I was window shopping for Groucho's memorabilia on eBay when I discovered (for a mere $7,199.10 - discounted $799.90 from the original Buy It Now price) a 1966 letter that Groucho wrote to some fellow named Syd. Syd has just come out with a novel. Groucho tells him that he knows unsolicited advice isn't worth a whole lot, but "since you're an old friend of mine, probably because we don't see each other too often, here's the advice."If you want to increase the sale, I suggest you go on the Johnny Carson show, the Merv Griffin Show, the Jack Douglas Show and any other show that you can get on. I remember when Louis Nizer had his book out a few years ago, you couldn't turn on the TV set, either locally or nationally, without seeing him plugging his book and, if you didn't see him, you could hear him on radio.
It's not very pleasant work, revealing yourself publicly, but with rare exceptions, this is what writing books has reduced itself to. So dive in and, in the process of doing this, you may become a great actor. With a white wig and a pillow under your vest, there's no reason why you couldn't play King Lear. So think about it.
Groucho himself, living legend that he was by this point, went on talk shows whenever he was hawking a book. Even his brother Harpo did when he came out with Harpo Speaks
- and Harpo didn't actually talk, so that was quite a feat of public relations. If Harpo could figure out ways to promote his book by doing nothing more than honking a horn he had tucked into his belt, I could probably come up with some decent ideas myself.
I think the one of the biggest problems with publishing today is just that everything is in so much flux. Whole literary paradigms and ideologies are being rewritten, or outright broken and then glued back together in different shapes. I do understand that for many authors, things were better in the past. But there are also great authors out there now who are getting chances to publish they might not have had a few years ago. I suspect one way or another, things will even out eventually.
Though if anyone can figure out a way to get me booked on the Johnny Carson Show, I'll leap at it.
PROGRESS REPORT FOR 3/15/14New Words
: 1900 on the epilogue of Copper Heart
. This finishes up Epilogue Scene 2 of 3, and wrapping up the murderous Blizzard of 1886-87. Characters survived, though not entirely intact.Total Words
: 167,200.Reason For Stopping
: Finished the scene, and did so just as Laurie was getting the dogs ready for a walk that I wanted to come along for.Book Year
: 1886-87.Mammalian Assistance
: Once again, Vegas the Writing Assistant is flaking out on me, wanting to come in the Writing Room when I start work, wanting to leave five minutes later, and then wanting back in as I'm finishing up and leaving for the day.Exercise
: Walking around the neighborhood and campus with Laurie and the dogs.Stimulants
: Turkey Hill Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream.Today's Opening Passage
: The snow was still coming down the next day and wagons were long since useless, so the only cowmen going out in the storm were those who dragged a travois behind them. Owen would go out first and come home last, never allowing himself any rest, violating his mother’s rule about coming back by dusk—that third day, wind howling and the cowmen and their wives taking turns to desperately peal the mess bell, Owen and Puck finally dragged themselves back through the snowdrifts, horse and man with head lowered nearly as far as they could go without falling over, well after one in the morning.Darling Du Jour
: Not exactly a darling, but about as plain and stark as the rest of the scene . . .The bones of the dead cattle left where they fell were ground up for fertilizer. The fertilizer was sold to their neighboring farmers, starting with those who sold Kate hay.Non-Research / Review Books In Progress
: Non-Research / Review Books In Progress
: The Black Fire Concerto
by Mike Allen / time_shark
; The Pagan Lord
by Bernard Cornwell.
Now and again we writers (myself included) mourn what we think of wistfully as the good old days of publishing. There is some truth in thinking of certain eras as good for writers, though like with any such nostalgia I doubt things were completely as good as all that. Groucho Marx just gave me a reminder of this from a distance of nearly fifty years.