Book sales are chugging along respectably enough, but as regular readers probably know, I was hoping for a bit more with this one, hoping to take it to another level. After all the time and energy these things consume, you hope for some payoff. You get through the aggravating contract negotiations, the countless hours of production work and the hundred small battles you have to fight just to keep the cartoons from being printed upside down or inverted or some damn thing — and then when it finally comes out there’s even more time away from the work itself, travelling around to bookstores and giving interviews to any five watt radio station that’ll have you (and unfortunately, there aren’t that many) … and ultimately you learn once again that it’s not going to go any further than that; that you can pretty much jump up and down naked at Broadway and 42nd shouting buy my book buy my book — and not even get arrested.
The might-have-beens will break your heart if you let them. The much-beloved bigtime liberal columnist who said he’d try to write an introduction to the book, and then simply stopped responding to emails as the deadline approached. The major newspaper writer who expressed serious interest in writing a high profile story, and then never followed up. The major magazine reviews that were promised but never quite materialized. And of course, the hip late night talk shows that you’d think, or at least hope, would be interested — but just aren’t. Any one of those things would have changed my life, would have given this book that small extra push that might have helped take it to the next level. Instead, it’s just a pebble tossed into the ocean, and I can already see the ripples beginning to recede, and I’m standing on the shore wondering — what was the point of all that? Why was it worth months and months of my life, exactly? It’s not like I make a ton of money off these things, and it’s not like I need any more distractions in my life. It’s hard enough, as an artist, to clear out the head space I need just to get to that … place … where the work itself comes together. There’s always some bill to pay, some errand to take care of, something around the house that needs fixing, some deadline coming up, some damn thing or another demanding my attention. Why am I adding to that, when the return on the investment is so inevitably discouraging? Do I really need to expend all this energy every two or three years only to once again have my nose rubbed in the fact that cartoonists are lower on the media food chain than street mimes? In this week’s cartoon, Charlie Brown serves as my stand-in, with his eternal and naive hope that this time the media are going to get it and expose the hypocrisy and corruption of Republicans once and for all — but the same metaphor equally applies to the books. I go through the whole process and think, this time it’s gonna happen! this book will get noticed! And then Lucy snatches the football away once again.