Marketing Report: Week 18

Sold a “Cheesesteak” to a lawyer-pal in the locker room of the health club — and have committed to buy his forthcoming book of poems. And had my first Facebook-related sale (“Best Ride”) so that venture has more than paid for itself, not counting the time it’s devoured.

Response-wise, the wife of the couple at the café who bought “Cheesesteak” four weeks ago stopped by my table to say she and her husband “both loved it.” They wished I had written more. “Sorry,” I said, “but that’s all my first 25 years gave me.” Then another café guy, a couple years younger than me, an engineer, I think, into computer stuff, told me it had taken him a while to get into it because our lives were so different, but then he thoroughly enjoyed it. (This was unusual. People are more apt to say how much we had in common despite our different backgrounds.) He is Berkeley born-and-bred, so I’m guessing his parents were academics — and back then Berkeley was a quiet Republican-voting town.

In other news, “Schiz”‘s cover is done — a knock-out — and all but off to the printer. Now I have to decide if I want 750 or 1000 copies. On the one hand, when I had a commercial publisher, my last two books didn’t break into four digits. On the other, the cost difference isn’t much, and 1000 is a cooler number.

A couple articles should be going up on-line soon.

Finally: “Cheesesteak”: Send $20 to Spruce Hill Press, POB 9492, Berkeley 94709

Marketing: Week 15

Sold one “Cheesesteak” to a fellow at the health club who’d gone to high school with a guy in my college class. We were in the steam room, when he began asking me about Brandx. Well since you asked, I said.

I also gave a copy to a lawyer who once gave me a copy of his self-published book of his. And my friend Bud (not to be confused with my friend Budd) said, “Chris Matthews is a Philly guy. Maybe you should send him a copy.” So I did. (I’ll let you know how that works out.) And I asked Amazon again about stocking it.

In other-but-related news: 1) I finished the line edits of “The Schiz” and re-wrote the “Author’s Afterword.” A couple tweaks by Milo and it’s off to the printer. 2) Came to the end of my list of agents for “Heart” without one nibble. Now I’ve turned to publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts. Most seem to want proposals, which I find writing a drag. (This could turn into a job.)

Finally, I received an e-mail from a woman at something called Open Road Media who, based on my review of “The Burglary” at BSR, thought me a good choice to review (even on my blog) an E-book re-issue of the true-life cold was spy story “The Falcon and the Snowman,” which I could get a free copy of, provided I signed up with something called Net Gallery.

I was flattered — and eager to expand my recognized areas of expertise beyond transgressive cartoonists, plus, as Adele said, this might draw traffic to my web site, which, God knows, could use it. I was also impressed this woman had found me, since the casting of my “Burglary” review had otherwise rippled few ponds.

Maybe Open Roads Media can help me, I thought. Now I am not so sure. It seems to cost several hundred bucks to be marketed by it. Plus Net Gallery may be mainly a place where amateurs — librarians, bloggers, self-published authors — review to semi-silence books by other self-published authors signed up at the same place.

I may have to check this further.

Marketing: Week 12

Sold a “Most Outrageous” to a fellow at the health club, who is now one shy of a complete collection of my work and says he will bind them in leather. Sold a “Cheesesteak” to a fellow at the café I’d about given up on, even though I’d given him a “New Yorker,” which I’d thought would’ve cemented our relationship. (He claimed he gets so into his iPad each morning, he’d never noticed my sign.)

In the Notable Reaction Department, there were: the café acquaintance who said he only read books about Buddhism but would offer me “spiritual support.” (Fuck you,” I’d thought. Which suggested I could use some.); the voc. rehab. counselor, and ex-Philly gal, to whom I’d thrown plenty of business when I was in practice, who said she still had my notice of “Chessesteak” on her desk and was planning to buy one. (Hasn’t happened yet); a lovely note from a defense attorney relating how much she’d enjoyed having her own recollections jolted. When she’d been at Barnard, she reported, attending an Odetta concert was tantamount to declaring yourself a Communist. And she had a friend who broke off her affair with Jim Kweskin (the second of those reported) after her mother “swooped down from Greenwich CT, draped in her minks and trailing the scent of Chanel #5” and threatened her.

The front and back covers of “The Schiz” are done. Our focus group has responded “WOW!” and “WOW! WOW! WOW! WOW!” A final line editing from Milo (I will keep my hands off it, so I don’t rewrite anything), and it’s off to the printer.

Oh yeah, we’ve raised the price a nickel.

As for “Heart,” having finally overcome the trauma from the rejections and silence when I sought an agent some months ago, I am trying again. First query has gone out; others to follow.

Marketing: Week Seven

Sold a “Fully Armed” to a satisfied reader of “Cheesesteak” at the health club and a “Cheesesteak” to a fellow self-publisher-in-retirement (a former architect) at Berkeley Espresso.

This 80% fall-off was discouraging, which did not speak well of the development of my inner sense of self-worth. (Nor did my thinking, when informed by a fellow who’d received a freebie that his brother, who’d read it, intended to buy copies for friends, “What about you? Don’t you have friends?) I may have to re-think my approach.

Other reactions have been mixed. Two fellows, who’d bought “Cheesesteak,” announced they’d begun reading it, s if I should be pleased that had followed. (One said he’d learned more about me from it than from our having worked in the same building for years, as if that would be news t me too. The other, a restaurant owner, was most interested by what “inside-out” had meant at Pat’s.)

A 60ish psychologist at the French said “Cheesecake” was “the funniest book I’ve read in years.” (She was up to “As Mildred.”) When finished, she planned to send her copy to an octogenarian former English professor who co-hosted a podcast on books in Minnesota. (I gave her one for him.) A middle-aged man with a backpack looked at my display and said, “My wife will kill me if I bring home more books.” A woman walked by me at the club, while I, adhering to the “No Soliciting” rule sat silently with “Cheesesteak” propped upon my lap, and asked the 10-year-old next to me what he was reading. (“The Shadow Throne,” if you want to know.)

Maybe, I thought, I should hire a 10-year-old to read “Cheesesteak.” Maybe a slew of them. Maybe from Bangladesh. I hear they work cheap there.

Marketing: Week 3

Sales steady at three. One to a basketball pal. One to a woman at the French, on whom I’d been counting since we often discuss books and despite her shying away from old white male American authors. One to a woman on my Notice-Sent-To list. I’d considered her no more than 50:50 but she even included a sweet note.

Responses continue to interest and gratify. Readers have reacted to my mentions of Eddie Waitkus, Ma & Pa Kettle, and Richard Alpert. (And where else, I wonder, were you likely to find this trifecta?) The last of the trio led an 85-year-old woman to recount a date with him that involved psilocybin and a flight in his private plane.

One French acquaintance praised my recreating the “spirit of Philadelphia,” where, it turned out, he’d never been. A second felt I’d perfectly captured his adolescence, though he was 15-years my junior and Berkeley born and bred. A college roommate appreciated the “waves of nostalgia” unleashed. A current pal said, “All your voices evoke/resonate/reconnect the lost/smothered/disconnected/hidden voices carried in me.”

Still, I considered how to broaden my reach. I e-mailed the alumni associations of two West Philadelphia high schools, offering to contribute $2 for each copy sold to their members to their libraries. Neither replied. An on-line site offered to promote me to book bloggers. I requested contact information on two of its satisfied customers. It did not reply. Another self-publisher suggested we do a joint reading at a Jewish community center. “Deal,” I said. “You set it up.” A locker aisle friend, continually launching ventures designed to elevate h8mself into state or national prominence, counseled that I needed, “A SWOT Analysis. Look into the mirror. What do you see? What are your Strengths? Weaknesses? Opportunities? Threats?”

I looked into his locker instead and saw the unopened envelope of the “Cheesesteak” I’d delivered to him ten days before.


After sitting on it for a year or two, “First of the Month” has just put up on line my piece “Flight From the Everybodies,” re-entitled “Flight of the Somebodies.” This is cool, but since this is the concluding chapter of my recently published “Cheesesteak: The West Philadelphia Years: A Rememboir,” available from the very web site, I will not, as is my usual custom, supply a link. Why compete with myself, I figure. Plus why spoil the frigging ending?

Marketing (1)

One week report:

About 80% of the people to whom I gave free copies of “Cheesesteak” have not responded. (Some may not have received theirs yet, the US Postal Service being what it is.) One respondee has bought one for someone else; one has promised to. One promoted the book at his web site, which resulted to my sole sale to a stranger so far. One said he might have it reviewed at his on-line magazine.

About 90% of the people whom I notified of “Cheesesteak”‘s existence have not responded. Two of the respondees bought a copy; one has promised to.

Exactly 75% of the people whom I asked for an address so I could send them a free copy did not reply.

One lesson I have drawn is that I am not as important a part of many people’s minds as they are to mine.

Another is that it is weird knowing everyone who knows of your book’s existence and of how they have dealt with this knowledge.


“Cheesesteak: The West Philadelphia Years: A Rememboir” is out (Spruce Hill Press. POB 9492. Berkeley 94709. $20, including postage.) It looks great. No reviews are in (or expected), but Adele was caught laughing when she read it. (She also said that in the author’s portrait on the back I looked “even more dissipated than in the original.”)

UPS delivered the shipment early Friday morning, which was nice. It meant I could get to Staple’s to stock up on the least expensive mailers into which I could squeeze one and then to the USPO where I could price one so-squozen in order to purchase the stamps required to mail them as cheaply as I could. (“Allow five-to-seven business days for delivery.”) Then I started stuffing envelopes.

Saturday morning, I put my marketing plan into operation. I trundled off to the French with a stack and my “Buy Bob’s Book Sign,” accompanied by Adele for moral support. We sold four, all to people with whom I have been known to chat. Others within this same degree of consanguinity did not bite. Strangers (and semi-strangers) did not glance in my direction.

Morning two, Adele stayed home. No one bought. (I guess I need a babe in the booth.) An Asian-American woman (a stranger!) picked up a copy, asked if I was part of a Berkeley tradition, put it down, and said, “Good luck.” An artist/musician picked one up, put it down, and said nothing. An anthropology professor emeritus offered to gtrade me a copy of his book he’d self-published after writing it for his grandchildren.

Hap, who bought one yesterday, said he’d read half and found it “hilarious.”