Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Smell of Circus Inside a Book: Authentic Pachyderm Poo for the Critic Who Wanted More ...

Since my papers and interview tapes, as well as photographs from here to Russia and China, will be going into the Museum of Performance and Design in San Francisco later this year, I have been
going through my "archives" to make copies of things I may need when I write a book about the adventures of writing my books and then dealing (short of going nuts) with publishers.

The Smell Edition, my idea,  responded to book reviewer Allen Grasso, who complained in the Santa Cruz (CA)  Sentinel that my tome failed to convey the scents the smells of circus.  I prepared on my own a press release with photo of the cover and sent it out to 300 newspapers around the country. It made me laugh just doing it.  It did not make the publisher laugh.  The publicist reverted to addressing me by my last name rather than "Dearest David" (OK, Dear David).

Certified pachyderm poo off the Carson & Barnes lot!   Ted Bowman signed off, exempting all parties of liability.

Not to be outdone, Ringling-Barnum included, as well, sawdust and "mile high building dirt."

These scintillating samples of earthly material found on real circus lots were personally packaged by myself into a sample, and sent to Mr. Grasso at the Sentinel, with an inscription wishing him a more authentic read.

I then apprised my PR contact at A.S. Barnes in San Diego of the prank -- after the fact, knowing that to have asked for their cooperation permission before would have put an early end to the stunt.

Sometimes, you need to take matters into your own hands.

My caper made it into a few California columns; if other newspapers picked it up, the publisher did not favor their problem author with tear sheets; in fact, they favored me with none.  The sampler package itself never reached the reviewer; it got only as far as a Sentinel librarian, and she, in reaction to, refrained from returning the offense to my publisher but removed it from the premises immediately, stating, "the smell would more than likely clear out your office.

She called my action "childishly indignant."  Okay.  I can work with that.

Behind the Big Top was generally greeted with glowing notices, sold out its first print run in less than two years, but they did not take it back to press.  Oak Tree publications in San Diego, which specialized in children's books and which had purchased NJ-based A.S. Barnes the year before, would not last very long. 

Perhaps too many of their kiddy books lacked that certain authenticity.  

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