If I can’t sell Cloverine Salve, how can I sell books?


WHEN I WAS YOUNG – and I mean young – I was smitten with nightmares.

Bitter nightmares.

Harsh nightmares.

Cold sweat nightmares.

I had heard evangelists preach heaven and hell.

That didn’t disturb me.

They ranted on about fire and brimstone in the bottomless pits of hades.

Didn’t bother me at all.

But I was deathly afraid of one thing.

I didn’t want to grow up and be a salesman.

I had been one once upon a time.

Didn’t like.

Wasn’t cut out of the job.

Feared the thought of asking one more person to buy whatever it was that I happened to be selling.

There ‘s that feeling again.

I still get it.

Cold sweats.

I had gone door to door selling Grit.

I wasn’t for sure exactly what it was, but I sold it.

It looked like a newspaper.

It read like a magazine.

Cost a dime.

And if I sold some, I kept a little of the money. Don’t remember how much, but it was enough to keep me in baseball cards.

So on Saturdays, my mother would drive me out to the East Texas oilfield camps, park the car back under the trees, and wait for me while I went door to door selling Grit.

Some bought.

Some didn’t.

Some had pity on me.

Others didn’t care.

“Why does your mother always park back under the trees?” my friend asked me.

I knew.

But I didn’t tell.

She didn’t want anybody to know she was living in the same house with a salesman.


Later on, I moved up to higher stakes and went door to door selling Cloverine Salve, dutifully explaining that it was one of the world’s great miracle cures for the soothing relief of burns, scalding, chapped lips, rough skin, chafing, and windburn.

Throughout Texas, at the time, those were pretty well recognized as the seven deadly afflictions facing farmers and oilfield workers.

Those were my clients.

If you weren’t a farmer or an oilfield worker you didn’t live anywhere down the same oil road we traveled.

The salve came in a green tin that looks like it could have held Skoal or some other concoction between your cheek and gum Buy one for a quarter, and you would walk away with a genuine full-color lithograph, painted by the Old Masters or at least somebody north of Highway 80 and suitable for framing.

Best deal on the block and I had it.

Sell enough and the boys back at Cloverine would pay me in hard cash money or let me earn such premiums as a Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun, a wristwatch, when only the rich wore wrist watches, a blue and silver-streaked Schwinn bicycle, or a Shetland pony.

One newsboy won six of them.

Shetland ponies.


I was shooting for the Red Ryder BB Gun.

I wound up with a closet full of Cloverine salve and enough genuine full-color lithographs to wallpaper a good-sized room.


I didn’t want to be a salesman.

I wanted to be a writer.

So what did I become?

A salesman.

Sure, I write books.

Sure, I write blogs.

Mostly I try to figure out ways to sell the books: Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, ads on Websites, ads, on blogs.

It’s like selling Cloverine Salve or Grit door to door.

Keep knocking, they say.

Don’t stop.

Keep knocking.

Sometimes I think the worse.

Nobody’s home.

So I’ve put my books on Amazon.

You can’t miss them.

They are sitting right there on the same site shelf with the Cloverine Salve.

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