Adventures in Marketing, Weeks 184, 185

I had once remarked to Richard, a wine merchant, that he was fortunate to have a ready-made niche audience about his books. “Not so ‘niche,’” he said. Each book sold in six figures. Now he stood beside my table adding that he had landed a column in a trade magazine which gave him more readers than that. He also worked in the marathon he’d run and property he was developing in Oakland before noticing my books and sign.
He said he’d like to read one but he already had so much on his plate.
I said I understood.
Oh well, he said, and handed me two fives.
The next day he e-mailed that his wife was half-way through and enjoying “Cheesesteak.”
One woman wore a navy blue hijab above a black aba. Her face was expressionless, her eyelids low. Maybe from sub-Sahara Africa, I thought. The other woman was Caucasian. Her hijab was red. They may have been classmates or members of the same community or sect, or the second woman may have been an attendant accompanying the first, and her red hijab may have been a hoodie.
This thought was suggested after the first woman picked up a “Cheesesteak,” thumbed through it, laughing loud enough to be heard through the café, and then picked up a “Schiz,” thumbed through it, and flung it down forcefully and angrily.
“Elizabeth,” the second woman said, “the man is trying to sell his books.”
Before they left, Elizabeth set her fortunately-empty coffee cup upside down on the table.
I had known two Leons and one Venezualan and a couple financial planners but never anyone who was all three until the plump fellow in the multi-colored, horizontally-striped wool sweater slumped like he had no spine into a chair at the next table. I’d seen him around since his silver hair and been glossy black. He began the conversation by asking if I had written my books. When I said I had, he said he had written one of poetry himself.
When he picked me up “Cheesesteak,” he told me about visiting his brother in Philly who’d lived there before moving to Florida. When he picked up “Most Outrageous,” he asked if he was supposed to know who Chester the Molester was. When he picked up “The Schiz,” he asked if “Pulp Fiction” was a black comedy too.
I tried to remember “Pulp Fiction.”
“Two guys shoot these people,” he said.
“I shoot some people,” I said. “So mayber.” Then I asked if he wanted to read his poetry at the café where I run a series.
“They’re in Spanish,” he said.
“Hmmm. Might work.”
“I read once San Francisco. It brought me girlfriends. You know, poetry, Spanish, romance.”
“Pablo Neruda,” I said.
“Neruda had girlfriends all over the world. I only need one or two.”
He told me read John Grisham and David Balducci but only remainders. “I am always one behind, but I always have a new one. And if they write 30 books, att $30 each, and I pay $5, think what I can do with the money I saved. That’s the financial planning speaking.”
I told him if he brought a copy of his poetry, I would trade him.
“Okay,” he said. “I’ve been coming here from time to time for 25 years, and this is the first time I’ve talked to anyone.”

In other news…
Since I was paid partly in copies for my contribution to “Comic Aht?” I display them on my table too. A repeat customer was the first to pick one up, so I gave it to her. I’m still awaiting a reaction.
My mini-essay “Why” was declared “charming” by a reader of “FOM.”
A psychologist/friend in San Francisco wrote of “I Will Keep You Alive,” “Glows and enlightens… shining with wit, intellect, love, and insigjt.”
He has recommended it to patients.

Why Not Johnny Craig?

My article about the artist-editor of EC Comics “Vault of Horror” kicks off “But Is It Comic Aht?” No.2, an anthology of comix, interviews and noodlings attracted like metal filings to a magnet around the belief of Austin English, its editor/publisher, that “comics we all love were made for no real reason, drawn with passion independent of financial or cultural demand.

English’s own writing unfailingly teaches me something. His comix fascinatingly seem to break down the barrier between traditional all-in-color-for-a-dime books and more customarily considered gallery-worth objects. I look forward to what he’s assembled here.

But I see no price or place-for-purchase listed. (Perhaps a nod to English’s no-financial-demand credo.) However, you might check his company’s web site: and see what you can learn.


I have a new mini-essay up at First of the Month:
The editor added the words within the parenthesis to its title. Probably he thought they provided ideological comfort. I don’t mind.

Here’s the portion he selected as the hook:
A few years ago, a Rolls showed up three blocks from our house. It was the only one I’d seen in Berkeley in 40-years. I kept hoping someone would fire bomb it. The fucker’s license plate was MYDOCRX.
I have no problem with that either.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 183

No sales.
I’d had high hopes for a “reunion” lunch at a deli with my former associate, our suitemate (now an ALJ), and the lawyer whose office had been next door. None, so far as I knew, had bought “I Will Keep You Alive,” so I’d stashed copies in my car trunk (four, in case someone wanted two.) Lunch was fun, lots of talk of children (theirs), other lawyers, judges, former clients, and, briefly, a digression into dementiua (parental). But a desire for Adele and my book was never expressed. (Nor was notice taken of my new cowboy boots, faux snakeskin jeans, or bling, all of which had accreted upon me since our last meeting.)
Our friend Marilyn has a term “boontz,” which covers a situation where one’s entirely self-inflated expectations have been punctured, though remaining unknown to anyone but the person affected. Anyone, I had been “boontzed,” probably in four-star fashion.
[I would add the next day I returned to the deli for take-out, and a bus boy said, “Cool bracelts, dude.” You just have to know your audience.]

In other news…
Word has reached us from Manhattan of the first Book Group to devote a meeting to IWKYA. The audience, all women, all Caucasian, all elderly, all of whom had experienced something analagous, was knocked out. They were taken by Adele and my love story, her ability to convey the intensity of her feelings with such clarity, my ability to convey my experience with such control and humor, and the symbiosis of our different voices working together.
Even if you don’t fit this demographic, the book is worth a look.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 182

“Which one’s free?”
John’d been around the café a decade. Hungarian. Tile Setter. Lived in a van, so he was entitled to his question.
“‘Best Ride’‘s $5. That’s almost free.”
I told him what it was about.
He picked up “The Schiz.” “And this one?”
“A black comedy about lawyers and doctors.”
“I like the cover.”
The Bode Broad.
“That’s nothing.” I showed him Shary Flenniken’s illo.
He gave me a twenty. I gave him change and threw in “Best Ride.”
I was leaving a message on David’s voice mail when Adele called, so I cut my message short to talk to her, and David called back. I finished talking to Adele and called David. I had begun talking to him when the fellow at the next table asked if I had written all these books. I told David I had a customer and would call him back, but by that time the fellow had taken a call from a cousin which went on for 15-minutes.
“What part of New York are you from?” he asked me.
“West Philadelphia,” I said.
“I was in Philly once,” he said.
“Me too,” I said. “For 25-years.
[No, I didn’t, but I’ve just seen “Chinatown” and wanted to give myself a good line.]
Russ was 72, white-haired, plump, patterned grey sweater, bag to catch his urine below. “That’s life,” he said about the bag. He said that too about his older brother dying at 57. He’d been in Berkeley, from Yonkers, since 1970. Real estate. If he hadn’t sold the houses he’d owned in San Francisco, he’d have a penthouse on Central park West. That was life again. We agreed we liked the café before the chandeliers and with the bare brick walls.
But he bought no books.
C’est la vie.

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 180, 181

Two swaps.
A “Cheesesteak” to a fellow in town from Modesto for a Zen book he co-edited on “loving the world as it is.” What better time for that?
And a “Schiz” to a 76-year-old retired in-house corporate writer for his first published book, a three-novella collection in development his entire adult life.

In other news…
The high was that Z (See earlier “Adventures”) finally gave me my book sale numbers.
The low was that Z gave me my book sale numbers.
The solace is that I had read that the averaged self-published book sells 250 copies and I’ve already beaten that, three-for-three.
And I’ve proved I haven’t sold out my artistic vision.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 179

Sold an “I Will Keep You Alive.” The buyer, a late 50-ish mathematician (I told you I was big with mathematicians), had bought a book from me months ago. “Cheesesteak,” I think.

In other news…
1.) Recent words-of-mouth include (a) “Fascinating. Brutal and painful but fascinating.” [Those, for IWKYA, from a fellow I’ve known on a first-name-but-nothing-more basis since the early ‘70s]; (b) “Literally, on every page there is something I identified with.” [These, for “Cheesesteak,” from a newly connected-to, 75-year-old author from Philadelphia, which is a nice reaction, but, really, if not from him, whom?]; and (c) “Perfect… a thrill.” [This, on “What About Johnny Craig?”, from the editor of “Comic Aht,” in which it will appear next month. Stay tuned.]
2.) After a couple decades hiatus, I’d decided to resume banging my head against the wall of short story submission. I’d hold out my best unpublished (and most rejected) story and Googled a list of where to send it. Two journals found it “not right” for them within two days of each other. Not an auspicious beginning.
3.) A 76-year-old who is having his first book, a short story collection (and who is also the utterer of the butter-him-up words of 1 (a) above) was referred to me by his publisher, another frequenter of the café, for tips about promotion (“Bob knows everything). Talk about blind-leading-blind. Dogs barking up wrong trees.”Nothing works,” is the message. “All effort is futile.” “Despair, despair, despair.” “Keep your day job.”
On the other hand, as my accountant said to me almost 50-years ago, when asked if I should be shopping for savings funds with higher interests rates, “If it’s fun.” Soon after that, he became a carpenter – then moved to L.A. to write sitcoms.

Last 10 Books Read (III.)

1. EriH. Lee. “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Yup, I’d never read it. It was on the Free Books shelf in the cafe and I figured it was time.
2. D. Winslow. “The Cartel.” The guy is no J. Ellroy but he keeps you turning pages.
3. S. Schiff. “Saint-Exupery.” Another freebie. A terrific bio writer. I may do more of her.
4. K. Atkinson. “Transcripts.” Entertaining but not up to her Jackson Brodies. (See below.)
5. B. Postema ed. “4 Panel.” Because my comic world buddy Eric Nebel is in it — but I would have to stretch my head to really get it.
6. W.T. Vollman. “Argall.” Because of Mark Merin’s recommendation, a cafe buddy. Vollman is… WOW! Maybe the most extraordinary American writer of the last half-century.
7. K. Atkinson. “One Good Turn. (Second time.) Terrific — but do “Case Histories” first.
8. J. Cook ed. “The Book of Weirdo.” Because Adele and I are in it. Great fun.
9. D. Day. “Malcolm Lowry.” Another free bio. When I was in college, “Volcano” knocked me out. A couple decades later, I just shook my head. Now I may need a tie-breaker third reading.
10. W.T. Vollman. “The Ice Shirt.” (See above.) Only one of the so-far five completed Seven Dreams to go.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 178

No sales.
Not a blink of interest.
But in other news…

1.) Some nice words-of-mouths on “I Will Keep You Alive.” (A.) An ICU nurse, to whom a friend had tweeted a recommendation, responded, “I enjoyed it through and through”; and (B.) A physician at the health club, who has been battling his own health issues while carrying for an even more seriously ailing wife, called it “A great book.”
[That’s “GREAT book” for those who didn’t hear me the first time.]
2.) One of the pleasures of being a (self-perceived) underappreciated author is the opportunity to share, compare, banter, and ruefully laugh at with other writers similarly positioned the snubs, insults and betrayals to which we have been privy. But just this week, reading a biography of Malcolm Lowry, I ran into a medal-winning experience in this regard. While they were struggling to survive, Lowry’s second wife began writing mysteries. Scribner’s accepted her first, following which they heard nothing, until Lowry walked into a book store in Mexico City and spotted it for sale. Byt this time, Scribner’s had accepted her second. Again, they heard nothing, until a concerned fan wrote because Scribner’s seemed to have omitted the final chapter. (It had.)
I should add, this was during publishing’s Golden Age, and the editor-in-chief was the fabled Maxwell Perkins.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 177

Sent a “Cheesesteak” to a fellow who is writing a book on Overbrook High School et environs in the 1950s and ‘60. When I learned he’d played on the same Hilltoppers’ squad as Walt Hazzard and Wally Jones, I threw in a “Best Ride.” (I always figured my ideal reader for that one was someone from Philly, about my age, who was into basketball. Unfortunately, there weren’t that many of them.)
And sold three copies of “I Will Keep You Alive.” One went to a young woman at the health club about five or six years ago when I’d started on the heavy bag. Her dad, a quintuple by-pass guy, just received a pacemaker. Since I’m the only guy she knows who comes similarly equipped, she sounded me out. One thing led to another and…
The second went to an older woman who’d heard from friends in the locker room what a great book it was. Since she’d already admired the “Love” shorts Adele had made for me and my bracelets, she was already predisposed toward us. (That’s “GREAT BOOK” for those of you still without one.)
The third went to a well-regarded author (and publisher) at the café. He’d read the book in manuscript, liked it, and suggested revisions, some of which we’d made in moderation. (He is also a veteran of multiple cardiac “incidents.”) I offered to give him a copy, but as someone in the business, he insisted on supporting the arts.

In other news…
1.) I sent a series of questions to Z (See previous “Adventure”), of which he answered none. I called Customer Service at the Corporate Behemoth. Its spokeswoman said it would only respond to an e-mail. I sent an e-mail with my questions and copied Z. He immediately replied he would pay me. I told him to relax. I just wanted to understand what was going on and then we could work things out reasonably.