Defacing Books For Fun and Profit

Defacing Books For Fun and Profit

Author Jim HInckley signing books after leading a neon nights walking tour in Kingman, Arizona. Photo Anita Shaw

With two simple tweets author and librarian Chelsea Banning summed up the life of anyone crazy enough to try and make a living as a writer. “I have my first author signing at a local bookstore today!” Then later that evening she lamented to fans. “Only 2 people came to my author signing yesterday, so I was pretty bummed about it. Especially as 37 people responded “going” to the event. Kind of upset, honestly, and a little embarrassed.”

My reaction to a story about her experience and how those tweets went viral was a bit inappropriate. I smiled. With the exception of the words of encouragement and shared experiences from the likes of author Stephen King, Banning’s story was one that seemed quite familiar.

In The Beginning

After a stint as associate editor at the now defunct Cars & Parts, and nearly a decade of writing feature articles for a variety of small town newspapers as well as prestigious and obscure magazines, I got what seemed to be my first big break.

An editor at Iconografix, a publisher based in Wisconsin, reached out to me and pitched the idea of writing Checker Cab Photo History. It was a small book about an American classic with a fascinating but obscure history.

During an interview with Jay Leno he quipped that he was probably one of the five people that bought a copy. I countered by saying that he was actually one of seven people that actually purchased my book about the Checker company.

I had realistic expectations about that first endeavor. And so I wasn’t susrpised by the anemic sales. I should note that royalties are still paid on this book, sometimes as much as $25 per year.

The Second Chapter

The second book, The Big Book of Car Culture: The Armchair Guide to Automotive Americana, was a wild ride from day one. A conference call with the publisher followed by submission of an outline for a book entitled Bathtubs, Birdcages & Chevrolet was how it began. 

That call had had left the impression that the project had already been given the green light. And then I received a rejection notice. But not just any rejection notice.. It was a barely legible copy of a copy of a copy of a generic rejection letter that was a like a kick right square in the ego.

Then about two weeks later this same publisher contacted a friend of mine in California that had written a book for him several years prior. As it turned out an author had been contracted to write the The Big Book and then dropped the ball after it was included in the company’s fall catalogue. So, the publisher was desperate.

Well, as a short version of a long story, mi amigo said he could not complete the project with such a short deadline unless he had assistance. He specifically requested I be his partner in the endeavor. And that led to the publisher calling me and talking to me like I was his best friend.

With acceptance of the contract the words of a now forgotten author that said pursuit of a career as a writer will give you insight into the mindset of the prostitute came to mind.

School Is Now Open

We beat the nearly impossible deadline and submitted a quality product. Postive reviews from publications such as Road & Track, Hemmings, and Classic American, a British publication, left me with gleeful visions of quitting the day job that supported the writing habit. That dream almost became a reality when I received notifcation that book had been awarded the bronze medal at the International Automotive Media Awards.

Fortunately I was a bit smarter than when I had quit the day job to chase dreams of striking it rich with a dry washer and an old pick up truck, or when I decided that rodeo was a good idea. Sales of the book were anemic. As it turned out years passed before we ever received that first anemic royalty check.

That was just one of many lessons learned with this project. This was also my first opportunity to experience with the type of book signing noted by Chelsea Banning. And this was also my introduction to the interview.

At one book signing the manager said that he preferred that I not deface books until they were sold. At another store that sold books and classic games, I spent the day playing checkers with old men. I showed up at one store and was stunned to see an actual line of people waiting. And then I learned that the manager had quit the week prior, and that no books had been ordered!

Jay Leno and author Jim HInckley during a book signing at Auto Books Aero Books in Burbank, California ©Judy Hinckley

Interviews were another eye opening experience. Once I drove more than 150 miles through a raging snow storm for a television interview. On arrival I was told that the interview had been rescheduled. The producer apologized that no one had let me know, and then gave me a coupon for a 10% discount on breakfast at IHop. I didn’t notice the coupon had expired.

But the absolute high point was landing an interview with Jay Leno in his legendary garage. The shine faded fast on that one. I was informed that the publisher would not be reprinting the book – just four days before my interview.

The Adventure Continues

Well, those nightmares were twenty years ago. But the adventure continues. So do the lessons, the kicks to the ego, the elation, the depression, and swearing that I will never write another book, never attend another book signing and definitely never give another interview.

At the historic railroad depot in my adopted hometown of Kingman, Arizona my statue casts long shadows at sunset. And yet for reasons unkown, my books are nowhere to be found on the crowded shelves at the visitor center.

Recently I was surprised to find that photos of a book signing in Oatman posted on Facebook had garnered thousands of reactions and comments. And then I found that hey had been posted on the page for Walter, a donkey that is the honorary mayor of Oatman with more then 300,000 followers.

The life of a writer is not for the faint of heart. But it is a grand adventure of epic proportions. I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world.










So, What’s Next?

This early view of Cool Springs on Route 66 in western Arizona most likely dates to shortly after its construction in 1925 or 1926. Authors collection.

So, what’s next? Funny that you should ask. This is exactly what I have been asking myself this past few days. If things go as planned (that would be different) I should be busier than a one legged man in a behind kicking contest.

I have set a rather ambitious goal of having the envisioned rolling Route 66 information center as a Route 66 centennial project and Jim Hinckley’s America mobile studio on the road by the time of the Route 66 Fun Run, which is held on the first weekend in May. The first hurdle to overcome is needed funding that will have to come from sponsors as well as through our crowdfunding initiative.

There is little needed to make the ’51 Chevy panel truck a rather dependable local driver. But if it is going to be driven to events such as the Miles of Possibility Conference in Pontiac, Illinois or a book signing at Auto Books Aero Books in Burbank, California there is need for a bumper to bumper work over. And it is the tours that will make it valuable promotional resource for the Route 66 community.

Since its formation in 1994 the Route 66 Association of Kingman Arizona has always been quick to support promotional projects and public arts initiatives. Still, I was humbled and surprised when they announced that the association would contribute $1,000 to the endeavor. That should cover tires and the purchase of a wiring harness.

Over the course of the next week I will complete a full evaluation of the truck, and then create a budget. This includes a short Route 66 drive to scrounge parts from the parts truck that was part of the package. And I will get it registered and licensed for the first time in five years, and take care of insurance.

The 1952 Chevy parts truck that will be used to create the rolling Route 66 information enter. ©Jim Hinckley’s America

I recently finished an article for Route about the Dunton family that has had a business association with Route 66 in western Arizona since at least 1926. N.R. Dunton, the family patriarch, had a garage and towing service in Goldroad, built Cool Springs, and purchased Taylor Owens Ford in Kingman shortly after WWII. It should be published in February, which is in time for the Route 66 Byways Conference in Needles, California.

Several days before Christmas an article about Route 66 neon signage was finished and sent to the editor of Crankshafta new automotive publication. As I have worked with Richard Lentinello in the past during his tenure at Hemmings, I have hopes that this will become a regular gig.

I put the downtime of the past eighteen months to good use. The first of the two books written is scheduled for release next month. So, promotion and book signings will be added to the schedule pending more curve balls such as those that we have been dealing with since March 2020.

A new season of community education programs developed for Mohave Community College kicks off in January. I initially created the classes to foster a greater awareness about area history, Route 66 and how both can contribute to tourism related economic growth.

The college had initially planned for the tourism department to put the classes to use in educating the areas service industry personnel. When that didn’t happen Lori Gunnette, the ambitious Corporate and Community Education Coordinator got creative. And I began meeting with the owners of companies such as Laughlin Tours. So, I am quite confident that we will be making a positive contribution this spring.

A mock up of the envisioned rolling Route 66 information center and mobile studio.

Of course the big project is work on the self guided, narrated historic district walking tours. This ambitious endeavor being spearheaded by Kingman Main Street could be used as a template for development of similar projects in other communities. That enhances its value.

I have always had an issue with the development of long term strategies but since at least March 2020 things are subject to change at less than a moments notice. And that is just a bit maddening. Still, the first quarter of 2022 is shaping up to be busy, productive, and possibly profitable.



Have I Got A Deal (Or Two) For You!

Have I Got A Deal (Or Two) For You!

Great pie, dinners shared with friends, almost 5,000 miles

through a dozen states, gum beating for fun and profit, memory making events shared with my dearest friend, networking and educational opportunities, Facebook live programs from the road, and a couple of book signings will dominate the schedule for the rest of this month. It all begins today, October 7, with the last Chillin on Beale for 2017 in Kingman, Arizona. This will be a big blow out event; Craig Parish’s Route 66 Motor Tour will be in town to join the festivities, the Octoberfest is going on at the west end of Beale Street, the Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation raffle for a replica 1904 to benefit the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum takes place this evening, and artist Gregg Arnold and I will be hosting a Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook live program from the event.  (more…)