Monday, September 24, 2012

More Book Stories
Part Two

At times, synagogues, bookstores, magazines, and publishers and synagogues have been a pain.

I sent out emails to more than thirty synagogues in Northern California looking for speaking engagements. One was circulated by the program committee at one synagogue and a woman who didn’t understand what “Reply All” meant, sent this response to me along with all of the committee members, “Do we want to pursue this? I don’t especially.” Then another member wrote, “For free on a Sunday morning it would be well received.” But not by me.

After pleading and cajoling the tattooed, twenty-something head of consignments at a local bookstore, she reluctantly accepted one book, but only after I filled out a two-page form. Three weeks later, my wife went to that store and looked for the book in the Judaica section, the health and exercise section, and the humor section, to no avail. She checked with a clerk at a computer, and discovered the book — sitting on a shelf in a back room waiting to be put out.

When I contacted a Jewish magazine in Los Angeles to do a possible review, a young man invited me to visit his office when I was there in June. He would be happy to have a review written if I would spend more than two thousand dollars, and he’d throw in a commercial on a religious Jewish television network. Oy!

I even ran into some difficulties with my publisher — Create Space — a division of Amazon. When I ordered a much-needed two hundred copies of The Oy Way, I received them promptly as usual. The only problem was that the cover was a different color than all of the previous ones, and two pages in the back were missing. When I contacted Create Space and explained the situation, they matter-of-factly replied that instead of being printed in their plant, it was outsourced to another printer who misread the correct color. I told them that it was unacceptable, and they said that they would send another two hundred that they would print at their facilities.

I few days later, I received the rush order and was pleased until two days later I received another two hundred copies. When I called up Create Space and asked what I should do with them, they said I could keep them, which I did in a way. I gave away copies to more than thirty libraries around the country, gave others to a struggling Yiddish bookstore in Brooklyn, to the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur for fundraising, and also to KlezCalifornia as incentive gifts to contributors.

I won’t make any real money out of The Oy Way, unless more people buy it from my website here, or my upcoming You Tube videos go viral when they are posted next month. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

More On Book Stories

More On Book Stories
Part One

After The Oy Way was printed last spring, my real work began; I had to sell it.

I hustled media reviews and made presentations at synagogues, bookstores and organization meetings. Sales weren’t large enough for me to retire, but I had already retired in 2006. Retirement with a book to sell is no retirement.

I was pleased that bookstores in California, Michigan and New York had either bought copies outright or had taken them on consignment. The most fertile sales outlet was the relatively small Aleft Bet Judaica store in Los Gatos. At times, I would bring in five books and a few days later I would receive a call from the Israeli-born owner Nurit saying that they had sold out and they needed more.  Happily, I received such a call today, and I will be making a presentation and book signing there on November 13, and at numerous other venues in October, November and December. You can see the schedule under "What's Nu? on the website here.

At times, I ran into some not-so-positive situations.

I just received a copy of Washington Square Magazine that goes to 80,000 alums of San Jose State University, and they estimate that 50,000 digital readers will see it. I was a bit dismayed when I saw the visual coverage found above. However, when I questioned the layout, the editor and the art director said it would attract the readers. What do you think?

Speaking of SJSU, when I spoke on campus in March, I managed to convince the manager of their Spartan bookstore to take ten copies on consignment, which they did. I was unaware that they had become the Barnes & Noble/Spartan Bookstore, and as a vendor I had to fill out an eight-page form to be considered. Before I did so, I contacted a person at their headquarters back east, and asked them why I needed to do so with such a small number of books. Since you don’t question B&N, especially at their headquarters, they then asked me who was the publisher, and I told them it’s already on sale at Amazon. That ended my relationship with B&N for they would carry no books that were being published and sold by that competitor. I was lucky that I had found out before wasting any more time filling out that oppressive form. Tomorrow I go to San Jose State and rescue my unacceptable ten copies.

Part Two is on its way, or perhaps it has already arrived. If you have any spare time until then, go back to The Oy Way website.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Give Me a Brake — Part Two

It’s been more than seven weeks since Part One was published on this blog regarding the trails and tribulations of The Oy Way, whose web site can be found here. When you grow older, you will find that time goes by far too quickly, in case you haven’t already noticed.

Ewe Tube, Oar Knot

The secret is to keep growing older without growing old, and to do so, sometimes you have to reluctantly adapt to the far-too-rapid societal changes including the electronic world of You Tube.

At times, You Tube and “went viral” have to be linked together in order to achieve dubious success for an honest effort. Although The Oy Way is selling at a steady but slow pace, when I was in Los Angeles earlier this month, I hired Gordon Eick, a noted filmmaker, to capture the essence of eight Oy Way exercise movements. The video is now being edited and will eventually appear on You Tube.

There was little joy found in demonstrating these movements (shown above on the book’s cover), while clothed in a flowing, flannel-like shirt with a yarmulke sitting upon my head in 90-degree weather in Griffith Park. It was especially frustrating to do so as people walked by talking loudly, screaming children abounded, dogs barked, and helicopters noisily hovered above. It meant numerous reshoots, halting the shoot in progress, and mopping my brow as I continually shvitzed. We reshot most of it in a more tranquil, far cooler setting in the Japanese Garden in San Jose a few weeks later.

Review What Was Said

The book just received a short, but glowing, paragraph in The Midwest Book Review, that read, “Sure, the English language is fine, but there's always room for a bit of extra flavor to it. "The Oy Way: Following the Path of Most Resistance" is a humorous delve into the Yiddish language as author Harvey Gotliffe writes how to use the language's unique expressions to spice up one's languages, with a touch of meditative exercise in the process. "The Oy Way" is a unique addition to any language or humor collection, much recommended.”

Order, Order in the Court!

My cousin Ron, a documentary filmmaker who used to work with Bill Moyers, lives in a grand old building with a courtyard in New York. Ron bought three copies of The Oy Way as gifts, giving one copy to Margie King Barab, who you probably remember as the fourth and final wife of Alexander King. He is the author of several books on my shelf including his 1963, well titled, “is there life after birth?” Recently, four of my college friends passed on, and we will discuss this pertinent question in a later issue.

Margie, in turn, ordered seven books for friends, and wanted one autographed specifically for Bel Kaufman, and I did so in Yiddish. Bel has three impressive items on her resume that few others possess. On May 10, 2012, she turned 101. In 1965, she wrote the bestseller Up the Down Staircase, and she is the granddaughter of the legendary Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem. It’s an honor to think that somehow The Oy Way and I are now connected to Sholem Aleichem, albeit in a very indirect way.

Where Have You Gone?

We are in a sad way with the possible demise of the bookstore, especially the independent bookstore. The nearby Capitola Book CafĂ© is fighting for survival and on June 22 held an author’s get together, where fourteen of us did a “reading.” The night before, best-selling author Cheryl Strayed appeared and there were more than three hundred people attentively listening to her reading from her new book Wild.

Perhaps there is some hope for the survival of independent bookstores as described in the Huffington Post piece published here, on "Celebrating Independents Day.” However, to make this a reality, addicted Amazon online book buyers will have to extricate themselves from in front of their computers when they seek new reading challenges. They might find a brave, new, stimulating world in the aisles of their neighborhood bookstore.

Happy Birthday Two Awl of Ewe

When you write, edit and publish your own blog, you can include whatever flotsam and jetsam you desire. So we wish the following relatives and friends a HAPPY BIRTHDAY, which is really the anniversary of your births which fall between June 25 and July 18, and between 1924 and 1953. Happy day to Rochelle, Amy, Carmen and Hilda (same day, different years), the same connection for Robert Dale and Martha, also for Cindy and Dranreb, and finally happy birthday to Patricia.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Give Me a Brake – Part One

From June 2011 until January 2012, I devoted more than 650 hours creating a new book entitled The Oy Way, and its creation dominated my life. That was only the beginning.

Once you create anything for the public, you have to promote it and make its presence known, if you really want to sell it and make a bisl gelt from all of your efforts.

Bisl is the operative word.

Not Starring Robert Redford

The Oy Way will not be acquired by a Hollywood studio and made into a movie starring either Robert Redford or­­­­­­­­­­­­ Morgan Freeman. It might make it on to You Tube or even Facebook one day.

You need a plan on how to generate sales and the possibilities include getting book reviews in newspapers and magazines, garnering broadcast interviews locally and with celebrities such as Jay and David, sending out emails to the 1859 people on all of your mailing lists, selling through bookstores, and personal sales when you make a presentation.

Each of these entities offer fantastic possibilities, but they are all time consuming and together add up to investing at least four hours a day, every day.

The Inside Story

The results are sometimes gratifying, other times frustrating, and many are questionable. On a bright, sunny day when I am ensconced in my room in front of a computer, I may gently say, “Why are you doing this?” Actually the verbiage is usually much louder and coarser.

Reviews are very important for if a publication with even only twenty thousand readers writes something favorably about your book, that could generate a decent amount of sales. To get a review requires a sales pitch to convince an editor to devote space writing about your creation.

You have to make the initial editorial contact by phone, write a sales letter or an email, or go meet an editor in person, and tie the book and its author into the publication offering a specific and unique story angle.

We did get three or four reviews by “courting” editors and also doing the same with bookstores. In Santa Cruz, there are three independent bookstores; two combine new and used books, and the third sells mainly used books.

When I approached the largest, they accepted fifteen books on consignment but could offer me no event date until the fall to make a presentation. The used bookstore reluctantly said that they would accept one book but only after I filled out a two-page form. The third bookstore said that they would take five books on consignment, and would schedule a Monday or Wednesday date, but only if I could guarantee forty people would attend and at least twenty books would be sold.

Only One Thing Is Guaranteed In Life

I could easily guarantee the forty people; all I would have to do is rent a bus and gather forty homeless people, however books sales would not be forthcoming.

The event planner said if I could get media coverage, they would do it, which meant another courtship. So I sent a review copy of the book to the arts editors at the one daily newspaper, at the two weekly newspapers, at one monthly publication, and to the morning talk show host at the nearby radio station. When I told the bookstore event planner that I was about to get full-page coverage in one daily and one weekly newspaper, and I was be interviewed at 7:10 AM at the radio station, she scheduled me for Monday, April 9 at 7:30 PM. I then sent out emails to about ninety people in the area, prodding them to attend.

My wife Carmen and I arrived at 7:10 PM with twenty-five books already autographed in Yiddish, and counted sixty seats set up for my presentation. However, there were only four people sitting in those seats including an eight-year-old elderly woman who greeted me in Yiddish. “Elderly?”

“Oy Vey,” she’s only four years older than I am.

“Knock. Knock.” “Who’s There?”

People slowly trickled in, and by 7:30 PM all sixty seats were occupied, with another ten people standing. Among those in the audience were four of my neighbors, whom I had personally invited, a friend who I first met in 1970 and hadn’t seen for more than a year, another friend whom I met in Israel in 1975, a former student from the 1980s, my daughter and wife, and a man who said “My name is Mark. Do you remember me?” After the earthquake of 1989, he had been one of the bus drivers who took many others and me over the mountains to San Jose, including two former professors who were in attendance.

I was enthused and gave a dynamic performance, sold twenty books including one to a local literary gadfly in her eighties who called herself “The $2 lady,” not because of what she sold but because of what she paid. She always carried a supply of two-dollar bills and would give one as a tip to jazz musicians or others who performed in the arts world. She gave one to my daughter (the book’s photographer), one to my wife (a leading model in the book), and one $2 bill to me, but only if we promised to keep it in our wallets for good luck and didn’t spend it foolishly on liquor or smokes. I gave her a copy of my book in return.

You can find out more about The Oy Way and even buying it by going here, or just stop by my house; then I can personally autograph it in Yiddish. Please call first.

Part Two of the publishing, promoting and pushing of the book will be coming as soon as I do more promoting and pushing.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

With God and the Odds On Your Side

The Numbers Game

If you have nothing better to do and read the sports section of your newspaper, you will realize that although there are narrative stories of what happened in the previous day’s activities, it’s primarily filled with statistics. Within each story, depending on the sport, there will be descriptions of how many hits, home runs, three-point shots, dunks, shots on the net, goals, assists, birdies, and eagles were scored. Then there’s a page that’s devoted strictly to statistics including standings of all sports teams, scoring leaders, betting odds and point spreads for upcoming games, and a myriad of other minutiae to satisfy any mathematician or professional gambler.

Praying for a Better Outcome

Not unlike politicians, some sports figures have recently strayed from the straight-and-narrow. They probably believe that their primary sin was that they got caught. There’s 51-year-old, married father of four, Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino who was injured in a solo motorcycle crash. Although he wasn’t wearing a helmet at the time, he had a soft cushion behind him in the form of 25-year-old Jessica Dorrell, his recently hired football team’s student-athlete development coordinator. They managed to stay close the past seven months during which time they exchanged 4,300 text messages, 300 phone calls, and he once paid her $20,000. Many Arkansas Razorback fans and boosters thought it would be unfair to fire him for his actions. One middle-aged woman said you have to separate the great job he did with the winning teams he produced, and his peccadillo. The school disagreed and let him go.

Getting Off Track

Two-time Indianapolis 500 mile race winner Al Unser Jr., pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated and drag racing at more than 100 miles-per-hour on a New Mexico freeway. It was the second DUI conviction for the 49-year-old in the past five years. Seems as if Al likes to repeat his racing endeavors twice.

“Thank you Bulldogs and Jesus”

When Bubba Watson won the Masters golf tournament, in this order he thanked the Georgia Bulldogs (his alma mater), Jesus Christ “my Lord and Savior,” and the hosts club’s African-American locker room attendants.

When George Zimmerman was finally arrested for the murder of Tayvon Martin, his African-American mother Sabrina Fulton said, “Thank you, thank you, Lord, thank you, Jesus.”

Tebow and the Pope

Tim Tebow, the new second-string quarterback of the New York Jets, may have been signed to help fill MetLife Stadium each Sabbath Sunday. He drew a crowd of about 15,000 to an outdoor church service Easter Sunday in Georgetown, Texas, where he described the importance of being outspoken about faith. The church’s pastor observed, ''In Christianity, it's the Pope and Tebow right now.''

The Pope, the Jews, and Jesus

I have been sleeping much better since March 2011 when the headlines around the world read, “Vatican City, The Pope absolves Jews as the murderers of Jesus.”

“Oh, Jesus,” and My Father

In 1965, my father was crossing Linwood at Davison in Detroit on a green light, when an elderly man hit the accelerator instead of the brake, hit my father and dragged his body along the asphalt face down.

My Mother called me at work saying only that my Father was in Providence Hospital, a Catholic institution, and I should come immediately. When I arrived and found my way to his room, he was moaning in agony in his bed, which sat under a six-foot statue of Jesus.

A nurse had just removed a bloody bandage from his head, and was carefully placing a clean one in its place. I walked over to him, said “Hello, Dad,” and held his hand. “You are my strength,” he said and he tightly squeezed my hand. Then he twisted in pain, and started screaming, “Oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus.”

My Mother was embarrassed, looked up at the statue, and sternly admonished my Father, “Henry, you can’t say that here. Remember where you are!”

I knew that my Father would survive when he devilishly responded screaming, “Oh, Moses. Oh, Moses. Oh, Moses.”