"That is one of the great titles," I volunteer. "Like Cowboys Are My Weakness: Stories, or The French Lieutenant's Woman. And the jacket rocks. The cover is perfect."
"Our big meeting for the cover was...Dan Sinker and I went skating at the Skate Park in Chicago. We were 30 and had to take a break every so often to breathe. He asked what I wanted. I said just the back of my friend Meghan Galbraith's head wearing headphones," and her short hair, a shocking pink. Pirate Signal International executed the idea perfectly, and the most arresting cover was born.
Joe Meno toured 36 cities. Joe Meno read. "I worked my butt off." Hairstyles was reviewed on radio, online, in print. Johnny Temple had appealed to Sessalee Hensley, Barnes and Noble's formidable fiction buyer in New York. She loved the book and its look and played her hunch, picking it for prominent display and promotion in their new-writers sections. The chain sold an amazing 16,000 copies. Two years later they've sold 36,000, and Akashic's sales are more than twice that. A wonderful success even publishing conglomerates would covet.
"Johnny was great," Meno remembers. "It's amazing to see, years later, how successful a book can be without a sales and marketing department. It was an amazing experience. It was like the '80s, when bands like Dead Kennedys and Minor Threat decided to have their own labels, because there was nothing out there anybody wanted to hear. Richard Nash at Soft Skull Press, Sinker at Punk Planet, Johnny Temple at Akashic...they all come from that world of punk music. Johnny and the Minor Threat guys knew each other in high school in D.C."
"These indie publishers," he says, "are putting out strange, edgy books unlike anything the megafirms are doing. They're trying to bring independence and independent judgment to book publishing."
"And Johnny Temple has issued [in paperback] the book you were so mad at Judith Regan about."
"Yes!" Joe Meno exclaims. " Hula Girl lives."