Adventures in Marketing: Week 77

No sales.
But encounters with the public continue.
1.) “Bob!” excitedly exclaims my former accountant. But our reunion ends with her “Maybe some other time” and me wondering how many thousands of dollars I had paid her without one workable off-shore tax shelter resulting.
2.) S, a graduate student in polymer chemistry (“Metal organic framework,” he explained, as if that would help) wanted to know if my books were Kindle-ready (“Nope.”) and asked for my card.
3.) I, a young fellow in a grey crewneck sweater, asked, “Can I take a look?”
“Be my guest. You a writer?”
“No. But I like to read.”
He picks up “Cheesesteak.” It turns out that, when he was at Syracuse, he would visit his brother at Penn and they would eat them. I did not suggest he chop mine up, dice some onion, and toss it on the griddle.
4.) And finally A, a woman with wild, mid-back length, white hair, sits across from me, slides over a “Schiz” and leafs through it while enjoying her pastry and coffee.
“You think I’m a fucking library?” I do not say.
It turns out she worked for Richard North Patterson. We discuss the literary matters and the business thereof. “It looks like something I’ve never seen before,” she says as she puts my book down.
I take that as a compliment.
[Bob’s books are available from this very web site.]

Adventures in Marketing: Week 76

Sold four “Cheesesteak”s.
[NOTE: Only about a dozen remain. While a second printing is imminent, if you want Mint Condition, semi-priceless, signed first edition… ACT NOW.]
They went to the formerly-of-Overbrook-Park, now Sacramento-residing civil rights attorney (See: “Adventure of a couple weeks ago), who intends them as gifts for family members, and represents my largest bulk-sale since I was happened upon by that bi-polar woman who was having a manic episode. (See: “Adventure” of a couple weeks before that.)
In other news…

“You’re (Name of Noted Berkeley Author)?” I inquired of the fellow on the adjoining health club treadmill.
“I am,” he said.
“I’m Bob Levin,” I said. He registered the anticipated not-a-farthing’s-glimmer-of-recognition-or-interest, but I was sporting my “Poets & Writers” t-shirt, so… “Do you do book blurbs?”
“I don’t. I used to, but I got so many requests, I didn’t have time to read the books.”
“Ahh. Understood.”
The vigor of my workout failed equally to raise any curiosity about me or my work. Neither did the man-of-the-people quality I demonstrated in my banter within his earshot with the Laotian locker room attendant.
Not to mention my adroitly locking myself out of my locker requiring assistance from the same Laotian.

I just read…

…Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” (second time), the novel (as you well know) upon which “Blade Runner” was based, a film which (faithful FB readers will know) I only recently saw. The Comments that followed were the reason for my re-reading.

It seems the movie’s entire visual tone, the darkness, the teeming streets, the multitude of Asians, was Ridley Scott’s. (Kudus to him there.) His other major contribution was to strip away the contents to, basically, Hunt and Slaughter. He eliminated (or drastically reduced) the nuclear holocaust backstory, Deckard’s wife Iran, the characters Rench and Garland (and the cool potential parallel universe story), the entire deal with animals (super-cool), the sex with Rachel (and the kinkiness thereof), kipple (also cool), Hannibal Sloat, Buster Friendly, and Mercerism which, I would bet, Dick would have considered the central part of the whole shebang (even if I would have needed one of the smarter kids in the class to explain it to me.)

He also curiously changed some names. J.R. Isidore became J.F. Sebastian (oh yeah, the toys were new) and Rosen Industries and Rachel Rosen became Tyrell Industries and Rachel Tyrell. Wazzup with that? Too Jewish?

Adventures in Marketing: Week 75 (The Peacock’s Feathers)

Gave away one “Cheesesteak.”
“Are you Bob Levin?”
The young woman had black hair, wore black, was attractive and almond complected. Indian? I though. But her accent was not that and she pronounced my name with a familiarity that exceeded the degree of its likely recognition in Delhi or Bombay.
This familiarity, it turned out, was because my surname was hers – and her accent was French, in fact Parisian. She was part of a 14-person troupe performing a play by Camus at Zellerbach this weekend as part of a cross-country tour.
We discussed pronunciations. (There are no LE-vins in France, I learned, just LEV-ins.)
She learned I had been to France (“Once. Before you were born) and I that she had been to the states (“Once. With my parents.”) The troupe had visited Sausalito and San Francisco, at whose homelessness and drugs she shook her head and touched her heart. (“We have drugs, but mostly the a-sheesh, not…”) Their next stop was Telegraph Avenue, for which I did not offer much hope. (“Good used book store,” I said.) At this point the Rwandan panhandler who made my cafes part of his morning rounds arrived. When I introduced them, they conversed in French. (“Un bon American,” he called me. “A good American,” she translated, though my three years with Madam Malecot could have handled that.)
“You know Camus?” she asked me.
“Of course.”
“‘La Pestilance?”’
“‘The Plague?’ Yes.”
“You should come to our show.”
“Can you get us in for free?”
She had not expected that question. “I’ll try.”
So I gave her my book for the promise.
Isn’t that what this writing thing is all about?

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.