The missing four cartons (see last week’s report) arrived.
Sold seven copies of “The Schiz.” One went, via www.theboblevin.com, to a stranger. Two went to couples at Berkeley Espresso. Two went to friends from high school (and two more announced an intent to buy one). Two went to fellows at the health club, one a lifelong friend and one a newer acquaintance. (I also sold, breaking my cherry at Amazon, a “Cheesesteak” to a woman I had gone to Hebrew and law school, but with whom I’d had no contact in a decade; and I swapped one to a poet I’d originally met playing pick-up basketball for a recent collection of his work.)
I also had my first reader response to “The Schiz.” (Believe me, given its history, I’d been anxiously waiting — and wasn’t sure I’d hear any.) It came from a woman at the club — and no sure thing at that. (I still carry, like a burr in my fur, her comment, in an otherwise favorable newspaper review 20 years ago of “Fully Armed,” that it was “annoyingly self-referential.”) She told Adele, before leaving the locker room for a swim, she was really enjoying the book. She loved the characters’ names, and — BINGO!!! — it reminded her of Nathanael West.
For those of you who weren’t followers of my blog, explanation may be in order. Some months ago, when I self-published semi-memoir “Cheesesteak,” I began issuing this account of my journey toward media-baronhood. Hence…
Just when I seemed destined for a second consecutive “Zero copies sold…,” my announcement of the looming (next week) availability of my black comedy “The Schiz” resulted in a burst of activity(three “Schiz” sales within six hours, plus an accompanying order of “Fully Armed,” my 1995 bio-fic about Jimmy Don Polk.) (The buyers were a cousin and two comics world pals.)
I’ve also finalized plans for “The Schiz”‘s launch party, securing the services of a preferred barista, photocopying the Milo George-designed flyer for distribution, cost-comparing the price for paper plates, cups, plastic forks, and napkins (Did Lord Beaverbrook really start like this?), and extending invitations. I didn’t ask for RSVPs, but polling data extrapolated from those who replied indicates the turnout will be good.
SENS Bistro. 1538 Shattuck. Berkeley.
Nov. 10. 7 – 9:00 p.m.
Cheesesteak $20; The Schiz $30 from Spruce Hill Press, POB 9492 Berkeley 94709
OR, via Pay Pal at www.theboblevin.com
No books sold.
This despite my netting two five-star reviews for “Cheesesteak” at Amazon. (Confession: Having finally mastered getting listed, I solicited 40 friends, so a five-percent return rate is not that great. Another fellow says he would have reviewed me, but he couldn’t master the technology.)
And this despite my having made a capitol investment, acquiring two handsome wood stands to display examples of my wares vertically, alongside my “Buy Bob’s Books!” sign while I sit in the café. So far they have not drawn a fleeting glance.
The process has not been without reward however. “Csteak” has drawn me into correspondence with a fellow formed at Fels Junior High, who matured in and around the South Street Renaissance. Our topics of memory land-discussions to date have included Howie (“One tough jewboy”) Turnoff, an All-Public guard from Northeast with whom I shared one semester at Brandx, and Ira Einhorn, the Powelton Village hippie guru/trunk murderer, whom, my correspondent suggest, was an informer for COINTELPRO. As I said, interesting.
In other news, my “review” of “Falcon & Snowman” led the publisher to ask if I wanted to review anything else of theirs. (I passed for the moment.) And “The Schiz”‘s impending release has led me to approach management of the Sens Bistro (formerly The French Hotel Café) about holding a launch party there. If the price is stomachable, it should be the evening of Nov. 10. No Host (Coffee) Bar. Free cake.
CHEESESTEAK ($20) is available from POB 9492, Berkeley 94709.
See also: www.theboblevin.com.
Sold one “Cheesesteak” and swapped one.
The sale went to a middle-aged woman walking by the café. It was a warm day, so I had moved outside for the extra foot traffic. I almost lost her to a “No-cash-with-me” but I dazzled her with my IPhone’s ability to accept credit cards (plus a “money-back-if-not-satisfied” guarantee. What I would do with a book signed for “M—e” I hadn’t considered.)
The swap was to a fellow who recognized me from Facebook as a kindred spirit and wanted to connect. A former commix creator, he became a collector of/dealer in kinescopes of old TV shows when the need to make a living over took him. He brought me several of his books. We had a good conversation at the café, despite the jackhammers that had started outside the door 15 minutes before he arrived.
In other news, the hic-cups with the illustrations to “The Schiz” seem to have been resolved at the printer’s, so if shipment doesn’t occur on October 17 as initially estimated, it shouldn’t be more than a week later. In anticipation, I stocked up on bubble mailers from Uline — and have been over-taken with anxiety wondering if I will come close to filling them with orders.
If didn’t help when my latest attempt to market “Cheesesteak” with Amazon failed. I ran into a snag with their form completion I couldn’t untangle, and their customer service rep’s (“Selva” by name) Live Chat produced a lot of garbled syntax, given and withdrawn instructions, and utilazation of terms foreign to me (What the hell’s a “screenshot”?)on his end, and much stifled rage on mine. (I admit I am an ignoramus when it comes to any matters more technical than opening a sealed carton.) Finally he (or she) told me someone from an “internal team” would need to assist me. Having spent 20 minutes with Selva, I spent five more waiting and then disconnected.
CHEESESTEAK is available from Spruce Hill Press, POB 9492, Berkeley, CA 94709, for $20.
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.
IN OTHER NEWS
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.
It’s been eight days and I’m still waiting to hear from Lulu.
Only now I’m not waiting to hear from a Content Evaluation Specialist. I’m waiting to hear from “Executives.”
“When should I expect their call?” I asked my Customer Service Representative, who had given me the good news.
“Yesterday,” he said. “Any day now. Monday.”
I thought, Usually, with publishers, you hear, “I loved your book, but…” Here, I’d heard, “…but…”
It’s Monday, and soon, in Indiana, Lulu will be breaking for lunch.
But “The Schiz” is cooking.
True, the family-owned printing company did consider the sample chapter I’d sent “not suitable” and withdrew its bid. But that meant we could unleash the advertising campaign Milo had proposed. “Too Hot For Aberdeen, South Dakota!” And one contender had already said it was unconcerned about the content, and one had said the prose would not be a problem, though it was concerned about genitalia in the illustrations. (I was concerned if I should mention this to the cartoonists and have it enflame them.)
But we have filled our last remaining slot and sent out chapter assignments. (Responses have ranged form “Cool!” to “I can work with this.” to silence — and one reply rough sketch!) Milo landed five of the seven cartoonists he asked, plus the cover artist he desired. I went 14 for 19. (We were also shut out by several neither of us had a personal connection to but had taken a flyer on.) A few explained they were too busy; more ignored us; and Robert Crumb sent a lengthy, blistering, hilarious response calling me a “skinflint” when he read what I was offering. Given that, I was touched by those who considered it an “honor” to have been asked to contribute — and most picqued by the refusal of the cartoonist who had previously solicited me to do things to promote him.
Our contributors span seventy years of comic history, and everyone in the know, who’s heard our line-up, is as stoked as we are.