Cindy Cashman is one of those people who makes you ask yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Cindy is the author (if you can call it that) of a book called “Everything Men Know About Women.”
It’s nothing but blank pages.
The 25th anniversary edition of the book (CindyCashman.com) just came out, and it’s much like the first edition. Both books are the same: just pages with no words. Cindy says the new edition has more blank pages. So nothing much has changed in 25 years regarding men’s fathoming of the female psyche.
To say the book has done well is to say Everest is a mountain. Cindy says women have bought the pants off the thing. In fact, so many women have bought her book that it has made her a millionaire. “From ’88 to ’91 or ’92, I sold 1.3 million copies out of my garage,” she said.
The cover says “Dr. Alan Francis” wrote the book, “in consultation with Cindy Cashman.” Dr. Alan Francis doesn’t exist. Either way, Cindy has since sold the rights to the book to Andrews McMeel Publishing in Kansas City, Mo.
Cindy, who lives in a beautiful house overlooking Lake Travis out in Lakeway with her husband, Mitch Walling, a retired airline pilot, looks at her book as more than a joke.
“I think what the book does is it’s an inspiration, because if she can do it, I can do it,” said Cindy, who does public speaking on marketing.
When Cindy told me she couldn’t read above a third-grade level when she was 21, I thought she was kidding. Nope. She was a star gymnast and diver in high school up in Blaine, Minn., so the teachers kept passing her anyway, she said.
“Not only that, they gave me B’s,” she said. By the way, Cindy, 54, can still walk on her hands and once did just that for “60 Minutes” reporter Morley Safer at a speakers’ convention 1999 in San Antonio.
Oh, almost forgot. Cindy wanted to get married in space. She and Mitch were planning to ride with a space tourism company in Oklahoma for $250,000 a person, but the deal fell through. I don’t think I’d go to space from Oklahoma — although the view would be improved.
Cindy’s financial success began out in Southern California in the late ’80s. She was selling real estate but not nearly enough of it. She was broke.
“I really hated real estate. So I was looking for a way out of real estate. I said‚ ‘I’m going to sell a blank book,’ and everybody said I was crazy, including my mother. She said, ‘Why can’t you just get a regular job like a normal person? You’re going to quit real estate and sell what?’ ”
Turns out Mom was wrong. “My favorite part is I went from being called crazy to brilliant,” Cindy said. “What I did was I asked myself, ‘Who’s my market?’ And the answer was women. And the next question was, ‘Where do they go?’ ”
So instead of hitting the bookstores and competing with thousands of titles, Cindy sold her book to women’s clothing stores. Instead of pushing the book as a book, she marketed it as a gift item for $4.99, like a greeting card. “I went from being broke to making a whole lot of money, about $20,000 in debt to making a million dollars in just a little over three years,” she said.
Almost everybody got the blank page joke, except the buyer for the Post Exchange stores at Camp Pendleton, a U.S. Marine base in California. He told Cindy there was about a 1 percent chance they’d take the book. “I showed him the book, and he looked at it, and he opened it up, and he said, ‘I don’t get it,’ ” Cindy recalled. “And it’s the first time anyone had said, ‘I don’t get it.’ ”
When Cindy returned to see the buyer, the story had changed. “He said, ‘I can’t believe it; I showed it to my boss, and she’s buying it for our PXs.’ ” The key word here, of course, is “she.”
So if you have a nutty scheme in mind, like a blank book called, say, “Rick Perry’s Favorite Sonnets” or “Larry the Cable Guy’s Top Tofu Recipes,” Cindy says go for it. “Look at how many ideas out there that have done really well, like the pet rock. I mean, how silly was that idea?” she said.