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?

Adventures in Marketing: Week 68

Gave a “Cheesesteak” to my optometrist, who usually knocks the cover price off the price of an exam. (Then she displays the books by her patients on shelves in her waiting room.) Gave another to a fellow at the health club (Overbrook High School ’63). (I expected him to say, “Where can I buy one?” when I described it. When he didn’t, I figured, What the hell?) Sold a “Schiz” to a commix-world fellow, who’d been cleaning out his house and gave me some stuff ranging from the arcane to the valuable. (I wanted to give him my book, but he’d been involved with publishing himself and insisted on paying.) And I gave a “Pirates & the Mouse” to the woman who’d helped get my books displayed in in Logos Books (1575 York Ave, for those in the area.)

She reports that Logos has sold two “Cheesesteak”s, (She has also suggested I show my appreciation for the display by waiving my share of the proceeds. I declined this suggestion.)

I just finished…

…Jeffrey Toobin’s “The Run of his Life: The People vs. O.J. Simpson.” I like Toobin’s writing in “The New Yorker” and commentary on CNN, and I wanted something clear and direct and easy to read. I had followed the case at the time and I had seen both of the recent TV series, so I didn’t learn much, if anything, that was new. (SPOILER ALERT: O.J. did it.) The most interesting part to me was Toobin’s dissection of the attorneys, prosecution and defense. He is unsparingly critical of their personalities, ethics, and, even, court room performance. (Of the principals, only Barry Schenck comes through looking good.) I had grown up thinking I wanting to be a criminal defense attorney. (I even had a six-month run at it before getting canned.) I guess I had about a dozen jury trials, civil and criminal, and, boy, was that not for me. I still have tremendous respect for lawyers who do that, but this book sure reinforced the beauty of me getting off that track.

Approaching Wilson

My latest piece is up at

It begins:

“Belgian Lace From Hell,” the third and final volume of Patrick Rosenkranz’s “The Mythology of S. Clay Wilson,” has landed.
Rosenkranz is our leading historian of underground comics. His “Pirates in the Heartland”(Fantagraphics. 2014), took Wilson from his birth in 1941, through his ground-breaking, taboo-shattering work in the glory years of the UG. His second, “Devils and Angels,” (2015) carried the narrative from 1977 into 1989. Now “Lace” brings readers to Wilson’s diminished present, in which a traumatic brain injury has left the once charismatic, Hell-rattling artist unable to care for himself.
The book is generous in its display of Wilson’s art. It is rich with quotes from past interviews of Wilson, who was among the most engaging interviewees known to man. It is replete with anecdotes from his friends, fellow cartoonists, and women that capture his color and complexity, his genius and his impossibilities. It features a tender, brilliant, heart-breaking introduction from his wife, the unsinkable Lorraine Chamberlain, and extracts from a journal (or diary) she kept that honestly, bravely, painfully details the quality of their post-injury life. “Lace” is, at once, rewarding, both in the comic and the tragic sense.
And it left me often feeling like a crabby shit.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 67

Sold one “Schiz.”

The buyer, a fellow in his 30s, originally from Milan, now living and working for an unidentified corporation here, is an aspiring thriller writer. Likes Grisham, Lee Childs, reads how-to-books, attend conferences on the topic. After he had moved on, another regular, who writes in the café, offered to bail me out of these conversations. “Oh no,” I said. “I enjoy them. It’s part of the process.”

In other news…

1.) “The Schiz” has moved measurably closer to in-store availability. My warehouse vision (me) has readied several cartons for shipment to the distributor. Following the “This End Up” arrows and applying the mailing labels was easy. Now that I have developed my taping skills, things should move quickly along.

2.) Milo and I have been kicking around the title for my new collection of commix-related pieces. “Messiahs, Misanthropes, Litigants & the Loss: Tales of Creativity and Conflict” has nosed ahead of “Darf Mein Gehr in Kolledj” (“For this I went to College”). We are shooting for self-publishing next spring. The distributor is already on board.

3.) Sent off the second of two pieces I’d promised That clears my desk of works-in-progress, and I’ve returned to my VISTA year. I’ve tried this as fiction, non-, and a hybrid. It’s the 50th anniversary, so it seems like time. I’m thinking e-book, but I’m open to suggestions.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 66

Sold one “Outlaws, Rebels…”

The buyer was in New Zealand. I was so excited at breaking into an entirely new continent, I overlooked that I was spending $8.13 more in postage than he spent at Pay Pal. More successes like that and I may be pan-handling on Telegraph Avenue.

In other news, Adele and I have completed affixing new price stickers to 600 copies of “The Schiz” and await cartons and address labels to ship them to the distributor’s warehouse. Milo has prepared an enthusiastic-to-the-point-of-giggle-inducement press release to accompany each of the review copies with which he will be flooding the media. And he has hooked up this very web site (from which, by the way, all my books can be ordered) so that it can receive and send e-mails like I have an actual operation running.

Is that cool, or what?