. Some sort of synergistic spark happens with this mix of curiosity and enthusiasm that customers don’t encounter in the chainstores and the shops where everything is simply a commodity, and not part of a greater passion.

    Joie de vivre! Priceless.

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