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I’ve never known anyone in the book industry who was as loved on both coasts as Bill Chleboun (pronounced clay-bone).
Bill was hired by the Chronicle in 1982 to sell advertising space for the floundering Sunday Book Review section that I had been editing for about six months. His first step was to create an honest regional best seller list, quite a phenomenon at the time. Every Tuesday, Bill called fifteen Bay Area booksellers and asked them what was selling in Fiction, Nonfiction, Hardcover and Paperback categories. On Wednesday, Bill called the publishers whose books were going to appear on the best seller list that Sunday and told them the good news.
Very soon, Bill’s calls to New York were put through to marketing and sales directors immediately. I got to witness Bill’s relationship with publishers every spring when I accompanied Bill on his annual selling trips to NY. By mid-week, the meetings would change in tone after everyone got done smiling and gushing, and someone would turn to Bill and say, “So what have you heard?” This meant what hot new rumor, what secret merger, what hint of a scandal, what news of somebody getting fired, what inklings of an author bolting (leaving one house for another) had we picked up in our dash from one office to the next?
This meant that early one December morning the Chronicle’s book review staff would meet Bill at a loading dock off the premises where we counted out and tied up stacks of the Holiday Book Review in bundles of 100, 200, 300 and upward for various city bookstores to give away at the counter.
I wouldn’t say the first time was a complete disaster except that I had perhaps fantasized how wonderful this hands-on experience would be.
No matter how much things have changed, the book industry is all the better for Bill’s kind of innovative thinking, his curiosity about how things work and his respect for the people who devote their hearts and souls to the process of getting books into the world.
A memorial for Bill will be held on Sunday, April 22, at 519 Golden Gate Avenue in Point Richmond CA 94801.

In its first week of publication, CLEAN FOOD appeared among THE WALL STREET JOURNAL Best-Selling Books, holding the No.
I had long believed that the tastes of Bay Area readers were far more diverse and adventurous than the New York Times best seller list reflected, and here was a way to prove it. Bay Area readers were more adventurous, Bill discovered, when it came to taking a chance on first novelists and unknown nonfiction writers. Everybody loved hearing Bill’s news but more important, his gift for schmoozing kept them on the line. Usually the reason the book editor went to New York with the ad sales rep was to ensure that a meeting would take place at all. Everybody knew that Bill and I had five weekdays to see about 60 people so we hit the ground running on Monday morning and were probably traveling faster than they could call each other on the phone (today it would be texting) with the latest gossip. As corporations bought more and more publishing houses, ad budgets dried up fast, putting The Chronicle Book Review in jeopardy again and again. Internally, however, Bill found the Chronicle distribution system slow to deliver something this out of the ordinary.
While it was true that the Book Review had become a boon for independent bookstores, I thought the Holiday Book Review itself was going to be such a terrific selling tool that when the sales clerks looked up to see my colleague Alix Madrigal and I rushing into the store calling out, “Here it is!
Once we learned how to talk our way into the stores, booksellers everywhere discovered that the Holiday Book Review did help customers choose books. Woman wrote a bestseller called Population 12,360, exposing the secrets of a small town that Packer created. Word of mouth spread more quickly in the Bay Area than in other regions, so new titles stayed on the list longer.

He was fascinated by everything about the book trade, especially the crap shoot factor (why readers buy some books, not others) that kept everybody guessing. With previous ad reps I had found that marketing people would take the meeting only to interest me in reviewing their books, while the ad manager pretended to listen the rep’s pitch for ads. One year Bill sat down with the Book Review staff and created a new kind of Holiday Book Review.
Oh well, too late now.”Organized by decade, this oversized 256-page book features some of the world’s best comedy writers, cartoonists and humorous illustrators – “The Usual Gang of Idiots” – as they have long called themselves. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
In addition, the book includes numbered pages for maximum reader convenience.TOTALLY MAD features a special foreword by long-time MAD fans Stephen Colbert and Eric Drysdale, plus five exclusive essays about MAD’s cultural impact, the origin of Alfred E.
Neuman and the magazine’s history, including its landmark Supreme Court win against Irving Berlin, establishing the right to publish satirical lyrics.As a bonus, the book features a removable set of 12 classic front covers, dubbed “The Soul of MAD” by MAD Founder and Publisher William M. Byatt or Margaret Atwood hit the Chronicle, you could often predict that in two or three weeks it would hit the New York Times’ list. Each print was selected for its uniqueness, artistic achievement and classic timelessness, and is suitable for framing or wrapping fish.
No exceptions will be tolerated!And check out THE NEW YORK TIMES’ full Hardcover Graphic Book Best Seller List, which also includes GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS, VOL.

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