Kevin Daum got his first tattoo for a celebration — his wedding anniversary.
The second marks an aspiration: The 45-year-old former mortgage broker wants to be a best-selling author.
So, last fall, Daum went to Gasoline Alley Tattoo in Wallingford and had " New York Times Best Seller" inked into the flesh of his upper right breast — backward, so he could read it in the bathroom mirror.
"I wear it proudly," he said recently at the almost empty house he owns in Clinton, on the landward side of a shoreline road.
Daum and his wife, Deanna, were clearing out to make way for renters. They can't afford the place anymore.
"I was wiped out in the financial crisis," he said.
Daum, who is trying to reinvent himself as a marketing consultant, has published books previously, including, in 2005, "Building Your Own Home for Dummies." That book (written with others) has sold more than 50,000 copies to date, he said. But it's not a best-seller.
Landing his latest book — "Roar! Get Heard in The Sales and Marketing Jungle: A Business Fable" — onto one of the Times' lists is part of his strategy for cultivating status in his new field.
"There's nothing else that allows me to walk in the door and say to my constituencies, 'I'm one of the best marketers in the world,'" he said.
Besides serving as a gimmick, the tattoo serves as a constant goad to the work of promotion, which his publisher, John Wiley & Sons, is leaving mainly to him and his co-author, Daniel A. Turner.
Whenever Daum takes his shirt off, he said, he asks, "Have I done everything I possibly can do?"
The odds are long, to say the least. Shelves-full of business books are published annually, and Daum cannot claim the literary skill of Michael Lewis, the journalistic chops of Andrew Ross Sorkin or the guru status of Peter Drucker.
Daum boasts that he and Turner wrote "Roar!," in parable form, in nine days.
Esther Newberg, a literary agent with International Creative Management in New York who has represented Times columnist Thomas Friedman and other best-selling writers, said that Daum might have chosen a different approach, especially for an advice book.
"You have the credibility in business, then you come and do books," said Newberg, who is originally from Middletown.
But even A-list literary agents can't claim to know what will make one of the Times' lists (there are at least 11, some published online only), in part because the paper does not disclose all details about its ranking system.
"It's like the Coca-Cola recipe," said David Black, a New York agent who has represented multiple-best-seller Mitch Albom.
The Times says its rankings, statistically weighted, reflect sales at about 4,000 bookstores, plus wholesalers serving other types of book retailers. The Times does not say how many books must be sold to make a given list.
"Some books sell 500,000 and they're on the best-seller list and some sell 30,000 and get on it," said Lindy Hess, director of the Columbia Publishing Course at Columbia University.
Many factors influence sales, including the book's quality, the author's reputation, celebrity endorsements, publicity and placement within bookstores.
"The most important single thing you can have is being in the front of a bookstore of the major chains," said Newberg.
Daum is not likely to see "Roar!" up front at Barnes & Noble — publishers typically pay big bucks for that, Newberg said. John Wiley & Sons is not doing that for "Roar!"
But Daum, who resettled on the East Coast from California in 2006, only has reasons to dream big and try everything.
In 2008, the brokerage he founded in 1989 folded amid the housing market collapse. He once employed 25 people.
Since then, money has become a serious problem. Deanna Daum recently filed for bankruptcy, Daum said, and he is preparing to file separately. The couple is renting out the Clinton house, an investment property in Norwich and a New York apartment, all acquired during better times. The couple now lives in a one-bedroom, one-bath rental in New York.
"We've had to start life over again," Daum said. "I don't want to be a poseur. I'm not going to go out and tell people I'm nothing but a success."
But he wants to be a success. So he works long hours promoting his book — blogging, using Twitter and Facebook, e-mailing, telephoning, talking it up.
When he gets undressed, there's the tattoo, in greenish, Gothic type.
If nothing else, the tattoo allows him to claim that he practices what he preaches to his few consulting clients, among them a Montessori school management firm in Michigan: "What's going to make me memorable?"
Hess agreed that the tattoo might win Daum notice —"for being some kind of nut," she said. "I don't think it helps sell the book."
Daum has decided to take his chances. And he's hedged his bet: "Notice this tattoo doesn't say 'Roar!'"Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun