109 Copies and a Publishing Deal

The column I wrote a few weeks ago resulted in a fair amount of reaction from readers of this fine publication. The column, to refresh your memory, stated that I was at work on a book with the working title 101 Things Not To Do In Door County and, in addition to relating the impetus for this book, I included a few excerpts from the working manuscript. Well it wasn’t long after publication that reaction to the column began to arrive in my inbox, at the Pulse office, in personal conversations, and in phone calls.

So, to begin an overview of the responses I received, let me start by reminding you that, at the outset of the column, I opined that I believed I could sell 58 copies of the book to family and friends. Since my column was published I have received verbal or written commitments to purchase the proposed book bringing prospective sales up to 109 copies! While this number is still rather insignificant compared to the press run that will be required to make the books affordable, these commitments were heartening.

Then there were the readers who contacted me with suggestions for additional admonitions to include in my book. In particular, I received a few gems from a friend on Washington Island including these two:

• I am not being a jerk when I say I do not know which beach is closest to the water.

• Your cell phone does not work everywhere in the world. The advertising people lied to you. It is not my fault.

[Note: I am intentionally not including names in order to avoid my faithful readers from becoming targets of letters to the editor. I get paid to write this column and, as a consequence, I answer to the editors of this paper. Thus, I will assume the responsibility but rest assured, if I do publish the book and I decide to include any suggestions from readers, each and every one of you will be properly acknowledged.]

One reader stopped in my store to show me some charming illustrations done by a friend in case Maira Kalman, of New Yorker fame, decides she doesn’t want to illustrate my book.

Of course, the sample that concluded my column, where I suggested that vacationers should leave their dogs at home when they come on vacation, engendered the most comments.

Through my years of writing and publishing I have come to realize that – no matter how carefully I word something – people will read what they want to read or, simply, completely misread what I have written. The dog portion of my column is a perfect case in point: somehow people think my objection is with the dogs and – in the case of extreme misreading – that I hate dogs, when my complaint is actually with dog owners who feel compelled to bring their dogs with them on vacation.

I actually like dogs – a lot. I have owned dogs in the past and, if my lifestyle allowed it, I would probably own a dog now. In my 53 plus years on this planet I have met a lot of dogs, and I have liked almost all of them. Indeed, if you go by percentages, I have liked more dogs than I have liked people. But I work six days a week and am often out of my house from early in the morning until the evening hours, and I will not subject a dog to being left alone that long. So I have a cat, which adores me but really doesn’t care where I am as long as I feed it in the morning and in the evening.

I received two phone calls from hotel owners (in one instance a former hotel owner) who shared stories of their failed experiments in allowing dogs in their establishments. The horror stories they related ranged from dogs left in hotel rooms or cottages while the owners golfed/dined/shopped that barked incessantly, disturbing every other guest, to dogs left behind that savaged the room in their frustration.

And, then there were the written castigations.

In one, it was suggested that dogs are animals that run in packs and that the family that owns the dog becomes the dog’s pack. This line of reasoning comes, presumably, from Cesar Millan, who wrote a popular book on dog training and hosts a cable television program where he does the same thing and says the same thing episode after episode.

Millan helps owners of unruly dog’s get their canine under control by teaching the owners to become the “pack leader” and, in fairness, he achieves some amazing results. The problem occurs when the owner actually starts to believe they are a “pack leader.” What Millan is offering is a training tool, folks. Owners are not the leader of a pack; they are – presumably – human. If you were actually a pack, your dog would take care of getting the food and the owner – as “pack leader” – would get to eat it first, leaving whatever was left for the dog!

Another reader suggested that my dog comment was marginalizing Door County as a vacation destination, arguing that more and more locations were encouraging and/or actively soliciting dog owner’s to come visit. They noted that “some” major hotel chains, including “some” of one particular chain, now allow dogs and that Carmel-by-the Sea is one upscale destination that has launched a campaign to announce they are “dog friendly.” In essence, their argument is that being “dog friendly” is a growing national trend and that, if Door County doesn’t do the same, we will suffer the consequences.

While I acknowledge that many locations – including here in Door County – promote that they are “dog friendly,” I am skeptical that this trend is continuing to grow. Indeed, I believe this trend may have already peaked (see my reference to the two hotelier’s experiences above), but even if I am wrong in this assumption, the reader’s reasoning strikes me as, what I call, the “lemming rationale,” which goes something like this:

Lemming #1: Hey, Frank, why are you just sitting there?

Lemming #2: Oh, I don’t know. Just kinda bored.

Lemming #1: Well, come on, man. There’s a big party going on. A live reggae band, plenty of rum. And I hear Lucy is gonna be there.

Lemming #2: Really. I didn’t hear anything about it. Where is it?

Lemming #1: Just over that cliff. Now get off your furry butt and let’s go. You don’t want Bob dancing with Lucy do ya?

Lemming #2: No way. I’m with ya, buddy!

And finally, on a different note, just a day after my column appeared in print, I received an email from a publisher interested in publishing my book. This publisher offered various generous terms and, now that I know I can sell at least 109 copies, I am considering the offer.

Consider yourself warned, dear readers!