Adventures in Marketing: Week 74 (Bob Goes Electric)

Adventures in Marketing: Week 74 (Bob Goes Electric)
I usually view my requests for royalty statements as exercises in enforced humility. But this year my former publisher said I would find it surprising.
The first surprise was that I was due more money than I had been due for many years combined. More surprising was that nearly all of this money was due to e-book sales, since no one had ever discussed with me – or informed me about – the electrifying of my books. Most surprising was that nearly all of this “nearly all” was earned by a book to which all rights, such as electrification, had reverted to me. (That seemed one of those amusing foibles with which my publisher had entertained me during the course of our relationship and was quickly resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.)
Including you, the reading public. So immediately (Or soon thereafter. This hasn’t been clarified) e-books of my complete Cartoonists-and-the-Law trilogy will be found (Most likely at Amazon and maybe other places. This hasn’t be clarified either): “The Pirates and the Mouse: Disney’s War Against the Counterculture” (Copyright); “Outlaws, Rebels, Freethinkers, Pirates & Pornographers,” erroneously published, due to one of those foibles I mentioned, as “Outlaws, Rebels, Freethinkers & Pirates,” (Free Speech); and “Most Outrageous: The Trials and Trespasses of Dwaine Tinsley and Chester the Molester” (Criminal Practice and Procedure).
Stock up, gang.
Or plug in.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 73 (b)

Sold one “Cheesesteak.” It was a reward for behaving well.
Grandparents had selected the café table beside mine to park two noisy grandchildren. I did not cast one annoyed glance. I did not huffily move. I barely thought, Can’t you stifle those brats? As they left, the grandfather said, “Are you the author?”
He turned out to be from Overbrook Park, a couple years younger than me, a lawyer now in Sacramento. “My ideal reader,” I told him. He e-mailed two days later he’d been enthralled by our points of connection and was eager to discuss/develop them.

I had another “Are you Bob?” too. (See: “Adventures” #72.)
It came from Tamara, maybe 30, floral print dress, brown hair pinned with a barrette. This time I was seated outside the café and she was headed in. She was a poet, she said, thinking of self-publishing too. “When do you write?” she asked. “Does anything disturb you?” (I had been a lawyer for 40 years. I’d had two heart attacks. That, I thought, was disturbing.) “$10,” I said, pointing. “$15.” “I’ll think about it,” she said.

Edward followed. Black, three-days white stubble, thick glasses, Second Life zipper jacket. Thinking of becoming a poet, he said. Studying how-to books about the process. “Read poems,” I said. “Write them. Read and write. Read and write.”
A car interrupted my instruction. “Was that my wife?” he said.
“Don’t let her get away,” I said.
“Is that a poem?”
“You never know.”

Andrew, 55, tained sweat shirt, shorts, low cut sneakers, came next. His face had the flush or sun and wind and alcohol. He wanted to know if I’d heard Tom Petty had died.
“Cardiac arrest,” I said. “66.”
This news had shaken Andrew, whom, I might add, I had never seen before. He had, he told me, read the story in the “Chronicle” three times. He had seen Petty perform at the Greek Theater three weeks before, which made, it seemed, the news difficult to absorb.
I said something about “any day” and “you never know.”
Andrew drew a lesson about not waiting. That if there was something you were thinking of doing, you should do it.
I had no argument there.
He talked about Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel and some more about Tom Petty. He asked if I knew The Traveling Wilburys.
“Hey,” I said, “I’m a huge Bob Dylan fan.” I turned around the baseball cap I had been wearing back to front, so he could read the name on it.
“When I was going to UCLA,” he said, “living up on Mullohand, I was hitching to class, and this red El Dorado pulled up, and Bob Dylan was driving. He gave me a ride.”
“Wow!” I said.
“People don’t believe me. But why should I lie?”
“I believe you.”
“He was playing Bob Dylan on his tape deck.”
A half-hour later, I saw him standing at the other end of the Safeway parking lot, unmoving, staring west., thinking, I supposed, what he wanted. Two day later, I saw him on the same corner.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 73 (a)

My distributer asked for “comparatives.” That is, books written in the last three years similar to mine, which had been published by small independent presses, like mine.

“This is bullshit!” I patiently explained. “”Basically I don’t read books written in the last three years, and I don’t know any like mine, and if I did, I probably wouldn’t’ve written them.”

Milo explained that the distributor wanted its sales reps to be able to walk into a book store and say “The Schiz” and “Cheesesteak” were just like such-and-such so the store would know how many to order. And all the books he and I were comparing mine to had been written before the clerks and sales reps had been born. I said, “Okay.”

I looked on-line. I found nothing. I went to a downtown bookstore. The clerk was thirtyish, casually dressed, an untrimmed beard. I explained what I wanted.

He thought black comedies were “plays,” like, I guess, “The Jeffersons.”

“Day of the Locust,” I said.

He thought that was a satire. “What about Terry Southern,” he said after some reflection.

“Good enough,” I said. “But not the last three years.”

He looked on his computer. “It says Salmon Rushdie’s new book is a satire.”

“But hardly a small, independent publisher,” I suggested. “Let’s try something easier. What about a memoir. Preferable episodic. And…” I narrowed the window. “…by a white male, heterosexual, with no criminal past or substance abuse problems.”

He made a bee-line for the New Arrivals shelf and pulled out something by Mindy Kaling.

I told Milo I hoped the distributor would be happy to know my books have their markets to themselves.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 72

A Brief Encounter

“Are you ‘Bob’?”
The sign on the café table says “Buy Bob’s Books” and the books beside it are by “Bob” and I am the only person seated, yet I am asked this question more than you might think. Each time, since it offers more than silence, I perk up.
“And you are…?”
“X,” she says (Not really).
“Wanna buy a book?” I say.
“Can I look at one?”
“You can look at both.”
She is young, cute. I am far from cute – perhaps “interesting” – at least, from available evidence, “non-threatening” – and, outside observers might think, her grandfather. I decide, playing my next question, to err on the side of complimentary. “Do you go to UC?” I ask, rather than “…Berkeley High?”
She is in graduate school. In engineering.
That is the first surprise.
The second is that it is the back cover blurb from R. Crumb that leads her to buy “The Schiz.”
When she notes that his treatment of women makes appreciation of his artistry and importance difficult, I issue a warning about Chapter 1 – and expose Shary Flenniken’s illustration. “A woman,” I point out in my defense. We agree “My Favorite Thing is Monsters,” which I have just begun, is wonderful.
Between vestigial reflective flirtation, minimalistic enlightenment, urbane cafe banter, and humoring the old codger, humanity has shown how well it can behave.
And I made $15.
A Briefer Encounter
The high-powered, how-to-publish consultant to which “Heart” had been recommended (See “Adventures” Week 71) set a date and time to speak on the phone or meet at her office.
We said we preferred to speak in person and requested her address.
That was that.
Of course we followed up.
No e-mail, no phone in return.
“Maybe she sent a text,” Adele said the morning after the date and time had passed.
No text.
“Maybe she has been kidnapped and is being held hostage,” I said.
“I hope it is by someone who will publish ‘Heart,’” Adele said.

I just read…

…David Grossman’s Booker Prize winning “A Horse Walks Into a Bar.” I had read a previous highly acclaimed novel of Grossman’s, which had made so little impression on me that I almost bought and read it a second time when it was re-acclaimed several years later. (I still can’ recall its title, so I may yet do that.) Anyway, I was reluctant to read this one, even though Adele (and Marilyn) (and Marilyn’s discerning Book Club) endorsed it. I began and put it down a couple times before seeing it through. The first half (or two-thirds) did nothing for me. (The novel is structured as a single evening’s performance by an Israeli nightclub comic and I found his voice annoying and the narrowness of the setting oppressive.) But as the central character descended further and further into memory and madness and self-exploration (about the time he recounts his trip home from summer camp), his grip upon me tightened and terrified.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 71

Sold a “Cheesesteak” to the same employee at Logos Books who bought a “Schiz.” Order for two “Cheesesteak”s from friends who want them as gifts, one for a Philadelphian, one for a couple here. (For those of you not hip to this, Bob’s books — available at this very web site — make ideal gifts, suitable for all — or no — special occasions.)

In other “Cheesesteak” related news, Ingram has requested additional information about it in order to boost it at a sales meeting; and I have exceeded my previous promotional budget by springing for a $50 ad in the tribute booklet for Philly’s annual Bennie Briscoe Awards dinner, emphasizing the cameo appearances in the text of Bad Bennie, Blinky Palermo, and Charley Scott.

In non-“Cheesesteak” news, Adele and I have set up a meet with a publishing world consultant to see what she can do for “Heart,” what this will cost us, and how many copies we will have to sell to pay for this help.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 70

Order from the Brandx alum to whom I gave a copy last week. (Power of Good Will.) One is for a guy from Philly; one (I assume) for a lover of fine literature. Sent a copy to the widow of a minister I’d met while VISTA-ing in Chicago and with whom I’d kept contact after we both left.

In other news…

Adele and I were offered an introduction to a publisher who might be interested in “Heart,” with the caveat it only published books by women. “Adele’s a woman,” I said. “We can put her name first.” “And tweak the story line,” Adele said, “so it’s more ‘How I Gave up my Life for This Man and He Went and Got Sick on Me.” I also pitched my VISTA book to an editor who said, “It sounds like a memoir, and we only do memoirs by famous singers or convicted criminals or their lovers.” (I thought that was cute.)

Finally, I said to Robert, “My life has pretty much become my publishing empire, my health, and watching TV with Adele.”

“I’m not sure ’empire’ is the proper term,” he said.

“I’m pretty sure,” I said, “it’s not ‘cartel.'”

Quite the Kidder

My latest piece is up at

It begins

The addressees (neatly hand-printed) in the center of the tiny envelope were Adele and I at our home in Berkeley. The addressor (also neatly hand-printed but tinier) was the cartoonist Chester Brown from his apartment in Toronto.
Inside was a black-and-white comic, 37-pages, four-by-five-inches.
The title was THE THIRD REMEDY.
In a box centered on the back cover it said “This story was originally published in 1949 in WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES Number 101 (Volume 9, Number 5) February.” On the title page, in a larger box, it said, “Story written by Carl Barks. Artwork drawn by Bob Kane.”
There was no price, no copyright notice, no identification of or information about the publisher.
The principal characters were Batman and Robin.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 69

Sold two “Schiz.” One went to an octogenarian, indiosyncratic (to say the least) writer/friend at the health club. (“Feels good,” she said. “Opens good. Nice paper. Nice ink. Nice margins. Looks like a pleasure to read.”) The other went, with an employee’s discount, to a staff member at Logos Books, my NYC outlet. (Logos, it turns out, identifies itself as a Christian bookstore. This was of more than incidental interest to me.) I gave a “Cheesesteak” to a fellow a year behind me at Brandx, with whom I’d re-established contact after I’d heard he’d broken my Pac-12 record for most cardio-vascular stents. And one morning, when it was hot inside the café, I moved with my wares to an outdoor table. This led in passer-by in a floppy hat and sun glasses to recall the Berber who had sold his book outside Peet’s several years ago. My remarking that I’d bought his book did not lead her to buy mine, but she did recount for me all the other Berbers she had met in Berkeley, of which there were a surprising number.

In other news, a major agent turned down “Heart” because, while well-written and moving, publishers only wanted memoirs by celebrities or people with a national platform.

I suppose I am building mine, one reader at a time.

I just finished…

“The North Water” by Ian McGuire. It was one of the novels (faithful readers will recall) I picked up and dropped while I waited for “Life and Fate” to clear.

It’s about a 19th century whaling expedition, to which Adele said when I told her, “Boy, is that setting the bar high.”

I can’t say McGuire cleared it.

He did a lot of research. He tells, with convincing authority, you how things looked and sounded and smelled. (He probably unloaded more smells in four pages than Grossman in 850.)He was excellent (I guess) at describing what it would be like to starve/freeze to death in the Arctic, which is fine, if that knowledge seems of interest. (One character pulls off a survival trick he may have learned from Leonardo DiCaprio. Boy, McGuire, whom I’m betting wrote it first, must have been pissed when that movie came out.)

Basically, “Water” is plot driven. Oh, it has the obligatory remarks about evil and God, with not one, but two, religious spokespeople (a priest and a Swedenborgian)but characters (to me) seem to act to often out of story considerations rather than reasonable human motivation. The plot is compelling. I sure wanted to find out who was going to kill who at the end, though, personally, I found the resolution fine on one level, lacking on another.

Basically, I thought, if you are looking for psychotic killers and riffs on unseemly human behavior, “The Schiz,” available from this very web site, is superior. Admittedly though, according to “Water”‘s cover, Martin Amis, Hilary Mantel, Michiko Kakutani, Colm Toibin, and the Booker Prize Committee disagree with me.

But who you gonna trust?