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May 6th, 2022

I know, I know, I know. I’m fully aware that I’ve been remiss in my blog duties as of late, but time seems to get away from me on a daily basis. There’s still so much to do with “How Far?” and there are other responsibilities as well. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it. Here I am today, on May 6. I got that going for me!

So much has happened in the last couple of weeks. It’s been pretty incredible, and at times pretty tiring, but all well worth it.

Let us begin…  A number of weeks back I made contact with a gentleman up in Roseau, Minn. His name is Jeff Olsen, but everyone calls him “Bro.” Seriously. Before we talked, and I only knew his name, I figured anyone called “Bro” must be young hip dude. Turns out Bro is older than me.

He’s a longtime columnist and writer for the Roseau Times newspaper. We just chatted in general the first time on the phone and the conversation wandered from subject to subject so much I was afraid he’d forgotten why we were talking at all. It was supposed to be my pitch to him to write about “How Far?” and what a key role the town of Roseau played in the book. But then I realized, “We’ll get there, but right now we’re having a riot talking about things we have in common and we’re making each other laugh. Go with the flow…”

The baseball connection was important to him, and it had been a surprise. To that end, the story he thought he’d be writing (basically just a review of the book) became more about me and my family for many opening paragraphs, and then it shifted into his feelings about the book. Spoiler: He loved it.

Page 1 on the Roseau Times website.

We scheduled a couple of interviews for a few weeks later, and I made sure I got him a copy of the book so he’d know what he was in for. We talked at length, and then reconnected a few times so he could confirm the notes he’d taken. Two weeks later his story ran in the paper and on the paper’s website. It starts on Page 1 of the issue, then jumps to much of Page 3. It’s probably the longest and most detailed story I’ve ever had done about me or my work. And it’s fantastic.

Yes, it’s about impossible to read here on the blog, since we can’t enlarge, so there was no real valid reason to post the Page 3 text. You can see them both and enlarge them by finding my recent post about this subject on my Facebook page. Also available on my Facebook “Bob Wilber’s Books” page.

Here’s what I learned once the story ran and the paper landed on everyone’s doorstep or driveway in Roseau (I am assuming they have home delivery.)  Roseau is a small remote community at the top of the state of Minnesota. Everyone knows everyone else. I once wrote a blog about my first visit there and emailed one person in Roseau about that blog. Two days later, I had the most blog hits I’ve ever had and second place is not even close. The word spread around town so fast it must have looked like a verbal wildfire.

The same thing happened when the story came out in the paper. I check my sales ranking on Amazon far too regularly. It’s a habit. And then the paper came out and the ranking started a hot streak that looked like the front of a gas pump as gallon after gallon flowed through the hose.

The size of the town makes word-of-mouth very effective. The pride they have in their community makes them gravitate to anything that paints their beloved town in a positive light, which I did quite sincerely. And the fact the local paper is a weekly publication means that a lot of copies sit on the living room coffee table or the kitchen counter for days, not hours. It all adds up to people buying the book.

My meager royalties per copy aren’t the reason I love seeing sales. No, seriously. You probably wouldn’t believe what I make per copy, after the publisher and Amazon take their cuts. It’s basically a pittance, but that’s not why I wrote it.

Sales mean a few bucks to me per book, but more importantly they mean people are interested, they’re reading it, and hopefully they like it and take something away from it when they’re done. There’s a lot of balls, strikes, road trips, checks into the boards, slap shots, and endless hours of training in the book. But to me the important things are the life lessons, the drama, and the emotions.

As for those rankings on Amazon, they are my daily conduit for generally seeing how the book is doing. I don’t see actual sales numbers on Amazon. I just see where “How Far?” ranks in its category (historical fiction) and within the overall Amazon catalogue. There are about 2.8 MILLION books on Amazon. If my book is in the top 250,000, that’s pretty astonishing. Right after it came out, we were even in the top 100,000.

With the big surge from Roseau, thanks to Bro and the Times, we shot back up to just about where we were in the first week. I was astonished, but very pleased.

As for real sales numbers and royalties, it goes like this. I only get a royalty when Outskirts Press sells books wholesale, to retailers like Amazon, or on a “print on demand” basis for individual buyers who go direct to the publisher. That’s the only source of income other than Kindle sales, and Amazon pays me directly for those. Yep, I make more than twice as much per “copy” for each Kindle sale as I do for printed books. That’s just how it works.

I could’ve made more on the print versions if I wanted to, but keeping the book at $29.95 was very important to me. We could’ve picked $34.95, or $39.95, or any other number, but I was adamant that the price started with a 2. I wanted it to be affordable. Since I get a percentage of what’s left over after the other cuts are taken, the low price makes for a low royalties.

Do I wish it was more? Sure. Who wouldn’t? But that’s not why I wrote it. I watch the sales ranking because it gives me a general indicator as to how many eyeballs are on my work. I want it to mean something for the reader. I want it to be absorbed and enjoyed. That’s why I wrote it. That’s why I write!

For the pure unadulterated sales figures, I get those numbers from Outskirts based on how many copies they have sold to individuals and retailers. When do I see those numbers? About 90 days after they are compiled. One must be patient to get that feedback.

As a side note, I posted an update on LinkedIn today, about a question I’m hearing more often than I ever thought to be feasibly possible. That question is: “Will your book become a movie? It reads like one, and I see the characters like actors in a film.”

While I’m honored to hear people say that sort of stuff, I’ve never even pondered that much more than a fleeting thought. But now I’m hearing it so much I can’t help but wonder.

I’m almost certain it won’t ever be a full-length feature film. At 545 pages it would have to be edited and chopped to smithereens to get it in under two hours. I just don’t see that happening.

But… Could it be something like an 8-episode miniseries on a streaming service, or Netflix, or some platform like that? For the first time, I’m beginning the think it could. The longer format would allow many more key details to be included and it would give the characters time to grow. For the longest time (as in at least the last two years) I scoffed at this thought. It was as much me seeing it as a pipe dream as it was me thinking “I’m not worthy.”

But I can see it now. I don’t know if there’s even a 1% chance of it happening, but I can at least imagine it. There are so many hoops to jump through to make it happen, I can’t fathom it. I’d need to enlist a screenwriter, because that is a very specialized skill which I have never even attempted. Then it needs to be pitched to producers. If in the 1-in-a-million chance a studio liked it, then the trimming, cutting, and editing begins to make it appear on the screen. All of that would have to happen before a single scene is shot.

Seems awfully daunting. But so did writing a book like “How Far?” in two different guys’ voices. You never know. Maybe we’ll get lucky, because that’s clearly a component in making it happen. Someone will read it, and one of those someones might know a guy, who knows a woman, who works with screenwriters, and the whole thing could get rolling. I’m not counting on it. I’d be stunned if it ever materialized, but stranger things have been happened.

On a different subject, Barbara’s sister Kitty came up from Florida last week to help celebrate Barb’s birthday. We ate well, we laughed without constraint, and we all loved every minute of it.

And if you guys out there want to know how lucky I am to be married to Barbara Doyle, when I asked what she wanted to do for her birthday she said “Are the Twins playing?”

A little chilly, but our seats were fantastic.

They were. It was day game on her birthday so I bought some “Dugout Club” seats for the three of us. Barbara and I love those seats because they are so close to the action you can hear the players taking and shouting. For me, being down that close always turns on one light bulb over my head. From higher up, in such a huge and beautiful stadium, it seems like a different game than the one I played. More immense, I guess. Sitting down there, it slaps me upside the head that such a feeling is dead wrong. Down there I can see it. It’s the same game. It’s the same 90-feet between bases. It’s the same 60-feet 6-inches from the mound to the plate. They’re just ballplayers. Among the best in the world, but when I’m that close I feel like I could be out there. It’s the same game, taken very seriously. I love it.

It was a bit of a raw blustery day, but we dressed for it and the Dugout Box seats come complete with a small private concession and restroom area. It’s a great way to watch a game.

I know it looks like the crowd is really sparse in the photo, but the attendance was about 19,000 and at any given time at least 2/3 of the crowd was watching from up on the main concourse, where radiant heaters keep you toasty warm while you wolf down that brat or hot dog. We had a GREAT time.

The next day, it was time to go on an excursion, all the way across the Twin Cities to the suburb of Chanhassen, 33 miles away. We were going to a museum, and not just any museum. We were headed to Paisley Park. I assume most of you know what Paisley Park is, but for those of you who don’t it’s the former home, studio, and performance venue owned and built by Prince, who was a Minneapolis native. It’s incredible.

OK, even though I’m a writer I really can’t come up with the words to adequately describe it. The family clearly hired a curator of the highest quality, and the staff takes care of the place as if Prince was still alive and they didn’t want to let him down.

They don’t allow pics until the final stop on the guided tour, in the soundstage where movies have been shot and impromptu concerts used to happen. I took a few but that area is so huge it was tough to get a photo with any sense of scale. Plus, they keep it very dark.

At Paisley Park, about to get our minds blown.

It was not uncommon for Prince to play a 3-hour show at Target Center, and then announce that he and the band were heading across the street to First Avenue to keep playing, well into the morning hours. It was also not out of the question for Prince to say, “Thanks for coming. We’re going to head down to Paisley Park and keep playing. Come along if you want.”

We did get to tour Studio A, in both the stunning control room and the “live” recording room. You could feel the man in the room with us.

It was an amazing experience. It seemed like each new room we entered we had our breath taken away again. And again. And again.

It was also horribly sad. I kept thinking “This would always become a museum, but it’s too early. He should still be in that chair behind the gigantic mixing console, making more musical magic.”

He made magic. When the tour starts you watch a retrospective of his life, starting out as a child prodigy, and growing into a legend who went places other artists couldn’t even imagine. I’m so glad we went.

And finally today, I have another new job to take care of. My buddies on the Sauget Wizards have long been saying or texting “We need to have a reunion.” We all kept saying it, but nothing was happening. So something is happening now. And I’m quarterbacking it.

On August 20, we will have our long awaited reunion in Sauget, at a Gateway Grizzlies ballgame. We were a semipro team made up of ex-pros and ex-college players competing seriously, and with great pride, for as many as 70 games in four months each summer. We played in a modest ballpark not far from downtown St. Louis, but it was our park. Built for us. And the playing surface and lights were as good as any in the St. Louis area.

The Grizzlies are an independent minor league pro team, playing in a real stadium. They’ve taken Sauget baseball to an all new level, but we did our part as well. We won championships, we won tournaments, and we beat the USA National team at their own home stadium. More than that, we loved each other and loved the game. We played hard. We were focused. We worked out over the winter. We knew the fundamentals and abided by them. It was the most fun I ever had playing the game I love. It was pure joy to be a Wizard. These guys are my brothers.

There were many eras of Wizards baseball. A few of us cross over all the eras, but a lot of guys played early or played late in the time line and don’t even know the guys who came before or after. On top of that, we don’t all look like we’re in our 20s an 30s anymore. I’m thinking we may need name tags!

I’m busy contacting guys, and networking to find guys I couldn’t find on my own. Hopefully we’ll have a good turnout with guys from many different years. We’re getting a private area at the Grizzlies game and it will be all-inclusive. All you and eat and drink. And all the stories you can tell.

But more than anything else, it will fun, and full of love and memories. Can’t wait.

So this was a pretty good one. Maybe worth the wait. I hope so. If you know a screenwriter, let me know. Why not? Worth a shot, I guess.

As always, it’s important to me if you hit the “Like” button at the bottom if you think this blog installment has been worth your time. Thanks for your patience and for bearing with me.

See you again soon!