February 26, 1932
My dear Bert Salg:
Salg, you certainly are a genius! You get the same kind of humor into your drawings that I try to get into my books; and probably like me there are time, when you are creating this stuff, that your face is a mile long. It’s a fact, I write much stuff, that is intended to be funny, that doesn’t even give me a chuckle; it’s all handled mechanically—I know a certain composition of action is funny (from the viewpoint of my young readers) so I simply strive to recreate such a situation for the job that I’m working on. Now and then something will come to me that caused me to laugh outright; and I know then I’ve got something AWFULLY funny. Your bookplate drawing came in the evening; and we all think it’s GREAT. And when I say “We” I mean Mrs. Lee, Beanie and myself. I don’t know why I should send it back for changes; it looks to be 100% to me. And just as soon as I get on my fee, and the bookplates (that I hope to sell) have paid for the plates, etc., I’m going to send you some more money for this fine drawing. I know you’d do it for me for nothing; and you know I’d do the same for you. Yet I feel that you can use all the money you get hold of; and I want to be just as much of a friend to you as I possibly can. And now some “gossip.”
You know how things were at the beginning of the year; Grosset cut off my advances (I was so far behind) and I got sore and said I wouldn’t do any work for them this year; they shoved the fan mail back on me and really weren’t a bit nice. I was good and sore. And then something happened! A big advertising company with offices in Kansas City, Rock Island (Ill.), Chicago and New York, wrote to Grosset, asking permission to put Jerry Todd on the air in Kansas City. Grosset thought it was just a minor proposition; they told the advertisers to go ahead, but first to write to me to get my permission. That was in January, as I recall. Laura Harris wrote to me, I too thought it was a piker matter, and I told Laura they could put one book on the air, but they need’t ask me to do any writing for them, as I was tired of writing for nothing. A lad out in Kansas City, who is crazy over my books, suggested to the president of WHB (and this same fellow—he’s a whiz, Salg—is also president of the mentioned advertising company) that Jerry Todd would be good stuff for short playlets. The president read Whispering Mummy; liked it; and then wrote to Grosset, as I say. Well, Laura sent the president other books, Goldfish cards, etc., and then the executive wanted me to sign a contract giving him the exclusive right to handle the broadcasting of my books in this country. That was a big proposition—yet I still didn’t realize how big it was. I told him he’d have to take the matter up with Grosset. He made a trip to New York, spent many hours with Laura and Mr. Reed; got them all enthused, and then he wired me to meet him in Chicago and discuss contract terms; he offered to pay my traveling expenses; and Mr. Reed wired that I should go by all means. Oh, we did a lot of wiring, etc.
Well, I went to Chicago—that was about three weeks ago. I met Mr. Young for the first time; and I sure took a liking to him. He’s a truly big man, and he’s bubbling over with enthusiasm. He asked me to make him a proposition; and I did; and he took it up without a murmur. I had Mr. Reed investigate Young and his dual company—the advertising company and the broadcasting company, and I got nothing but the finest reports. I’m satisfied, Salg, that I’ve signed up with a top-notcher; yes, when the contract came in, I signed up, through not till after Mr. Reed had seen the contract and had instructed me to sign. He gets nothing out of it except the regular returns from the added sale of books. Well, after signing the contract I got busy an wrote three playlets, taken from “Freckled Goldfish,” as the Goldfish Club is to be a big factor in the initial broadcasts—we talked of 5,000 members and now Young is talking of 25,000 in Kansas City alone. Well, I worte three playlets and sent them in; I though they were pretty fair; I found I could write the stuff well; yet I didn’t know what an experienced broadcaster would say about them, and, truthfully, I was a bit uneasy. Well, Salg, I got the report that everybody down in WHB is wild over the playlets, they think jerry Todd is going to be a radio sensation, and when I tell you that I to-day completed a playlet that I think is the funniest thing I ever heard of, you can see how hopeful I am and how enthused. I gave Young a three-year contract; and if we get onto a national hook-up within three years, he’s to get a renewal for three years. As a matter of fact, if he puts me across on the air—and not only has he a radio station in a big center, but one of the biggest and soundest advertising companies in the country—he can handle my stuff as long as he cares to. Radio earning are might big, Salg, though that is something we’ll have to grow into. But within a year I expect to be going big. Now, I know you’ll enjoy every word I’ve written, for Jerry Todd and His Gang (that’s the name of the broadcast) is mighty dear and near to you. And here’s something more. If I do get on the air in a BIG way, we’ll have no trouble at all getting a comic strip in the newspapers; and that’s going to be YOUR good luck. And from now on, if I were you, I’d put in every spare minute I had (you know what I mean) studying other comic strips and developing your own ideas. If we can get into the newspapers it’s going to be big money for both of us; and if I’m to work with anybody on stuff of that kind I way it to be YOU. It’s unfortunate, Salg, that we’re so far apart. I didn’t get a “nibble” on that Mars candy deal—but that doesn’t excite me. The stuff is coming, for both of us. Already the broadcaster has sent my initial plays to the printer to have the stuff set up; they want more, just as fast as I can produce them. I’m to do 40 at $5 each. This is a “proving” broadcast; it’s a gamble, I marked my price down and Young is putting in a lot of time and money. If we make good in Kansas City, and get an advertiser to back us on the air, then is when we begin to make BIG money; and it will all sell more books. My wife says it seems to good to be real. Maybe it will all blow up. But somehow I hav the feeling that it will GO ACROSS. I’ll send you some printed bookplates just as soon as I have some made up.
The same good pal,