Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A note on Clowns: A Panoramic History

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Finally I get to answer all those questions I've been getting for over 30 years!

If Clowns was published back in 1976, aren't you like 100 years old by now??
I was young then, now I'm 60 (but I still do triathlons).

Why isn't it still in print?

Because my publisher, Hawthorn Books, got bought by Dutton who got swallowed up by Elsevier and, back in those pre-Amazon days, a global conglomerate like Elsevier had no reason to keep a niche book in print if bookstores were no longer stocking it. Counting the hardcover and the paperback, it sold nearly 20,000 copies (no, I didn't get rich), but at a certain point the Law of Diminishing Returns kicks in.

Can you sell me a copy?
Nope. I only have three hardcovers and one paperback to my name, and they're all falling apart, which is kind of strange since it's not my favorite reading material. When I prepared chapter five for this blog (see previous post), it was the first time I'd read it since I wrote it.

Couldn't you have gotten it reprinted by some university press or small publishing house?
Maybe, but no one ever made me an offer I couldn't refuse, and I never had the time to pursue it. Life gets busy, life gets complicated, you develop other interests, you have other matters you have to deal with. Furthermore, I would have wanted to improve it rather than just do a straight reprint, and that meant work I didn't have time for.

What kind of improvements?
First, correcting mistakes. Yes, I wrote the book under a deadline in little more than a year's time, so there's stuff to fix. Furthermore, there are sections I would expand upon, and of course plenty has happened in the clown world since 1975.

So why are you suddenly doing this blog?
Because I'm entering a full-year sabbatical from my teaching job at Bloomfield College. Because I did a lot of work toward a physical comedy book that I never had time to finish. Because I'm still a big fan.

Will we see more chapters from the Clowns book?
Well... no promises, but the plan is to put them all online as pdfs, suitable for printing. It is a lot of work: proofreading the OCR text, scanning pictures, redoing the layout, fixing mistakes. I also want to offer supplemental material on each chapter; I have a ton. For example, there was a 100-page appendix to the book — all sorts of scripts and related documents — that got as far as galley proof stage but then never got printed because Hawthorn realized it would just cost them $ without boosting sales.

And then will you reprint the book?
Ideally, yes, but again no promises. It's more likely to happen if the blog process helps me improve the product, which is why I welcome your corrections, comments, and suggestions.

And since this is a blog and I'm supposed to provide a lot of visual elements so you don't get bored by too much reading (God forbid!), here's a pic of what the original Clowns wraparound cover looked like before they opted for the Otto Griebling cover you see above.

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