Adventures in Marketing: Week 29

Sold two copies of “The Schiz,” one to a friend who’d missed the launch party and one to an attorney from my law practice past who lives down the peninsula. Sold a “Cheesesteak” to a fellow who sought my counsel on his nanny’s brother’s workers’ comp case.

The (presumably) mass e-mailing from my on-line publicist to reviewers hither and yon has resulted in a single request for “Cheesesteak.” (Actually a request for TWO copies.) This is not encouraging. On the other hand, it means I will be giving away fewer freebies. Is this it? I asked the publicist. Or should I expect more requests to trickle in? This question has not been answered.

However, my publicist has also recommended I give 10 copies away at Goodreads in a “lottery.” This, she says, will draw attention to my work and increase my name recognition. I was willing, but it required several tips from her before I could convince Goodreads “Cheesesteak” even existed.

In semi-related news, I have submitted my Introduction (or Afterword) to “Cumming,” Aaron Lange’s forthcoming collection of scurrilous anti-Trump illustrations. They are a hoot and getting my own rocks off was such a blast that I look forward to displaying the comic besides my own books in the café.

I have even offered to take on local distribution, as a sideline to my publishing empire. I mean if this won’t sell in Berkeley…


When the light is right, sitting in a Berkeley café, I can feel like a mini-Rick with many mini-llsas arriving.

Like yesterday, I was on-line ordering a just-discounted book by L, whom I had met in that very café, when in walked my recently retired lawyer-friend M. He bought a “Schiz” and while we were catching up — books, movies, gyms — since our last lunch, N, who had worked with M but had not seen him in 30 years, recognized his voice.

N had recently sold his law practice in Stockton and was traveling around the world with O, a Danish woman, while trying to decide where to live. They were in town for a three week at the Nyingma Institute to be followed by two weeks at Spirit Rock. I did not press my books on them since they seemed to be traveling light. (On the other hand, if all you have on the agenda is silence…)

While M, N and O were discussing the infelicities imposed by the homeless in Berkeley and immigrants in Copenhagen and I was completing my purchase of L’s book, P, a writer/illustrator of children’s book, offered me a Jodi Picault novel she had come across while cleaning out her shelves. I don’t read Jodi Picault myself, but I thought — correctly — Adele would like it. As I pocketed it, Q stepped away from the coffee bar. We had recently become acquainted when he’d bought a book and I’d learned he had given up architecture to independently study physics.

As it happened, at breakfast I had just read in the NYRB about “locality” and “spooky action” and if (and How) everything was connected and it had occurred to me, especially since recent events had turned me against politics, I might benefit from taking up physics myself, even though when I had tried to read “The Cosmic Code” — about the time M and N had last spoken — I had not gotten past The Heisenberg Principle.

Well, Adele said, when I recounted this story, you’re much smarter now.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 28

Sold three copies of “The Schiz” and one of “Cheesesteak.” The first went to two guys and a gal I knew at the French. The last went to someone I didn’t.

II.Tom?” she said.

She had me confused with an (even) more celebrated author who came there. He always wears a watch cap and I wore one that morning. She had wanted to compare knee replacements with him. (Hers had gone well; his hadn’t.) There, I couldn’t help her, but I could have done heart surgery.

Then she saw my cap said “West Philadelphia.” She had lived there in the ’60s, three blocks from my family, while her now ex- was in med school.

“Wanna buy a book?” I said.

The big opportunity I missed was the 50th anniversary party we attended. Philadelphians past and present were there, but I had left my “Buy Bob’s Books” and my wares at home.

I was proud of the discretion I had shown but…

I showed more initiative by placing both books in a store on consignment. One copy of each. 60/me;40/them split. They will display them 60 days and if any sell, take more.

So if you are in Pegasus on Solano Ave….

After much mulling I took the plunge on this outfit that promises to get your book reviewed. Think of us, they say, as your personal (cheap) publicist. They will pitch a personally-tailored-to-your-book promo to thousands.

I do not doubt they will find reviewers. One of these places even found me. (“Due to your interest in Cold War espionage…”) But do reviews by people you have never heard of sell books by authors you have never heard of?

I am not so sure.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 27

Sold two copies of “The Schiz.” One went to a woman in my high school class. One was to the woman at the health club whom it had reminded of Nathanel West. She intended it as a Christmas present for a nephew, whom she believed would like it.

“He’s a professor of philosophy…,” she explained.

Ah, I thought, always eager to gain insight into who might constitute my audience.

“…and he’s six-foot-six…,” she continued.

Hmmm, I thought.

“…and he collects typewriters.”

“Which book of mine did you want, exactly?” I said.


People have continued to express regrets about missing the launch party. One had his conversational French class. One had an HOA meeting. One arrived after everyone had left. Too late, Milo suggested my reply should be, “Sorry you couldn’t attend. But copies remain. How many would you like?”


Sometimes when I sit in the café with my “Buy Bob’s Books” sign beside my wares, I feel like a small shopkeeper looking hopefully out the door while potential customers walk by with no one stepping in.


A couple months ago, I joined Facebook to increase the market for my books. My “real” friends I already kept in touch with phone, email or letters. For FB “friends,” my tech guy, the invaluable Milo, provided a starter kit of dozens of his own, heavily weighted toward the cartoon world, where I already had a foothold, to which I added a few folks of my own.

I soon became fascinated by how FB suggested other “friends” for me. Other cartoonists poured in. I was quickly connected to people from my former workers’ compensation world. But otherwise FB worked in mysterious ways.

Through a cousin, it led me to a nephew but only weeks later, his father, my brother. While it knew all my schools and years of graduation, I have only found or been found by four members of my high school class (of 71) and no one from college (340) or law school (170)

Weirdly, out of a few thousand former clients, even before finding my brother, it offered me one who now lives in the Central Valley. Her face brought back to mind her injury and husband, whom I’d also represented. She was a nice woman and it was nice to see her, but I had not thought of her in decades and can think of nothing that connects me to her now.

The other day the first suggested “You May Also Know” was Jimmy, the disabled, homeless panhandler about whom, in 1998, I wrote “Fully Armed.” (Out of print but available from How did FB know about him? Has it been reading my book?

Adventures in Marketing: Week 26 (con.): Launch Party

The attendance Over/Under line was set at 60, and only 40 showed. (We had over half the cake left and over half the wine.)

People did not come because they forgot (she bought a copy later) or had a civic meeting (he bought one before) or a granddaughter’s birthday or were sick (two of these) or had a spouse in the hospital (another prior sale) or were going out of town (several people — and a couple sales) or had an Audubon meeting (“I like birds” — also a sale).

The goal was to sell 50 books at the party, and I sold 40.

But I had a great time. (My talk got many laughs; I did not read.)

I knew everyone there. Some I had not seen in a couple years. (I was reminded of a friend — he was there — who once said of one of the circles I draw from, “We only see each other now at Bob’s readings — or funerals.) My demographics skew highly elderly and white.

The analytics show my old basketball game and former law office and social circle well-represented. Café attendance was weak and the health club poorer than that. The two posters I put up and the mention of the party on Facebook and at The Comics Reporter drew no one.
(In fact, no one from the comic world came. Since this is where I am supposed to have “name recognition” and a “platform” and all those things marketing departments want, I suspect I may have cartons of books cluttering up the hall for quite a while.

Still, in the arts, I recognized, there are two axes. One is, Did I enjoy myself? The other is, How many copies did I sell? The trick is to embrace the first and ignore — or laugh at yourself when you don’t — the second.

In fact, that may apply to many areas of life.

Nice Story

Earlier I mentioned meeting an elderly woman who had known many Berkeley characters when she had lived here. One of those, whom I will call Jim Jeffreys, had owned a café I frequent as well as a noted Berkeley bar. I said I knew who Jim was. He used to be at the cafe most mornings, scowling at customers who dropped napkins on the floor, but that I had not seen him for some time. “If you do,” she said, “tell him ‘Oysters’ said hello.”

The next time I was at that café, I asked Rosario (not his real name either), the long time chief barista, if the owner still came in. “Jim Jefferys?” he said. “He died…” He counted. “Three years ago.”

“Oh.” I nodded. “Who owns the café now?”

“Jim had a partner,” Rosario said.

“The guy he used to play chess with?”

“Yes. And, Jim Johnson, before he died, he gave his part to me.”

“You’re the owner?” I said.

He shook his head.

“That’s why you’re here six, seven days a week.” I had seen Rosario clean the windows. I had seen him sweep the sidewalk. I shook his hand. “Congratulations.”

“I still don’t feel like owner,” Rosario said. “Most people, I don’t say I am owner.”

“That is so nice,” I said. “What I sweet thing.”

“Jim Jeffers tell me, before he die, ‘Rosario, now you don’t work so hard.’ But I have five children, two in college.” He smiled, maybe thinking into a future.

He returned to the espresso machine. Another latte. Another mocha. But I felt better about a number of things.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 26

I’ll get to the Launch Party tomorrow.

But first…

Leading into The Event, I’d already sold four “Schiz”‘s and three “Cheesesteak”s. One “Schiz” went to a writer-pal and one to a woman at the French who wanted it before the reading. One “Chees3esteak” went to a therapist-friend of Adele’s, who came upon my display at Berkeley Espresso, and one to a fellow in my locker room aisle with whom I frequently talk politics (we disagree) and the Warriors (we don’t) but who hadn’t known I wrote. (I can be a private fellow — as well as, it seems, an exhibitionist).

One “Schiz” went to a middle-aged fellow at the French, whom I’d seen frequently but with whom I’d never spoken. (I guess my presence wore him down or his curiosity got the better of him.) Anyway, he turned out to be an architect, who quit the business because he got tired dealing with the city in order to study and write e-books about physics. Both other books went to a woman about my age, who lives in the Gold Country but was in town, staying at the hotel of which the French is part. She had lived in Berkeley many years and had known many of its more colorful characters, including an alcoholic cartoonist I had only heard about. I’m hoping to hear from her again

The most rewarding part of this experience has been the people I’ve met, whom I otherwise wouldn’t have, as well as deepening relationships that I already had.

Buy Bob’s Books:

Silver Lining

Our friend M. e-mailed this morning that she had been so upset last night by the election that she read “The Schiz,” which raised her spirits.

Riased her spirits???

Now M. has a PhD in English and American Literature from a prestigious university, but “The Schiz” is a dark comedy, about lawyers, doctors, patients, and clients, which, for crying out loud, I have prided myself for years on my former agent’s having called it “repellant, depressing, morbid, and grim.”

Has it lost its edge?

On the other hand, in its Afterword, I do refer to the president-elect as “a walking cesspool,” so maybe I have at last connected with (half of) the nation’s psyche.

So perk yourself up. THE SCHIZ available from, Amazon, and (for $30) from Spruce Hill Press, POB 9492, Berkeley 94709


Sunday night Adele and I heard Joan Baez at the (nearly) sold-out Fox Theater, a restored to full ornateness movie “palace” in downtown Oakland, where she was appearing to benefit the Innocence Project.

Adele first heard Baez the spring of 1960 when, long-haired and barefoot, she had played for mid-double-digit dollars at Brandeis, and some jocks, who would have preferred Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts, threw beer cans at her. I first saw Baez in 1965 when she came to Philly with Bob Dylan, who was show-casing his not yet recorded “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Gates of Eden,” and “It’s All Right, Ma.” Adele does not remember who she was with, but I was with a law school classmate to whom I stopped speaking when, a few years later, he led the prosecution for possession with intent to sell of someone who was close to me.

Adele and I first saw Joan Baez together in 1968. We were leaving Coffee Cantata, a Union Street café so hip that Steve McQueen wooed Jacqueline Bisset there in “Bullitt,” when a woman with (apparently) newly shorn hair emerged from a nearby beauty salon to the accompaniment of an over-excited male cosmetologist exclaimed, “Yes! It really is Joan Baez.” We did not hear her sing live for another decade. It was at San Francisco’s cavernous Civic Auditoreum, on an occasion whose details neither of us recall.

Anyway, from the last row of the Fox’s mezzanine, Baez looked and sounded fine and seemed in good humor. She accompanied herself on guitar and, on most numbers, was backed by her son, an unobtrusive percussionist, and a fellow who skillfully played a variety of stringed instruments. On several numbers, a young woman — a belter — added a second voice and extra energy and, once, Baez’s daughter-in-law exuberantly danced.

Baez sang “Silver Dagger” and “Diamonds and Rust.” She sang four songs by Bob Dylan and one each by Woody Guthrie, Kris Kristofferson, Paul Simon, Richard Thompson, and Tom Waits and one she had learned from Pete Seeger. She sang against war and slavery and prisons and the exploitation of migrant workers. A couple times (to applause) she mocked Dylan and I thought, C’mon, Joan. It’s been 50 years.

To me, Baez is not a dynamic performer. Her actual singing does not move me nearly as much as her presence, her enduring moral consistency and courage, and the worthiness of the causes to which she has devoted her life and career. (Adele disagrees with me. She believes Baez’s voice “exquisite” and her singing “crystal clear, deeply felt in content and straightforward in delivery.” I suspect Adele is right.)

I wondered what Baez would say about the election but as of the middle of her second encore, when we left, if was nothing. She did wear a “Nasty Woman” t-shirt and her accompaniests wore those that said “Bad Hombres”; but maybe she was for Jill Stein or maybe she meant it when, midway through the show, she said, “No one should run for office who hasn’t spent at least two days in jail.”

She herself has spent over 30, but I am not so sure how well she would work with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.