Healthy sex

Having completed a chapter for each decade of a woman’s life, I’m now turning my attention to the chapter dealing with the health issues that can affect sexual desire. Everything from a medication for high blood pressure to the invasive treatments for cancer can impact (read, diminish) a woman’s libido.

I gathered up almost 20 surveys that mentioned health issues and summarized their concerns for Dr. Whelihan. She sent me 1,500 words about those conditions, in relatively general terms. Now I’m phoning the survey takers for more specifics on their problems, and during a future work session, Mo and I will tailor her responses to each woman’s health concern.

I’ve returned to peruse some of the book’s opening chapters (written a year ago), and I’ll eventually edit each one so my voice stays consistent throughout the book. Something I didn’t anticipate on a long project like this is how much your voice and style evolve during the process. To keep each chapter sounding consistent, you have to continually edit.

Instead of creating a separate health chapter, I decided to segue into the subject from one of those early chapters, titled “A Day in the Life of the Doctor.” It introduces Dr. Whelihan through a “visit” to her office, and sets the scene for how she interacts with patients about sex.

One reason for this adjustment is the realization that many books deal with treatments for sexual dysfunction; very few deal with the subtleties of female sexual desire — and so that’s where we want to keep the focus. We don’t need to venture too heavily into sexual healing territory.

Our agent is still busy pitching the book to publishing houses. So far we’ve been rejected four times. I’m not feeling particularly devastated by this. I think the book is tremendously marketable and so does Maureen, so we remain confident. Plus, I was told that “The Help” was rejected 60 times before it found a publisher, which consoles me to no end.

Our rejection letters, which the agent forwards to us, are generally encouraging. However, one letter said our focus was too broad, and that we needed to hone the material down to a more specific age group. I understand the impulse that drives this suggestion, but I respectfully disagree. I think when you’re talking about sexual desire, whatever age group you leave out will have every right to raise their hands and proclaim “What about ME?”

What could I tell them if I excluded them from the study? “Sorry. Didn’t think you mattered.”

One way to address this concern would be to self-publish the book and market each chapter separately as an e-book. If a 20-something woman for instance cared only about her decade, she could pay $2.99 or whatever for that chapter, and not have to purchase the whole book. But then, isn’t she going to want to read the 30s chapter … you know, to check out how sex is going to be in the near future?

And say that reader is in her 60s. After she reads her decade’s chapter, won’t she be curious to read the 20s chapter to see what women her daughter’s age say about sex?

These are the aspects of marketing I ponder. And though I remain convinced people will want to read the entire book, I am very open to the idea of selling chapters individually online. It does make a lovely kind of sense, because it’s an inexpensive option to owning the book. Maybe someone buys their decade, is intrigued, and comes back for the whole book. Who could argue with that?

Meanwhile, Dr. Mo and I are giving the agent additional time to market our book on a more conventional track. I have no idea how many rejections it will take for us to abandon traditional publishing and embrace self publishing. I guess it depends on what future rejection letters say and how we come to feel about the whole process.

Do my readers have thoughts on this? What’s the magic number? How many no’s do you think we should collect before we merrily go our own way?

I’d be interested to hear … as you know, I’m learning as I go!

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3 Responses to “Healthy sex”

  1. Ken Steinhoff Says:

    We’ve kicked this around while we’re tooling down the road on our bikes. I don’t see many teens and 20s buying the book. Teens aren’t reading. 20s are self-absorbed and are living life like it’s always going to be that way.

    The 30s to the 50s, creeping into the 60s are your target audience. That’s the age where you start getting contemplative and wonder what your peers are doing and are curious what might be coming down the pike because you now realize that you ain’t gonna be 20 forever.

    You’re also curious about where you fit in the spectrum. (Hasn’t EVERYBODY done that with their German shepherd?) There’s probably a little prurient interest in what the younger generation is up to. (Holy Cow!!!??? Middle School?)

    So, I don’t have a problem with broad. Just because a chapter is there doesn’t mean you have to read it.

    An alternative approach might be to scramble the chapter order so it doesn’t follow a strict chronological order: lead off with what you think is your strongest age group / or your target demographic, then go in order of interest.

    If the book is half as good as what you’ve described at 13 mph, it’s gonna be a killer.

    • annerodgers Says:

      Thanks, Ken. Your observations are always so helpful to me. You’ve probably had to hear more about this book than almost anyone. And you’re not tired of it yet, so I take that as a good sign.
      If we end up self publishing, I’ll be soliciting more advice from you, I’m sure. I like the idea that just because a chapter’s there, it doesn’t have to be read. I’m a rule follower, and I forget how easy it is to just skip over things you don’t care about …

  2. Dianne King Says:

    agree with Ken about not reading chapters. Disagree about 20’s and teens not reading. Okay, maybe teens aren’t gonna buy it, but who is buying Cosmo if not 20s (and, yes, 30s’)?
    And I think your route will be determined by how your agent sells or doesn’t sell your book, as you finalize it. That’s the beauty of your plan: you get to finish your book and when you are done if it isn’t sold, you get to reconsider your options. With a whole lot of feedback from editors on the way!

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