Adventures in Marketing: Week 89
No sales – but gave away one Best Ride.
But two people (one friend, one café guy) have committed to buying the new, photo-illustrated edition of Cheesesteak. Only 998 left, so get your pre-orders in.
In other news…
A nicely dressed, white haired woman, who’d seen me around the café for months, stopped at my table, looked at “Cheesesteak’s cover illustration, and said she’d never eaten one.
“I thought it looked like a penis,” I said, “but my wife said it looked like a vagina, so we figured we had things covered.”
I have used this pitch before without as much success as, say, “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should.”
“The artist said,” I added, “he was aiming for a Jaws poster effect.”
“I get it,” she said. “Because it’s vertical.”
This fellow in the back of the café called “Bob” and waved me over.
He had said he’d buy a Schiz the next time he had cash on him, but, as it turned out, he only wanted to show me a picture on his phone someone had sent him of that moon people had been talking about.
Then he went from table to table showing everyone his picture of the moon someone else had taken.
I called a writer/friend to discuss next-step medical appointments.
His surgery is looking definite. He may have to wear a bag.
He said how impressed he’d been by The Schiz. “I don’t know anyone else who could have written that,” he said. “That’s a novel that could make a career. Or obliterate one.”
The New Yorker ran an article on William Melvin Kelly.
Kelly had published four novels and a short story collection by the time he was 33 – and no further books in his remaining 47 years of his life.
After my friend “Max Garden” (See: Cheesesteak) turned-on, tuned-in, and, in 1967, dropped-out to Jamaica, he and his family became friendly with Kelly’s, who already lived there. The magazine article says that when Kelly came back to the states, he and his family lived in a sixth floor Harlem walk-up, and he scrounged groceries from dumpsters. Max, who came back earlier, settled in the East Village where, he once told me, he was “too depressed to roll our of bed in the morning and go downstairs for a bottle of gin.”
Kelly taught at Sarah Lawrence for 30 years. Max… Well, you’ll have to read my book.
Max once sent me a signed copy of Kelly’s Different Drummer. After reading The New Yorker, I took it from the shelf. From the placement of the bookmark, I don’t seem to have finished it.
ALL OF BOB’S BOOKS ARE AVAILABLE FROM THIS VERY WEB SITE.
“Cheesesteak” has received its second review, both – full disclosure – by someone with whom I have an on-line mutual admiration-type relationship.
Actually, the latest isn’t so much a review as it is a favorable mention in Jon Allen’s “Cool Stuffola” pages in “Pop Wasteland” #3, which he edit/produces with his brother. Allen liked the “fly on the wall” enjoyment provided of experiences “that occurred before (he) was born.” While this reminder of the ever widening gap between the formatives of my sensibility and the steadily expanding (while simultaneously diminishing) pool of available readers was a bit knee-buckling, it was a kick to find a product of my present day, sedentary, mild-mannered self in the company of Allen’s favorite “filthy trash” zine, an “outlandishly superb hardcore/grindcore punk record store, a punk rock flea market, and a “vile to the gills” “Revenge” film.
Speaking of “hardcore” and “vile” – and I mean that in the good way – the same issue features the worth-the-price-of-admission-alone longest single work by Mike (“The Only American Cartoonist Even Convicted of Obscenity”) Diana I have come across. If you wondered what he’s been up to – or needed a demonstration of the failures of the Florida criminal justice system at either deterrence or rehabilitation – “The Night Sugar Pop Fucked the Devil’s Old Lady” will suit you fine. Plus there is an interview with the buzzingly unique “comix provacature” Aaron Lange which, within a half-dozen pages, touches upon geek culture, self-destructive artists, the (previously unknown to me acronyms) POFTA and ICP, Guido-ism (another new one), Otto Dix, Lenny Bruce, and “Winesburg, Ohio.” (Them I’ve heard of.)
Your head will spin.
Sold one “Schiz” and one “Cheesesteak,” both to a desk clerk at the Sens Café and Bistro (formerly the French Hotel), which is home to one of the cafes where I peddle them.
In other news…
My cell phone rings.
I figure it’s a robot.
But the caller leaves a message. He wants “to develop” a movie about my baseball novel “Away Game.”
My excitement is tempered only by the fact that a different Bob Levin wrote “Away Game.”
I explain this when I return the call. I offer the other Bob Levin’s e-mail address. Then I add, “But if you want to develop a movie about a basketball novel…”
There is a pause while, in retrospect, I think he does something on his computer. “You’re exactly who I want to talk to,” he says. “‘Best Ride to New York.'”
It turns out his development plan for “Best Ride” involves a new cover and what sounds suspiciously like an e-book and print-on-demand deal.
Which will only cost me $$799.
Sold a “Cheesesteak,” a “Schiz,” a “Most Outrageous,” an “Outlaws, Rebels…,” all to the same woman. (I gave her a discount for buying in bulk.)
She had arrived at the café, handing out Meyer lemons from a tree in her yard, to all the customers. Squeeze one each morning into hot water, she explained, to clear the body of toxins. She had blue eyes, a round, smiling face. She had short gray hair under a wide-brimmed straw hat. She wore a loose-fitting black top and wheat-colored Himalayan butterfly pants. She had also, I later notice, taken 18 books from the “Free” shelf and piled them on a chair at her table.
My work seemed to have interested her in me so much that she paid several visits to keep me posted on her thoughts. (And I felt grateful enough for her purchases not to interrupt.) So I learned of the health problems of her sister who operated heavy equipment at a nuclear waste disposal site, the personality of her brother-in-law, a Mohawk high-beam walker, the dialogue her own interest in the dharma had led to with a local Catholic worker-priest, and her suspicions that the Amazonian special ops warriors she read about in intrigue novels were real.
So I did not get a lot of work done that morning.
Sold one Schiz.
I’ve known the buyer, a recently retired tenants’ rights lawyer, since he ran a legal aid outpost office in Chicago’s infamous Robert Taylor Homes, and I was a VISTA on the South Side. He asked if I’d felt a loss of identity when I’d stopped practicing. I said my identity had never rested on my being a lawyer. “It was more a trans-sexual thing, like I was walking around inside the body of a lawyer, but actually…”
Also swapped two Schiz’s, one for a poetry collection, one for a classy zine — and shipped eight books to NYC for Logos, 4 Schiz, 2 Cheesesteak, 2 Best Rides. (And a BR has been spotted in Powell’s in Portland. They want $8.95 for it. You can get it here, signed, for less.)
In other news, the only one of the health organizations I’d sought a plug for Heart from to reply said it did not give endorsements. I told its rep I understood perfectly — and that would be one more charitable non-profit not to receive a sizeable bequest from my estate.
No sales again.
Not only that but the last two “customers” at the café have avoided eye contact entirely. This I could understand if “The Schiz” was the book in question, but “Cheesesteak”…
And my Manhattan-based efforts have constricted. Only partly from choice, Logos will have an exclusive east-of-Berkeley sales dealership on “Best Ride” and, until my actual distributor kicks in, a temporary one on “S” and “C.” I understand there are flyers and a display. This could be fun.
In other news, at the suggestion of my entrepreneurially-inclined friend Budd, I have e-mailed honchos at the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiologists hoping for an endorsement of “Heart” which will make it more attractive to agents and/or publishers. No responses yet, which will be kept in mind when it becomes time for charitable bequests.
Finally, I was interviewed by two fellows who hope to make a documentary film about Dan O’Neill and the Air Pirates. This seems an entirely DIY, low-budget operation, but of the half-dozen folks who’ve expressed similar interest, it’s the only one to actually get cameras rolling. Since they wouldn’t tell me the questions they’d be asking in advance, I’d prepped by skimming by book, which I hadn’t read since it came out. Boy, it was good! Maybe if the film is released, there’ll be a second edition. Maybe an NYRB Classic.
So a lot is going on. Still, there are moments just after wakening when I lie there thinking, Just what am I doing?
But they pass and I get up and do it some more.
Sold a “Schiz” and a “Fully Armed” to an old friend/retired psychologist in Philadelphia. Sold a “Cheesesteak” to a stranger (contractor) in the café. Sent a “Schiz” and a “Cheesesteak” to a recently resurfaced fellow who’d helped me a lot on my Air Pirates book. (He send me a pdf of his new book on Darwin.) Sent a “Cheesesteak” to a rock guitarist who’d given me a copy of his CD when I visited him in the hospital on my Mended Hearts rounds.
In other news, a woman with whom I attended 4th through 12th grade has offered to pitch “Best Ride” and “Cheesesteak” to bookstores in Manhattan, where she lives, Brooklyn, and Philly. (She expressed discomfort with “The Schiz” but is willing to look at it.) Her other activities include playing the harp at and singing in the chorus of her church (Episcopalian)and being an on-again, off-again booking agent for a chamber music group so this endeavor sounds adventurous and amusing to us both.
And the Berkeley indie author/publisher said he would do “Heart,” except he wasn’t publishing anything for the time being. But maybe when he secured his next grant… So pitches to agents and publishers continue there.
[Bob’s books remain available from this very web site.]
Sold one copy of “The Schiz.”
The buyer was a 40-something UC employee. Something in computers.
He is a fan — and unpublished writer — of sci-fi, who had previously bought and, he now told me, been delighted by “Cheesesteak.” It was, he said, “Like a vanished time that will never come again. Did you see the movie ‘Blade Runner’? That was the future, and yours was the past, but, like it, you captured this entire world.”
I, of course, had never seen it that way. The West Philadelphia of “Cheesesteak” was — and is — pretty real and living to me. But I welcomed his enthusiasm.
“This new one,” I said, “is different.”
“Fun,” the semi-retired financial adviser said about “The Schiz.”
I was impressed.
Most people who were given or bought a copy have said nothing. Many, I expect, have not read it. Many, I bet, began but were put off by the structure or content.
So I welcome what I get.
Remember the fellow in the health club locker room I recognized by his accent as being from Philadelphia?
He sent me a two-page, single-spaced e-mail that called “Cheesesteak” “terrific.”
He knew Jim’s and Larry’s, The White House. He thought my description of Pat’s “superb” and of my bar mitzvah “hysterical.” He knew a dog like Ming, had a grandmother who died young, and his wife danced on Bandstand. He sold sodas at Franklin Field, went to fights at the Blue Horizon, had Mel Brodsky as a Camp Counselor — and had friends who came to unimaginable ends.
It had all resonated.
It had lit corners of his life.
I thought of the knots that life ties and unloosens and reknits.
[Bob’s books are available from this very web site.]
No café sales.
A lawyer I knew when I was in practice asked how my writing was going. But…
A woman said, “I have a library with 3000 books, and if I bring one more home, my children will kill me.”
A thirtyish fellow, longish black hair, thickish black-framed glasses, lots of black clothes, asked if the books on display were mine.
I assured him they were.
He examined each, front cover and back. He riffled through some, lingering the most at the cartoons in “most Outrageous.” Which was understandable.
He assured me I was a credit to Berkeley.
Sold a “Schiz” to the sole law school classmate with whom I have even semi-regular contact. He e-mailed he’d enjoyed “Cheesesteak,” which I’d comp’d him. He’d known some of the characters and locales (pp. 78-87) and asked about them, which was cool. He also wanted a “Best Ride” and a “Pirates/Mouse” to give an Overbrook High School classmate of his, now “living as a mountain man in West Virginia.”
That sounds like a story-and-a-half.
[All books available from www.theboblevin.com]