"I'd heard other New York publishers were trying to sign T.D. Jakes, so I flew down to Texas to meet him," he said. "When I saw him preach, I knew he was the one."
Anything but mystified by all of this, Jakes can dissect his success.
"I bring a fresh perspective to women's problems," he said. "Women have women friends to talk to, they go to women's seminars, read women's books. But their problems are with men. I tell them what men are all about.
"We men treat you women like you treat yourself. The way you present yourself teaches us what standard of life you want to live. As for women, I tell them as a man that there is no Mr. Right. The ideal man does not exist. It's not Mr. Right, it's Mr. All Right you want. Eventually, you've just got to make a decision to love somebody."
He calls himself a coach for the brokenhearted--and not all his trainees are women.
"There are as many abused men as women," he said. Tens of thousands of them, he said, attend his weekend conventions aimed to set men free from past troubles. "It's not the gender I'm sensitive to, it's the pain," he said. "Men are hurting; that's why we hurt women. We might feel like crying, but we bury it. It comes out in all kinds of illicit behavior. Men have PMS. It stands for power, money and sex. That's our way of letting loose the volcano inside."
Jakes speaks for both sides and, remarkably, they both trust him.
"Men and women come hear me speak because I tell them what to do about their pain," he said. "If I am counseling a couple, most of what I do is translate what they're saying to each other. Women are raised in a house without a man and they go looking for male affirmation. They get married and find out they really don't understand men. That's where I come in.
"The greatest gift you can give to a person is a resolution, so they can move on. Getting over the past has nothing to do with the person who hurt you way back when coming back to ask forgiveness. I try to help people take the past in hand and say, 'It's over, I'm moving on.' "
At Eso Won, most of the 200 or so fans who waited in line to meet Jakes already owned a collection of his books and tapes. A network of buying and lending ran through the crowd like a sturdy thread joining mothers, daughters, husbands, wives, grandmothers and grandchildren.
Among the few men at the store was Edward Jordan, 33, who first saw Jakes on television at his mother's house.
"He speaks to issues that are key to African Americans," Jordan said. "Don't wallow in victimhood and the things that happened in the past."
Paulette Anthony, 50, passes her books along to her grandsons and her videos to a drug rehabilitation center. Last year she took 10 women from the center to hear Jakes speak in Pasadena.
Deirdre Clark, 31, and her mother, Evelyn Holliman, both tune in to Jakes. "The issues T.D. Jakes deals with--rape, battered women and how to find healing--make him different," Clark said. "He has answers a lot of people don't get in church."