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Behind the Books – Book 8

posted on October 28, 2021

Sunday Concert published in 1987 was the second of the Norman Lee books to come out. Since for some unknown reason I hadn’t used any of the Sundays featuring Harry L. Dinkle The World’s Greatest Band Director in the prior Football Fields are for Band Practice book, I thought this would be a good chance to play catch-up and publish them all here. At that time, the community band in my hometown would play a concert on the town square every Friday evening in the summer. So I decided to use their gazebo bandstand and residents in their lawn chairs for the cover and, since it was a collection of Sunday strips, titled it Sunday Concert. I thought it was pretty classy at the time. It later turned out to be the lowest selling book in the series featuring the band director’s exploits. My erstwhile publisher pointed out that it was probably because it was the only book in the series that didn’t have a funny title. A lesson learned. The second lesson I learned was that, going forward, the other books would include the Sunday strips alongside the dailies just as they did when they ran in the newspapers.

Behind the Books – Book 7

posted on August 24, 2021

So this is where the book biz became not only profitable, but fun for me as well. Somewhere around 1985 a gentleman named Andy Clark, who was the CEO and just about everything else for a small music publishing firm called Norman Lee Publishing, contacted my syndicate to see if they could publish a collection of the band strips from Funky. Norman Lee was a niche firm that specialized in music for high school and junior high school bands, not book publishing per se, but Andy felt that there would be a market there for a book about Harry L. Dinkle the world’s greatest band director. Turned out he was right. Boy howdy was he right. At first my syndicate demurred (this and other syndicate stories will be in a book that will probably have to be published posthumously), but Andy kept dogging them and was finally allowed to get it touch with me. We immediately hit it off and, freed from the editorial dictates of the New York suits, set about putting together a book our way.

First we used the cover I had wanted to use for the previous Fawcett book, but which had been turned down. Who knows what might have transpired if I had been able to use my most popular character along with his iconic (for him) pronouncement on that earlier tome? The good news was that it was available for this book. Norman Lee published it, and within school market we had ourselves a hit. This time my publisher was not only in synch with my work, but with the market for that work as well.

 

Behind the Books – Book 6

posted on July 29, 2021

In 1984, a Funky book came out entitled You Know You’ve Got Trouble When Your School Mascot is a Scapegoat. In was in a new form that the comic strip Garfield had made popular, and, again, the book publishers were optioning a lot of comic strip properties to try to duplicate that success. The book unfortunately disappeared like a hammer in a lake. Lack of publicity and push both by my syndicate and the publisher were part of the problem. The other reason was that, even at the twelve-year-mark, Funky had already started to evolve and grow beyond being described in a one or two word sales pitch. With Garfield all you had to say was cat. If Funky was ever that simple, that was no longer the case.  The cast was exploding, the set pieces were multiplying, and tying a neat little bow on it was no longer possible. You can see the problem right on the cover where you have a study hall of students and a title that, while funny, is a bit too much to take in in a glance as you flash by the book stand. I was well into the process of making my work difficult to market. That was certainly not my intent, but the result speaks for itself. Even Irma Bombeck’s gracious introduction couldn’t help.

That being said, the book is a nice snapshot of the first ten or so years of Funky and was certainly the best presentation of the strip to date.

 

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