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.