I like books. A lot. So I go to book readings whenever a good one pops up in the neighborhood.
Now book signings have straightforward protocols. You find a seat. You listen to the author talk about his book. Then you buy a copy, stand in line, and get 14.8 seconds with the author while he scrawls your name in there – make sure you have the yellow sticky note lest ‘Ali’ become ‘Holly’ – and autographs it.
Considering how authors create some of the longest-lasting artifacts of a culture, hey, they deserve to have groupies. And it’s fun to be a little starstruck by Michael Chabon, James Watson or Oliver Sacks. And it’s not like these people get recognized on the street, so it must be fun for them to feel like a celebrity for a half hour, until they walk out of Barnes & Noble bookstore back into relative anonymity.
But let’s make things clear here: when you’re the autograph-seeker, you’re in the position of the supplicant. There’s nothing pejorative or wrong about it, mind you. But you don’t have a lot of power, either. It’s not like they’re going to sign your book then say, “Y’know, I really like the way you handed me that book. Why don’t you join us in the tour bus for the afterparty? Hookers and blow on us.”
Oh, and you have to pay for the book. Full retail price usually. This makes my habit of attending book readings and supporting my friendly neighborhood authors – and by neighborhood I mean solar system – a costly one.
Now there is another way to get an autographed book by an author which is different. There’s no waiting in line. And they mail the book to you for free. Or come deliver one to your doorstep in person. And they’re kind of begging you to accept the book and read it, and super-grateful when you do.
Huh? What happened here? Which alternate universe are we inhabiting here?
See, I’ve been in the publishing industry for the past 8 years or so. And by virtue of being a writer and having a bit of an audience, I’ve been reviewing some books.
And when you become a book reviewer, your relationship with authors and their books changes dramatically. Because writing a book review is hard work. 8 hours to read the book, more to write the review. And a good review? One that lots of people are going to see? Priceless, my friend.
So now you’re the one with a stack of unread books that publishers have sent you. Now you’re the one being wooed to lavish a smidgen of your attention upon their latest release. People are sending you so many free books that spending money on books does not even occur to you. Heck, get these away from me – too many! Too little time! I don’t mean to be rude, but please tell me who you are and why should I be paying attention to you instead of all these other ones.
And maybe now, my eagle-eyed reader, you’re starting to notice how this seemingly rambling discourse on books may be relevant to your love life. Because when you’re a guy approaching a woman (or the other way around, but let’s stick to guys for now), you can either be the book reviewer or the autograph-seeker.
You can be the one asking, “Would you like to go out with me? Would you like to kiss me? Would you like to go to bed with me?” You’re basically asking her to autograph your book. You don’t bring a lot to the table except for a little starry-eyed admiration (aka ass-kissing). And if she complies, she’s basically doing you a favor.
On the other hand, you could be the one who brings a lot of value and not a lot of time. You know a ton of people in town. You’re a great cook, an expert masseur, and pretty darn good in the sack. You’ve got two high-level networking events per night, you’re going on a fun trip Saturday and Sunday, you’ve got a meeting with a “friend” on Friday night, and you’re taking off for Europe for the whole month of June.
There are a couple of hours free on Sunday after 4pm, however. And who are you again? And remind me why these precious hours of repose should be shared with you?
Mind you, you’re not being a dick about it. It’s just the reality of your life. You’re a busy guy. You have options. In fact, more options are popping up all the time. Something has to be really interesting to jump the queue and get priority in your life.
Now I’m here to tell you that you don’t actually need to be a book reviewer to act like one. It’s a stance, and the price of adopting a stance – being the pursuer vs the pursued, the courter vs the courted, the seller vs the buyer – is exactly zero. And yet, the additional power you get by adopting the right stance is huge.
In The Tao of Dating for Men, I call this the picky buyer stance.
This is called setting the frame. If you set the frame right, you win, even when you lose. And if you set the frame wrong, you lose, even if you win.
This is game theory, pure and simple. Let me explain: if you are a busy guy with a lot going on, and she can’t show up at 4pm Sunday for whatever reason, that means she’s not a good fit for you. You have just stopped wasting time and energy on this one, and you win.
On the other hand, if you somehow supplicate your way into her pants, or get on your knee and she says “I do”, then you may think you’ve gotten the girl, but she owns your ass. You lose.
So is there any reason why you would go back to being the supplicant, the seller, the autograph-seeker? I really can’t think of any. I want to see you happy and powerful, and begging doesn’t strike me as the way to do it.
But I want you to take this beyond just a mere stance and to really BE that powerful guy. Get your career in order so you’re doing something that gives your life meaning – and a decent income, too. Become a social hub, like I describe in The Tao of Social Networking (free bonus that comes with the Tao of Dating for Men). Acquire skills that translate directly into her neurons bathing in a jacuzzi of ecstatic neurotransmitters. I mention the holy trinity of cooking, massage and sexual know-how, and there’s no reason you can’t be expert-level in those three with 6 months of solid training.
I want it to be not just a stance but the truth of your life that you’re a productive, busy, sought-after kind of guy, because that is its own reward beyond any validation a woman can give you. Don’t just fake it — make it.
I’ve been on both sides of the buyer/seller divide myself, which is why this point bears repetition and emphasis. Society is structured to make men believe they should pursue women. What I’m here to tell you is that your time is too precious for that, especially if you’re a kind, intelligent, hard-working, successful guy who’s got a lot going for you.
Instead, go forth and be the book reviewer. Even if this requires putting in some elbow grease up front to create value, it’s a lifetime investment that pays off in the long run. It’s also a much more dignified stance than being a mere autograph-chaser. Hey, you’re a busy guy. Life’s too short to be spending it with anyone but quality people.
Go get ’em
Dr Ali B
PS: I’ll be in NYC for Book Expo America/BlogWorld June 1-7, so if you’re going to be at the conference or otherwise in town, drop me a line so we can connect.
As someone who has learned this the hard way and has been both the autograph seeker and the book reviewer, I can’t stress enough how on point this post is. Brilliantly done.
The exact same thing goes for women, too. It’s all about energy, really. I also have the vague sense that guys like to go out with gals who have a full, fun life — lots going on — they want to be part of it, too.
If I am dating someone who lives out of town, he might ask (vaguely) what I am up to when he is not around. I generally say, “I sit by the phone and wait for you to call me…” And then try to say it with a straight face. Always gets a laugh/smile from the guy.