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Saturday, Feb 22 2014 09:00 AM

HERB BENHAM: I'm here to throw the book at you

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Herb Benham

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By HERB BENHAM, Californian columnist hbenham@bakersfield.com

My new book "That Was Easy" is out. It's been 15 years since I've had a book published and I caved to the intense public pressure from fans who couldn't face another sunrise without a new book.

People ask, "When are you going to write a book?"

"Well," I say, "I have two books already, collections of columns called 'Sitting on My Fat Wallet' and 'First Kisses and Other Miracles.'"

People look disappointed because in the hierarchy of books, the ones you write have more cachet than the ones you collect. You don't see John Grisham bandying a collection of columns about. That's called book cheating.

People want hardback, a string of reviews calling this book the achievement of the century and a cover photo of the author that makes him look like Clint Eastwood.

A Grisham is fat. It feels good under your arm. After a Grisham has been passed around the family, you can use it to hold up a window or prop open a door.

Mine is slim. It almost feels French. The cover is smooth like a man who has been properly barbered.

In order to select the 77 columns that appear in the new book -- which you might remember is called "That Was Easy" and is available for $16.07 at the Californian, on Amazon and a host of other places -- we sifted through a thousand columns.

Rereading the columns made me wonder what I'd been doing for the last 15 years. Did I write those columns on vacation or when I was snockered?

Choosing columns can be tricky. You want funny ones, or the ones you thought were funny at the time. But if you include too many funny ones, people think you're a smart aleck.

You have to be careful with the sad columns because with too many sad pieces, your book is a bummer. No one wants a bummer. They have plenty of bummer in their own lives.

"Why do I need your sad music when I have my own sad music?" a friend once asked about my music collection.

Books are great in theory and sound romantic, but they are like having children. The more children you have, the bigger the responsibility. If you have 500 children -- and that's how many book children I have right now -- you have to make sure that each of them finds a home. Otherwise, they might come back and live with you.

I already have some book children living with me from my two previous books. I visited these book children recently when I repainted Herbie's closet and had to move them to Sam's old room. It appeared that they had had book families of their own since the last time I'd seen them.

Book signings are important, as are the inscriptions one puts inside the title page. Last time, for "First Kisses and Other Miracles," I leaned heavily on the inscription: "Second kisses aren't bad either."

"Best wishes" saw a lot of action, too, until one day somebody said, after reading the personalized inscription, "Is that the best you can do?"

Yes, it is. In fact, it can get worse. And the worse it gets, the bigger I sign my name as if the buyer might be visually impaired and use a reading machine to blow up the print.

Our marketing strategy included cleverly missing the Christmas season this year, along with Valentine's Day. Why have the book ready for the two biggest gift-giving holidays of the year? That would be too easy.

However, we have major holidays ahead like Mahashivratri, a Hindu holiday, on Feb. 27; Ash Wednesday on March 5, when people might give up not buying my new book for Lent; and Aug. 9, the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples.

Multiple opportunities to adopt Herb's book children. Now, "That Was Easy," wasn't it?

 

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