Cal—How's the Book Doing?

Are you keeping after the publisher about distribution and sending out review copies? Seeing it in bookstores yet? Any reviews?

THIS is the part I hate about writing; you finished the book two years ago and now you have to keep on everyone’s ass to make sure it doesn’t sink out of sight before its fifteen minutes are up. . .


Thanks so much for asking!

I spend every lunch hour going out to local bookstores and asking them to stock my book. I’ve been concentrating on college bookstores lately – something easy to do in Boston.

As I reported in another thread, when I went to the Boston University bookstore (run by Barnes and Noble) I found that THEY ALREADY HAD TWO COPIES ON THE SHELF! (!!!)

“Would you like to sign them?” they asked.

“Sure,” I said, off in some realm of beatific unreality.

Then they stuck those “Signed by Author” stickers and ordered eight more copies. And asked if I’d like to come and do a reading.

Usually, though, go “cold calling” and am met by a “What is THIS?” resoponse. They take my business card and say they’ll pass it on to the buyer.

It’s probably worth it, though. I’ve made contacts this way, and have placed the book in a lot of stores it otherwise wouldn’t have seen.

Last night my friend from NJ called. He just received his copy, which I think he ordered via Amazon.

Oxford is compiling a list of places t send review copies, and I have to give them my suggestions soon. I’ve got some names at key places, so with luck my book won’t end up on the “random” pile.

aside from that I keep checking on my listing at Amazon and other places. It hasn’t changed in weeks, so Harry Potter has nothing to worry about. If you type in “Medusa” at Amazon, though, my book is one of the three lised at the top. And if I type “Medusa Gorgon” on Yahoo my book pages come up on the first two pages of listings. So I’m having SOME impact.

I find that I will find almost any excuse to mention the book to complete strangers. I’ve been handing out cards in elevators and bookstores. Do you find yurself doing this? Am I being hopelessly obnoxious? Will I begin handing out cards at Menage a Trois?

Forgive me, Eve – I wasn’t thinking. I forgot to ask:

How is your book doing? And your other books? It’s been a while since you’ve given us an update.

I want to bump this up so Eve (who only surfs at work) has a chance of seeing it.

I finally got my copy yesterday and haven’t had a chance to start it yet. (Well, I did read the acknowledgements.)

Cal, I agree with you on the dust cover art. I like the one on the website much better. Also, your book-cover bio is MUCH more impressive there too.

Still, if you remove the dust cover, it has got to be the coolest looking book (that will go) on my shelf. Solid black…Wilk Medusa Oxford…simple and striking.

I’ll keep you updated on my reading.


Eve!Eve! Look over here before I go under!

Did I arrive in time? Has Cal drowned?

Hey, Cal—I’ll write you a good review in Amazon if you write one for me! Book-signings are fun; when my first book came out, I went into all the NY bookstores (that was in 1991, when NY still HAD bookstores) and offered to sign. Gotham was the only one who checked to see if I was really the author! I could have walked into the others and said, “Hi, I’m Jane Austen, and I’d like to sign my new book, ‘Pride and Prejudice,’” and they’d have set me up at a table.

Glad your book seems to be doing well; mine came out in May, so I think my fifteen minutes are up—I’ve probably gotten all the reivews I’m going to, and the bookstores that are going to stock it already have. Now most of my sales will be online, I guess.

It’s doing OK for a university press book—the publisher says “it’s one of our best sellers,” but that’s akin to being called “the most intelligent of Charlie’s Angels.”


Don’t know if my book is doing well. All I know is that it’s on order at a couple of bookstores, my friend in NJ and Sue Duhnym have their copies via the internet, BU bookstore has two in stock, oh, and this just in, my place on has been bumped to 562,568 – its highest ever.I gotta call Oxford and find out how I’m really doing.
I’d be glad to trade good reviews with you. I just gotta find a copy of yours first and read it, in case there’s a quiz.

I have a question-- We’ve had a professional Author coming in to our business to revamp our catalog, and we’ve been trading stories. He’s been in this business for over thirty years, and claims that he is “one of only 300 people making a living only by writing in this country.”

“That can’t be right,” said Mrs. Cal when I told her. “Look at all the freelancers and magazine writers and newspaper writers.”

Maybe he meant authors who only write books. But even then the number sounds low. I doubt if Stephen King or Clive Cussler or Dean R. Koontz have any other sources of income, and I’m sure I can come up with a list of authors that’s pretty lengthy. 300 still sounds low.

Have you ever heard this before? Do you know where this number came from? Are you one of the select 300? Was I really smart not to quit my Day Job?

Cal - forgive me if I missed an earlier thread, but what is the name of your book? And is CalMeacham the name it was written under?


Always happy to talk to people about my book. Publishing a book is as bad as having kids.

The book is “Medusa: Solving the Mystery of the Gorgon”, and it’s published by Oxford University Presws. The official OUP site is at I’ve set up my own site at


Cal, I can only speak for biographers, and I don’t know ANY who don’t have a day job. Most of us are in the media—newspapers, magazines, television, and those are our “pay-the-rent” jobs.

Even the big-time biographers, the ones who are published by Knopf, Doubleday, HarperCollins, don’t make a living at it. It takes years to write a bio, and it’s probably the most expensive kind of book to write (the author, not the publisher, pays for photo publication rights!).

So I can’t speak for novelists or those “Hot Chocolate for the Cat’s Soul” authors, but I can’t think of a single biographer who makes a living at it.


Ummmm. I paid for my photo and other rights. Well, it came out of the advance they gave me (Heck, it went past the advance – I paid some out of my pocket).

I now knw why there are so few “profusely illustrated” books out there.
Side question – since you’ve done so many hollywood pieces – do you find that the studios charge really hefty rates? I wanted to put stills from “Clash of the Titans” in Medusa (I’m a pushover for Harryhausen), but there’s no way I could afford it.

You got an “advance?” From a university press? You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din . . .
For movie stills, never go to a studio; there are a dozen or so stock-photo agencies which provide film stills, portraits, etc. I try to have at least 70 photos in my books, so I wind up spending a fortune (each photo costs anywhere from $35 to $300 in photo publication rights, depending on the stock house). Photos used on covers cost more, of course, as do full-page ones vs. quarter-page.

My first book was a learning experience; that SOB Ted Turner screwed me out of $2000. The studio said they’d sue me if I used any Jean Harlow photos without paying them—they didn’t have a legal leg to stand on, but they could’ve dragged me through court for years.

Cal, I’ve heard anecdotally that only about ten percent of the people on the shelves in a bookstore do it professionally, but I obviously don’t have any cites for that. That would make it well over 300 people nationally. What I do have is acquaintance with probably ten or twelve people who do make a living at it. Since I’m in Denver (as are all of them), I can’t imagine that there are only 290 other people in the country who make it their full time gig.


My sympathies on the Ted Turner thing.

God, I’m glad Medusa can’t sue!

Necros – thanks for the info.

Eve – I think they sprang for the advance becase otherwise there wouldn’t be ANY pictures. And the pix make a big difference. Museums charge similar rates to the film services you used, evidently. Most of my costs were around $35, but a few went higher.It adds up.