“Beware of the naked man who offers you his shirt.” — Navjot Singh Sidhu

Well, it’s that time of summer when most of you are at the beach on your blankets, curled up under your sun umbrellas reading this summer’s hot books, hopefully by Maine writers, like mystery writers Maureen Milliken, editor for these papers (“Cold Hard News”) and Gerry Boyle (“Once Burned”). These are “real” writers of course. They use plot lines, clever hooks and skill to draw you in. My book, on the other hand, only requires of you to be able to read.

It seems that fame and riches are overtaking many of my writing colleagues, whilst I, as usual, find myself still waiting for my book (“Will Write For Food”) to be published this fall by the prestigious North Country Press.

In the meantime, I, like most freelance writers, need to eat. This morning it came to me.

I am assured by my publisher and friends that once my book hits the stores and stands, instant fame and adulation will befall me. This is a warm feeling and of course, being emotionally 9 years old, I am excited and can’t wait.

But the book business is a fickle one. Once the flurry of excitement is over, the many literary awards are awarded, and the flashes of the cameras fade, one has to keep the cash flowing.

Then it came to me.

I have 45 shirts. Forty-five. They hang in several closets sprinkled throughout the house. They consist of solid and striped dress shirts meant to be worn with smart ties and suits or jackets, and check and striped short-sleeved numbers. Forty-five. That’s right. Over the years, I’ve collected them through gifts and just stupid, bored shopping.

If I see a new shirt with some unique touch, I tell she, who has money, that I’d like it for Christmas. If I bought cars the same way, I would out-car Jay Leno. So last year, I stopped. I went into private therapy, and I no longer buy shirts. I buy hoodies now.

So how do I make this book marketing idea work for me monetarily? Eureka. Once my book roars into the public space, I crisscross the Pine Tree State, giving book readings and signing books, shaking hands, hugging well-wishers and the ever-growing mob of fans. I am convinced that I will become what’s known in the book business as a “commodity,” one who needs to be grasped, embraced and as my agent has suggested, “milked for everything it’s worth.”

That’s where my shirts come in. I plan to sell every one of them, literally right off my back. I’m wearing one now that will be on the market. It’s a Ralph Lauren cranberry colored linen. That one will be snapped up right off. It’s so hot I may auction it.

But I can’t just hang them out on a rack and hope men will come up the driveway and snap them up. This is where the milking thing comes in, what “Gypsy’s” Mama Rose called “The Gimmick.”

I will take out a pre-sale ad that reads, “J.P. Devine, local best-selling author of that hilarious collection of hilarious short stories and columns, ‘Will Write For Food,’ published by North Country Press and sold in bookstores throughout Maine and online, is offering his dazzling collection of shirts, sport and dress, for sale.”

Why, many will ask, would anyone want an old shirt, Devine’s or anyone else’s?

First of all, they are not “old.” Most have only been wore once, and to fancy dress occasions, fundraisers where the very best people commented on the fabric.

But here is the kicker. I will be sitting at a table “shirt-side” with a marker and personally autograph each on the underside shirt tail.

One might read,for example: “Best wishes to Earl, J.P.Devine.” Voila! an instant collectible.

I haven’t determined the prices yet, most will go for as low as 10 bucks a piece, because this isn’t about money; it’s about contributing to posterity.

The next 10 years is where the action in collectibles will be. Don’t you want a piece of that? You know you do.

Stay tuned.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.


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