I feel like I’ve been on a promo tour for a year. Ever since I brought boxes of Music to My Eyes back from Dekker Bindery in Michigan last February and hauled them up my three flights, a chunk of my attention and waking hours has been devoted to planning events, trying to get attention, and, most of all, hand-selling books. There have been many good moments, but overall it’s been an exhausting and often discouraging process. I’m a lousy salesman. I have little faith in the various apparatus of commerce, such as advertising and promotion. I’m a reluctant self-promoter; the bullshit repeats on me even as it escapes my mouth. And yet, there’s no one else who wants the job. So what else am I to do?
It all came to a crashing halt last Thursday at Uncharted Books. I’d asked my friend, the historian Paul Durica, to do the last of my scheduled talks to promote the publication of Soviet Stamps. The secret back room of the shop (accessible by pulling a particular book in a book case) was set up with chairs, but no one showed up to fill them. I’d cancelled events where no one showed up before, but decided to have the talk anyway. Have a listen, there’s some good stuff there. It’s a shame there wasn’t anyone to hear it as it happened. After we were done, Paul and I went to Simon’s for a drink. So the evening wasn’t a complete waste.
I have nothing else scheduled until a couple art shows late-summer. I can look back on the Soviet Stamps events over the last month and a half and be satisfied with the different public conversations I had. My Virtual Memories talk with Gil Roth went live last week (we taped it in New York City on January 3rd). Christian TeBordo interviewed me at the Dial on January 9th, Kyle Beachy did it at City Lit on January 30th, and Ben Terrall followed on February 5th at the Green Arcade in San Francisco. I also appeared on Nick Digilio’s WGN radio show. Each conversation was different and forced me to think on my feet. It’s a testament to each of these people that there were so few questions repeated. I’m grateful to know some smart people who took the time to read my work and think about it and show up to help get it out into the world.
I managed to sell some books. But now I can go back to doing what I’m best suited for: painting and writing.
I’ll continue to carry copies of books everywhere with me. Until I figure out some other way to sell them, this will be it. It’s really been this way from the start. Even with Hack, I hand-sold more copies than any virtual or brick-and-mortar outlet. On my low level of recognition, this is the only way to make any money off books. My next two books will likely be self-published. I’ll have some time to think out some new strategies in the meantime.
Work continues on Old Style, my bar book. I’d say I’m about halfway there. I’m finishing up design work on an an LP for a friend in New Mexico. I’ll share it with you when he gives the thumbs up. It came out pretty well.