Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Maureen Whelihan’

A bit of news

July 20, 2014

When last I shared a post with you patient people, “Kiss and Tell’s” public relations campaign was about a month from wrapping up and the news on the headache front was oh-so-very-good (although I mentioned one side effect of my prevention drug was that I DID miss that little thing we like to call eating). I realize there’s been a giant time gap, but if you’re game, come along and I’ll fill you in on what you’ve missed.

As I blogged in February, the numerous television appearances that Insider Media Management secured for Dr. Whelihan and myself to promote “Kiss and Tell” did not translate into book sales—surprisingly. Personal appearances turned out to be most successful, so that’s what we focused on toward the end of our campaign. However, I confess I was a bit distracted because somewhere around Christmas I had made the decision to move back to Austin to be with my family and friends.

It was a wrenching decision. When I moved to West Palm Beach, I figured it would be for only a few years. But I loved the ocean, loved The Palm Beach Post, loved my fabulous, smart roommate and ended up missing Texas way less than I thought I would. Huge surprise.

I stayed. And stayed. For a total of 12 years.

When I took early retirement from the newspaper in 2009, my mom wondered if I’d move back to Texas, but I told her I wanted to write my book. She understood. Three years later, when the book was finished, she asked again. I told her, “Now I need to market it.”

Which I did. For an entire year.

Enough.

Finally, this spring, I wrapped up my time in Paradise (as I like to call West Palm Beach) and took steps to bring all my belongings together in the same zip code. True, they are scattered between a storage facility on Braker Lane, my Mom’s attic AND her basement, but still, I like to think they are within shouting distance of each other.

In a show of solidarity, my wonderful pals Di and Patti (from Arizona and Ohio!) drove to Texas with me in early June, to ease the transition. We all lost a dear friend to a sudden aneurysm just days before my departure, which was wrenching beyond words, and a bit ironic as well. I had moved to Florida during a time of immense grief, mourning the unexpected death of my young niece.

To counter that memory, I very intentionally planned to say good-bye to Florida slowly, to give myself time to appreciate all the things I’d come to love about my adopted home. I had this serene, graceful exit all built up in my head—but once again, I left one state for another with a broken heart.

I limped into Austin feeling more fragile than expected. And the town isn’t quite how I left it, that’s for sure. I didn’t know where I’d fit in.

For the time being, I’m living with Mom, though I have already zeroed in on a nearby apartment complex where I’ll move this fall (halfway between my sister’s house and my mom’s condo!). Meanwhile, we are compatible roomies, while I make sure everything is as good with my 86-year-old mom as I think it is. I say we’re roomies, but between her trips out of town and the numerous dog sitting jobs I’ve already worked (and booked for the future), we’re apart more than I thought we’d be.

A quick trip to Padre Island in mid-June to celebrate Mom’s birthday was the perfect time for the moving company to call and try to deliver my furniture from Florida, so that was annoying. I had to wait an additional eight days before they sent another truck, but what are you gonna do? Finally everything arrived and has now been wedged into tiny storage units, joining the gang o’ stuff already hanging out at Braker Storage since the sale of my house last October.

Have I said how nice it’ll be to have my own place when I can unpack everything all at once? Well, it will.

Meanwhile, I started calling friends and getting back in touch with Austin peeps. It wasn’t long before I remembered why I love this place: the people. It does my heart such good to see the faces of friends after so many years apart, and still find so many shared interests, so much to laugh and talk about, such enthusiasm for time together. I feel … nourished.

And I’ve already received a couple of invitations to speak to groups about “Kiss and Tell,” so that’s exciting. Austin has a great demographic for the book and I look forward to marketing here. (I’ll blog about those appearances once they occur.)

Headache-wise, the Topamax is still effective, although I believe the stress of the move and my friend’s death increased the number of my migraines in May and June. I’m doing better now that I’ve settled in and am creating a routine at Mom’s. I can’t report only two headaches a month like I could back in January and February, but I’m hopeful I can get there again.

Part of the problem may be that, with my neurologist’s permission, I dropped from 125 mg. to 100 mg of Topamax at the beginning of May. Of course, I didn’t know then what a stressful time it would turn out to be. I asked if I could reduce the dosage because I was dropping too much weight and developing a food aversion. Eating felt like a true chore, something I almost dreaded. I knew that was dangerous.

My neurologist thought I could drop the dosage and still get a good effect with 100 mg. In addition, he felt the tension in my neck was reduced enough that I could cease getting Botox injections there (after four years). Needless to say, I was happy with that visit to his office!

Which reminds me, I need to find a really great migraine specialist here in Austin. That’s going to be hard. I’ll be comparing him to the BEST guy in West Palm. Dr. Winner was AWESOME.

Sigh. There are a lot of folks I miss back in Paradise.

I guess in some ways my heart will always be in two places. I’m going to have to get used to that.

 

 

 

 

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How do you measure success?

February 23, 2014

When Dr. Whelihan and I decided to invest in a PR agency to help us publicize “Kiss and Tell” late last year, we knew it was a gamble. But in the end, I realized I didn’t want to look back and regret not believing in our book, not trusting that we had a solid, well-executed product worth standing behind.

So we signed a four-month contract (the minimum) and held our breath.

The results have been gratifying: Multiple TV, radio and magazine appearances in enviable markets, from Miami to San Diego. InsiderMedia Management has delivered plenty of “media hits” as they’re called in the business, for both Dr. Whelihan and myself. We’ve been kept busy on various local and far-flung talk-show sets chatting about how to keep the passion alive in relationships, always mentioning our book, our research and how to get your hands on your own copy. Naturally, I wish The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal had responded to the press packets IMM sent them, but I certainly can’t complain about the way the company has handled “Kiss and Tell.”

What none of us predicted was that all the increased television media hasn’t moved the needle on actual book sales—which has baffled us all. For sheer volume of sales, what works best is to tell people we’re going to talk in person about “Kiss and Tell,” hold an event, then sell and sign books afterward. For whatever reason, seeing us talk about the book on the small screen doesn’t have the same effect, though there would have been no way of knowing this in advance, naturally.

And so as we come down to the final month of our contract, how do I feel?

Older and wiser, surely.

Poorer, certainly. A PR company is expensive, and obviously, we hoped our gamble would pay off monetarily. It definitely did not.

And disappointed too. It would have been oh-so-nice to sell a warehouse full of books.

But I also feel strangely satisfied. And peaceful. I like that a lot of people now know about “Kiss and Tell.” The guy at the catering truck I frequent said “I saw you on TV!” the other day, and his helper followed me back to my car to buy a copy of the book and ask me a couple of questions.

Thousands of people in San Antonio, Austin, Fort Lauderdale and San Diego saw Dr. Whelihan or I talking about the women who told their stories of desire for “Kiss and Tell.” That feels right to me. It feels right that the work I spent so long on is finally being heard by more than just a few hundred people. That the dissemination of the information is much wider. I can’t help but feel satisfied by that. Even if people aren’t fascinated enough to buy a book.

I’m honestly surprised that more people don’t want the whole story. It’s weird to me that people aren’t a little more curious to peek into the bedrooms of these women who opened the doors to them and spilled all this personal information about desire. God knows I was curious. I learned so much and was deeply fascinated by their candor and breadth of experience.

But these days everyone has so much else going on in their lives. Being involved in the world of publicity has made me attuned to the fierce competition for people’s attention today. It is relentless and wearying, I must say. I often have conflicted feelings about being a part of it. I imagine anyone who has a product or service to sell must feel the same. It’s a difficult line to walk.

With one month left on our contract with IMM, we are shifting to focus on increased personal appearances, and pitching magazines and print media on some Mother’s Day ideas. It has been fantastic having a partnership with an organization that is devoted to seeing that “Kiss and Tell” is seen and appreciated out in the wider world. When you are self-published, it can feel like you are all alone in the wilderness, and tooting your own horn feels horribly self-centered after a while.

With the help of IMM, “Kiss and Tell’s” resume is now pretty much of an all-star affair, if I do say so myself. We have fancy credentials we wouldn’t have been able to garner on our own.

And that makes me proud.

So I guess that’s the strongest emotion I feel coming out of this period: Pride.

For me and TV, third time was the charm

January 19, 2014

Far wiser people than me have uttered these words, but allow me to reiterate: Be careful what you wish for.

Two months ago, with the hope of raising “Kiss and Tell’s” profile, Dr. Whelihan and I hired a public relations firm, which has led to me making three television appearances and realizing that while I do want “Kiss and Tell” to be famous, I do not actually want to be famous.

Back before “Kiss and Tell” was published, I naturally dreamed about it being a best seller. I confess to fantasizing about chatting with Oprah about all that I’d learned from the women I met while writing the book. In such fantasies I was relaxed and coherent.

I now know the reality of television bears little resemblance to my fantasies.

Dr. Whelihan appears on TV every month for a segment about sexual health on “Charlotte Today” and she makes it look incredibly easy. Because I am an extrovert and enjoy speaking publicly about “Kiss and Tell,” I was unprepared for how truly terrified I was when our PR agency notified me of an opportunity to appear in Miami on NBC’s “6 in the Mix.”

I was in Lake Wales visiting friends when I got the call. Unfortunately I’d just arrived for a 4-day visit, so I had to cut our time together short and drive back to West Palm that night, then get up early and drive to Boca Raton the next morning, where the agency’s media coach Chris worked with me for an hour before taking me to Miami for the 11:30 a.m. live show.

I was profoundly grateful for all the tips Chris gave me (ignore the camera and have a conversation with just the host; keep your comments simple; when in doubt, keep quiet and let the host fill in, etc), but nothing really prepared me for the panic I felt sitting in the lobby of the news building waiting for the producer to fetch us. It rose and fell several times, complete with rapid heartbeat and a practically debilitating sense of dread.

I calmed my breathing when I got on the set, but I only had 30 seconds to visit with the host before we went live, and during those 30 seconds a producer was counting down the seconds in the background. It was NOT calming. My performance was merely adequate, but over quickly and I was profoundly relieved.

I figured Dr. Whelihan would do all the rest of the TV, and indeed she did the next taping our PR agency secured for us. But InsiderMedia is very good at their job, and since both Dr. Whelihan and I were traveling at Christmas time, the agency was seeking bookings for us in the cities we were visiting.

And thus, on the way to Austin for the holidays, all wrapped up in Christmas cheer, I get a text during my Atlanta layover asking if I am available five days later to tape a segment at the Fox-affiliated station in Austin.

My heart fell because I knew my coach wouldn’t be there to quell my fears. But I quickly rallied enough to think positive, and for the next five days I concentrated on not panicking and just rehearsing what I might say to surprising questions about “Kiss and Tell.” (InsiderMedia marketed us over the holidays by pitching us as experts in how to keep your sex life active during the busy and stressful holiday season). By Monday morning I was ready, if nervous.

My friend Dianne accompanied me to steady my nerves, thank goodness. This time the segment was taped, not live, but it feels the same. You get the feeling no one wants to stop the cameras and I was still terrified to make a mistake. The two hosts and I took about a minute to talk before the taping began, and we had a good chat. But then they opened with an extremely general question we didn’t discuss—and I was stumped. D’oh.

Helpful people later informed me that I might do what politicians do and just answer whatever question I want. You know, control the interview. This assumes that I am not so scared that I can barely think. There’s a reason for that phrase about freezing in front of the camera, people. It’s real. I have thought about why it happens and I don’t really understand it. I wish I did.

When I speak to groups of people and I say something wrong, I never worry. I just correct myself and move on. But something about having that mistake recorded for all time makes you not want to say anything at all. You are so sure you’ll say something dumb that you’re struck silent.

Anyway, I did OK in Austin after I recovered from that initial question. But my mouth got so dry that my lips stuck to my teeth, so that was unsettling. Dianne said it wasn’t noticeable but I was afraid I was going to have to unstick my lips and teeth with my fingers! Classy, no?

The station aired the segment about four days later; I watched it once and didn’t want to view it again. It made my stomach feel squirmy to watch. I could see that I didn’t seem relaxed, but didn’t know how to fix it as long as I was too scared and insecure during the filming process to think clearly.

Meanwhile, Dr. Whelihan had been booked for a similar segment in Charlotte, N.C., where she was spending the holidays, and I watched her clip on Facebook. She completely nailed the interview and seemed totally at ease in every way, bantering with the host and chatting breezily off script about any and everything.

I was so frustrated over performing badly, and further annoyed for being unable to control my emotions and physical response on camera. Happily, Dr. Whelihan called the next day and gave me a pep talk, reminding me that she had been doing television work for 15 years now in one form or another, and had done taped work for 10 years before she ever had to go live.

“Lighten up, girl,” she said. “We’re our own worst critics.”

I really appreciated the support. I took a deep breath and decided to just relax into the rest of my vacation.

The next day the PR agency called to say a San Antonio TV station (an hour and a half away) wanted to have me on four days later. Was I available?

To tell the truth, I almost said no.

It was an early morning show in an unfamiliar city . . . and I knew I’d have to endure another four days of panic. My mom had just come down with the flu, I didn’t think anyone in my family could drive with me to San Antonio and I was just flat out tired of being scared.

But you don’t hire a PR agency and then turn down the bookings they find for you. I said yes.

And in fact, my subsequent panic was so bad that over the next few days I occasionally took a Xanax, just to get a break from the anxiety. Sure, I was discouraged by my reaction, but I was trying to adjust to the fact that TV appearances might be part of my life for a little while. I knew I had to figure out how to handle them more effectively.

Fortunately my sister Joan made the sacrifice to set her alarm for 5 a.m. to go down to San Antonio with me for the live show. (Yes, another live show!) I can’t imagine what a basket case I’d have been trying to make that drive on I-35 alone. We arrived a little early and set up camp in the green room. (That’s what TV stations call the room where guests wait to be called to the set.)

And there in the green room I had a little epiphany. I suddenly realized that I was the expert on the subject of women’s desire and I needed to stop allowing the circumstances surrounding TV studios to intimidate me. Somehow I needed to relax and just find a way to share my expertise.

I had taken a Xanax that morning, to get my physical symptoms of anxiety out of the way, and I felt fairly calm. Then the producer of “San Antonio Living” came in and told me they wanted me to stay on after my segment and talk on air with the host, Shelly Miles, about the questions they had received on Facebook that morning. I knew I was doing better than usual when that news didn’t phase me.

Soon after, they called me to the set. Joan came along to snap a few photos. I liked their set up, because we sat at a tall table instead of on couches, and I could see a screen that showed when I was—and wasn’t—on camera. So when I wasn’t shown, it was like being on recess. I could lick my lips, push my hair back or just relax and breathe without feeling self-conscious. The whole scenario felt much more relaxed because of those couple of things.

Shelly asked me the first question and I had the answer. And just like that, everything was fine. I liked her, she seemed engaged by what I said, I didn’t feel intimidated—and things just took off. We were on for 10 minutes! During the break she told me a question she wanted to ask, but it wasn’t something that fed into anything I had insight about. So I found the courage to suggest something else. Which she liked! She immediately picked up on it and fed into it seamlessly as soon as we came back from commercial break. How those TV folks can do that so effortlessly is beyond me.

Needless to say, it was by far my most successful appearance. Plus, the book was featured throughout, and at the end Shelly mentioned our website, www.KissAndTellBook.com so that was extremely encouraging.

When it was over, I was euphoric. I felt like I’d overcome a huge obstacle. Joan and I walked along the Riverwalk for a little while and stopped for a breakfast of chocolate milk and a blueberry muffin. I was chattering with happiness. I told Joan I would likely experience nervousness at future television appearances, but that at least now I had a positive encounter to lean on and think about when going into such endeavors. And knowing I could do well would build my confidence.

As it turns out, this is extremely helpful to me today, since tomorrow I am heading over to WPTV, here in West Palm Beach, to tape a segment that will air locally during the week of Valentine’s Day. Yes!

And the same afternoon I go to Fort Lauderdale to appear on a new talk show about relationships titled—I kid you not—”Get Some.” I don’t know any more about it than that because it’s a new show. (I have to say that “Kiss and Tell” might just be the perfect book to be featured on such a show. I’ll get back to you on that.)

I firmly believe my success on the San Antonio show has enabled me to face tomorrow’s tapings without dread. Granted, I’m not exactly jumping up and down with eagerness, but I’m not panicked and I haven’t had to take any Xanax.

I admit, I’m still a long way from being the Oprah-ready author I was in those daydreams I had a short while ago!

Mass Marketing

October 19, 2013

The best argument against self-publishing is the simple fact that most writers yearn to write books, not market books.

I’m glad Dr. Whelihan and I went the self-publishing route, and we’ve been amazingly successful getting the word out about  “Kiss and Tell,” but let me assure you that securing media attention and exposure in magazines, newspapers, radio and TV for any book, product or idea these days is very difficult and much more time consuming than people realize.

After a certain number of months thinking about ways to talk to people about the book you’ve written on sexual desire, let’s just say the desire wanes.

I find that half my time is spent just trying to ferret out the correct contact people at media organizations to pitch to. That’s half the battle right there, because there’s no point mailing your product into a black hole. Even with my former newspaper experience, I struggle with this all the time.

So you can imagine my excitement when I saw that “Kiss and Tell” had finally cracked a national magazine. Yep. The Aug. 26 edition of Publishers Weekly carried not only a description of our book, but also a thumbnail of the cover. Since only a few covers per page were used, I chose to be complimented that we were among those selected.

But how do you break into more of those larger markets/audiences and therefore increased sales? What I’ve had lots of practice at is speaking with 20-50 people about my topic and connecting with them one on one. I love signing books and chatting afterward with audience members, hearing their stories and feeling that bond. I’ve talked to groups as large as 140, but I don’t have a famous name that gathers many more people than that to a venue.

What I need is a TV audience, right?

So . . . speaking of TV audiences . . . a PR firm approached Dr. Whelihan and I about representing us and they happen to have a lot of contacts in broadcast media, which is a good fit for us, since we’ve already done a pretty good job pitching the book to local print media. I’m shocked by how expensive it is to secure their services though—more than a couple thousand dollars a month!

But when I look at how difficult it is to attract anyone’s attention in today’s society, and I look at the competition out there from both professionals and amateurs (and I assess how hard we’ve been working already to do this exact thing), I’m wondering if maybe it isn’t time to bring in some help.

It’s not as if I’ve stopped my own marketing efforts. Far from it. When Miley Cyrus made her ridiculous remarks last week on “The Today Show” about how people over 40 lose interest in sex, one of “Kiss and Tell’s” local fans took to Kathie Lee and Hoda’s website to tell the two morning show hosts to read my book and learn first-hand what women of a certain age were saying about their sex lives.

So I quickly dropped a copy of the book in the mail to 30 Rockefeller Plaza, along with a two-pack of Oral-B Pulsar toothbrushes and a cute note for Hoda and Kathie Lee. (I did the same for Dr. Oz when he visited West Palm three months ago.) My fingers are crossed. But you can’t count on lightning to strike. You can hope, but you have to drop a lot of lines in the water to hook one of these talk show personalities. Everyone is trying to get their attention.

So what do you guys think? Is it worth the gamble to spend money that could boost sales? The PR company loves the idea of pitching sex to Florida’s morning talk shows. They are more accustomed to difficult topics such as stamp collecting (seriously) and are thrilled at the prospect of what they consider an easy sell. I’m thinking there’s a good chance we could justify the investment, but I’m nervous, naturally. Reader input welcome!

Meanwhile, I’m packing for a trip to Austin. I leave in two days and am looking forward to several book signing events, meetings with friends old and new, family time and fall weather.

Color me thrilled.

Fifty Shades of Green

May 30, 2013

Don’t you love it?

That’s the title Sami and Joe and I came up with for our North Carolina trip earlier this month. Take the beautiful Smoky Mountains, garnish them with spectacular spring weather and a bumper crop of wildflowers, and season with a small bit of business for my sex-themed book “Kiss and Tell.”

Voila! The Fifty Shades of Green moniker emerged.

Though I’ve visited the Smokies at least three times previously, I’m guessing it’s been a couple of decades since the last time. Honestly, I was a bit overwhelmed by the reintroduction. The landscape was SO lush; the mountains so perfectly blue in their haze; the ferns and wildflowers so eager to impress us; the waterfalls so glorious. Everywhere I turned I found my eyes tearing up with the sheer beauty they were trying to absorb.

Sami and Joe, my landlords and dear friends, served as the perfect tour guides. Their place on Deep Creek sits about 2 minutes outside the entrance to Smoky Mountain National Park and they know it like their backyard. Day after day we headed into the park to visit their favorite spots: Cade’s Cove, Tom Branch Falls, Clingmans Dome and many more. We hit the tourists’ favorites, of course, but with their expertise, we also traipsed into the woods to stand quietly beside tiny graveyards, hidden away from most visitors. We read each stone, marveling at how many tiny plots we found for the infants who died a century or more ago.

We had a blast hiking through the tunnel that marks the end of the Road to Nowhere, which the government promised to build, but later abandoned. We studied the elaborate graffiti and laughed ghoulish laughs to hear our voices echo around the concrete walls. Good times!

I had arranged a meeting with the community events manager at Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, and my hosts were gracious enough to devote one of our vacation days to that pursuit. The drive took a little more than an hour, and was gorgeous, by the way. My pitch for “Kiss and Tell” was well-received, and though it’s too early to pick a date, I was assured of a fall event there. I’m hoping to combine it with appearances in Charlotte and Raleigh, because my book partner, Dr. Maureen Whelihan, is well-known in that area for her monthly appearance as a sexual health expert on Charlotte Today, airing on the local NBC affiliate. With a bit of luck, I’m hoping the doctor’s busy schedule will allow us to appear together for all three of those events.

Our Asheville outing, which included some great shopping and a fabulous lunch, was yet another highlight of this incredible trip. I was able to unplug my “marketing brain,” and spend my time absorbing the beauty and peace of the mountains. On the way home from Asheville, we detoured slightly to include a portion of The Blueridge Parkway, stopping at Waterrock Knob overlook to marvel at the view. One more precious memory to store away for the ages.

When I returned to Florida—on a Sunday evening—I drove straight to a friend’s house for a 10-day dog sitting job (with some of my favorite pups in the world!) I’ve been plugging back in to real life, and mostly trying to secure some media coverage in Phoenix for my upcoming book signings. Since I don’t have the base of friends there that I enjoy in West Palm Beach and Austin, I’m nervous about WHO will come to hear me talk about sex there. I called and emailed radio stations, TV stations and local publications, but don’t feel like I got much traction.

However, I will try many of those contacts again tomorrow when I’m there, with the old “Hi, I’m here now and available to share stories about sexual desire with your listeners/viewers/readers!”

Keep your fingers crossed for me. I finished my dog sitting gig last night, and around lunch time today I catch a flight to Phoenix. While there, I have yet another dog job! (Yes, my side business is booming.) I will be happily ensconced with three gorgeous collies and two Maine coon cats.

I promise to blog from the Southwest and report on whether animals or human have the longest hair in this crowd.

Can a brain set to “market” be turned off?

May 11, 2013

Here’s hoping that in the coming week of vacation I will able to silence the barrage of marketing imperatives my brain is so kindly providing to me during every waking hour.

Honestly, it’s become ridiculous. Some days I’m very productive—mailing out packets, making lots of phone calls, researching physical addresses or names of contacts at various media outlets—and some days I get pulled off track by personal errands, chores, doctor’s appointments, what have you. But it doesn’t matter which kind of day I’m having: The loop in my head of marketing minutiae remains shrilly insistent, shoving its way into every moment of every day.

You need to call the manager back at Lemuria Book Store . . .  It would be great if more people posted reviews on Amazon . . . I wonder if Palm Beach Book Store needs more copies of Kiss and Tell? . . . You should email Michael and get his opinion on which book store in St. Louis he thinks would be best for you to approach about a signing . . .  I can’t believe Grand Rapids’ Shuler Books is doing their quarterly authors’ event in July, when naturally I’ll be there for a week in June. Argh!  . . . How many radio stations in Phoenix should I contact before my book signings there, I wonder?  . . . That receptionist said the event manager would be working tomorrow between 9 and 1; don’t forget to call him back! . . . What are the best indie book stores between here and St. Louis that I might want to approach about an event? . . . Does anyone listen to their voice mails and return calls anymore?

No. That would be the answer to that final question.

And it’s about the only definitive thing I can say. Because everything else about marketing a book is an exercise in fluidity, in keeping your options open, being flexible, available, asking what someone needs and then trying to provide it as seamlessly as possible. And in the midst of all that fluidity, you have to nail down concrete dates for events and then work frantically around them to bring the light of publicity to bear on your (comparatively) insignificant little soiree.

It is not a dance for the weak of heart, my friends. At the end of the day there is often no tangible evidence of your labor, no finished pages, no satisfying prose. Just a couple of more strings in the water that, with luck, will bring a nibble one day in the future.

The difficulties of self publishing are much more visible to me now than they were this time last year. I’m still glad Dr. Whelihan and I chose this path. (She’s the medical expert and research partner for our “Kiss and Tell: Secrets of Sexual Desire from Women 15 to 97.”) We were right to assume responsibility ourselves because publishing houses don’t have a good track record of promoting first-time authors. With my journalism background, I believe I am better equipped than they are to tap into interested media outlets.

But I sure do wish I had a staff! Not to mention a few plane tickets to cities I’d love to visit for book signings.

It would be great to divide up some of this detail work with eager assistants, bright-eyed interns perhaps, hoping to impress their boss with their diligence.

Instead, it’s just me. Planting my butt in front of the computer and reaching out into cyber land for contacts, advice, magic and miracles.

And occasionally, lightening strikes. The one time I spoke with a HUMAN last week (a producer for Channel 3 in Phoenix foolishly answered her phone), I was actually able to reel her in. After my 60-second spiel, she said, “Hmmm. That sounds interesting. Would you send me an email with more about the book and I’ll pitch it in our Tuesday meeting.”

This is what counts as a home run in my world, ladies and gentlemen. Of course I worked hard on a personal letter and a funny, succinct synopsis to hopefully increase her interest. I sent it off within 45 minutes. And, naturally, I’ve heard nothing.

I would feel so much better if she just sent a “Thanks. I’ll let you know what happens,” email. But no salaried employee has time for that anymore, I’m guessing. So, although I’m sure my email was delivered, I’m sitting in Wonderland as usual—wondering if she received the message, wondering if she liked the message, wondering if she’s thinking about liking me and my book . . . it’s all so uncertain.

And it’s all guaranteed to make you insecure. Yes. This work plays havoc with how you see yourself in the world. Although I am certain the book is fun, informative and highly readable, I am struggling with the task of saying that over and over every day. I’m not sure why that is. The book is the book, and its quality isn’t diminishing. And happily, when readers give me feedback, it is extremely positive and uplifting.

But in this marketing world that I enter day after day, my confidence sometimes falters. I’m not a retailer by nature (see my previous blog), and so I find it tricky to consistently find the right words and approaches to encourage others to open up to “Kiss and Tell.”

Doesn’t mean I’m going to quit trying.

And in the meantime, I’m finding the personal appearances at clubs, meetings and community events to be the most gratifying part of the process right now. The light in the attendees’ eyes, the interest they show and the questions they ask let me know I’m on the right track.

So, tomorrow morning I leave for a week in North Carolina with friends. I have one book-related appointment at Malaprops in Asheville (with no promise of anything), so mostly this is vacation. I will be staying near Bryson City, on the southern edge of Smoky Mountain National Park, and just typing those words makes me want to say “ahhhhh.” Our cell phone coverage will be pitiful, thank goodness, and I hope to lose touch with the cyber world that has been too much my companion lately.

Instead, I’m dreaming of forests and mountains and a cool, green world, far from all the concrete cities.

Yep. I’m definitely going to switch off the marketing brain for a bit.

And so the marketing begins

February 27, 2013

Once a book is finished, a writer who is affiliated with a traditional publishing house can wait anywhere from 6 to 18 months for his or her book to actually be released. And yes, there are some sound reasons for this.

But self publishing is a different story. In fact, its immediacy is one of the reasons so many authors are discarding the old publishing model.

In a blog of a just a few weeks ago, I wrote about receiving and proofing the final manuscript of Kiss and Tell from our book designer Brion Sausser. And here I am again, already saying “The book is out! The book is out!”

In between, many things happened of course. Thank goodness for Brion, who navigated all the various sites and formats we wanted Kiss and Tell to be available for. Different platforms are set up for Kindle, Nook and printed books on Amazon, so Brion’s uploads had to satisfy every category for each format.

Once CreateSpace cleared us for take off, I ordered three proof copies of the book in print form. I gave one to Mo’s well-read nurse Mary, one to Mo and kept one for myself. We all spent the weekend reading, trying to find typos and problems. As a longtime newsroom employee, I know only too well that scanning page proofs differs from computer reading—and sure enough, we all found some errors.

But forget about a months-long wait: On Feb. 4, just days after we finished proofing our books, Kiss and Tell appeared for sale on Amazon! I learned this because Dr. Mo sent me a text IN ALL CAPS to this effect at 6 a.m., which definitely got me out of bed and heading for the computer. Honestly, it felt like Christmas morning, complete with the flutter of excitement in my stomach.

Naturally, other titles and products using “Kiss and Tell” (it’s a popular title for mysteries) were the first things that popped up in a search, and at first I was hard put to locate us online. But I’m happy to report that during the past week, most searches on Amazon of just those three words bring our book up as the No. 1 listing. Since we started out three-quarters of the way down on Page 7 of the search, I consider that a nice bit of progress!

I’m a novice on all the nuances of online search optimization, but I do know that good reviews on Amazon by “verified” readers go a long way toward lifting your profile. Verified reviewers—I learned last week—are those who bought their book on Amazon (which Amazon can of course check). The giant book seller instituted the distinction some time back when authors desperate for feedback created fake online profiles in order to “review” their own books. When you write a review on Amazon AND if you bought the book from them, you’ll get a box to check saying you can elect to be a “verified” reviewer.

Yes. Things have gotten very complicated in the world. Since so little face-to-face interaction occurs anymore, the machines are trying to find ways to keep feedback in all forms legitimate. Small sigh. It’s sad how deceptive people are willing to be.

But I digress! Next up for me is the considerable marketing aspect of this process. I’ve been taking notes for months and have a long list of suggestions for who to contact and how to get the word out. Now I’m making my way through the list, although I confess I’m fairly haphazard as to the order. I kind of do what I’m in the mood to do that day, whether it’s calling a book store and exploring their requirements to hold a book signing or writing the PRWeb.com press release (which went out Feb. 8!).

Happily, I’ve already been interviewed by a reporter at the Arizona Republic working on a story about Boomer sex. This is quite a coup, since newspapers still reach a much wider audience than any conceivable book signing could. I have a friend in the newsroom there who told a reporter about Kiss and Tell, who in turn passed my name along to another reporter who’d been assigned the Boomer sex story. Pretty serendipitous if you ask me, especially when you consider that the article came out during a visit to Phoenix I’d already planned, so I was able to use it when I approached an independent book store about a signing.

That book signing, I’m delighted to say, received final approval earlier this week. Therefore, the first “book store book signing” for Kiss and Tell will happen June 1 at Changing Hands, an awesome independent book store I first visited in December, when my former roommate and I flew to Phoenix for a visit that just happened to coincide with Bruce Springsteen’s final Wrecking Ball tour date in the United States. (Bruuuuuuce!)

Patti and I stayed with our pal Diane, a Scottsdale resident who is as bookish as we are, and knew enough to introduce us to Changing Hands, a dream of an independent book store. The store carries every title you hope for, and features a gift and card department that makes it impossible to spend less than an hour browsing. Fortunately, there’s an adjoining cafe/sandwich shop with very tasty food, so you can fuel up and return for more exploration. Yes, we did.

Changing Hands reminds me of BookPeople in Austin, another stellar independent book store where I hope to schedule an event. (Maybe I’ll even get motivated to call them TODAY. I want so much to be on their calendar . . . )

I’ve had some luncheon speaking gigs this month, and last night, Dr. Whelihan and I had a magical evening in the company of a women’s group called Goddess Within. Much laughter, much friendship, much fun around the book signing table. I could do that every night.

If you’re a Facebook friend, this news about Kiss and Tell finally being available won’t come as a surprise. For you others, I’m sorry for the slight delay in notification. I was out of town for six days in the middle of all this and let my blog duties slide. Shame!

And now . . . I shall return to my awaiting marketing efforts, because I want to give Kiss and Tell every chance to succeed in today’s (crazy!) market.

Choosing a cover

December 20, 2012

Without tips from my blogging friend in West Palm, and working without wifi at my mother’s house in Austin, I’m unable to upload all the choices Maureen and I received from Brion for the book cover of Kiss and Tell. However, I will upload them for everyone to see when I return to Florida.

Some of the covers were too explicit for us, but book designer Brion was trying to push the envelope a little, and get us thinking about the ways that sex can help sell the book. Since Kiss and Tell focuses on sexual desire, obviously you want a cover that is sensual, maybe romantic, even sexy. However, we didn’t want to step into raunchiness, but making that call is very individual. At some point, I realized not everyone could possibly agree on the best cover—and after that it got easier.

The winning design incorporates a close-up photo of a couple, with the man leaning in to kiss the woman’s neck. I found it too reminiscent of a romance novel cover at first, as did a couple of friends. But it was also the clear favorite of Maureen and several of my own friends.

I tended to favor two other designs, one which incorporated the pink, pursed lips that adorn our business cards (love them!) and the other which featured a stylish photo taken in a lush hotel lobby of an anonymous woman’s legs, encased in sexy black heels. The seated woman is wearing a tasteful little black dress, but is shown just from the waist down. Very classy.

I asked for many opinions, as did Maureen. And Brion sent some adjustments and redesigns along the way based on our input. I admit, I changed my mind several times. Finally, a patient of Maureen’s who looked at the covers one day when Maureen put the three finalists up in her gynecology office, said something that changed my thinking.

“I know what the book is about,” she said (she was one of the in-depth interviewees), “so I actually like the woman seated on the sofa in the lobby, because that most accurately reflects the book. But if I didn’t know what the book was about, the cover with the couple kissing is the one I’d pick up and look at.”

And there you go. Anyone who already knows what the book is about—or has listened to a talk by Maureen or I—will likely be intrigued enough to consider buying it . . . and they won’t care what’s on the cover. They’ll know what’s inside and have already decided on its value. But for the cold-call customer, we needed something with a powerful draw.

And so the kissing couple was selected.

I was happy with Brion’s tweak to the cover: It was such an intense close-up that I could see the woman’s pores and I really wanted him to zoom out a little. Once that was done, I was on board and we gave Brion the green light.

Today I visited the branch library near Mom to use their wifi and emailed Brion all the endorsements I collected for the book jacket. I still need to write the cover type, which I seem to be procrastinating about in my usual efficient fashion. Ugh. It’s 100 words, give or take. What is my problem?

All I want for Christmas is the gift of flowing, graceful sentences. Hope Santa is listening!

The lap of luxury

November 25, 2012

Through no accomplishment of my own, I am spending tonight at the PGA National Resort and Spa free of charge.

I’ve just completed a sunset walk around the pool and club house area and strolled over to the spa area, which I decided to locate since I’ll be heading over at 10 in the morning for a “neck and shoulder massage; $90 gratuity included.”

Should you be wondering how in the world I got so unbelievably lucky, let me answer by saying that people are SO NICE.

I was slated to dog sit for a one-night gig so that the owners of a sweet little chihuahua could use their soon-to-expire coupon for a complimentary night at PGA (yes, home to the Honda Classic.) The client called the day before and announced she had good news and bad news. The bad news was that 14-year-old Tabby had a cough, and though she seemed OK, Tabby had just started taking medication and Mom didn’t feel right leaving her when she wasn’t feeling perky. The good news was that if I chose, I was welcome to use the certificate!

Well, I am on a mad deadline to deliver Kiss and Tell‘s revised manuscript to our book designer by Dec. 5, but I figured, ‘Hey, I can work in serene, posh surroundings just as easily as I can beside the construction zone that Southern Boulevard (30 yards from my front door) has turned into lately. Why not?’

Brief digression to point out that dog people are THE BEST. My dog sitting clients are so kind, so welcoming, so sweet and so treasured by me. And then to receive a generous offer like this confirms it once again.

So this morning as I’m packing up to drive the 6 or 7 miles over here, I email book partner Maureen about something else and I happen to mention my plans. “Hold on,” she replies. “When are you going? I have a gift card for spa services there that’s about to expire. You could use it.”

That much good karma coming together at one time is astonishing, let’s face it. Over the top, right? But it all worked out. Maureen donned her motorcycle gear and rode her Harley (yes) over to my condo this morning to hand off said gift card. She headed across the bridge for a beautiful ride on Palm Beach; I finished loading my car and arrived here at PGA by 12:15.

Everyone on staff here is super nice, and even though check-in isn’t till 4, if rooms are ready they are happy to assign you one. I was settled in and headed to the pool in no time—but not before I called the spa to check out their services and decide which exotic treatment I was going to use my gift card for!

After just a few short hours, I feel like a different person. The quiet, the green of the golf course and this evening’s cheerful twinkling Christmas lights out front—combined with the sun absorbed poolside this afternoon—have combined to lull me out of the noisy, chaotic jumble I’d accumulated in my head.

I’ve been ridiculously stressed about this upcoming deadline, alternating between a deer-in-headlights inability to decide what to do next and panicked stabs at completing the revisions that the three “fat” chapters are desperately crying for. One of my beta readers provided so much amazing, insightful input that it’s taken me days to go through her notes chapter by chapter and clarify areas she found confusing, add sources, rethink construction, etc, etc. With that phase complete, I’m heading back into those fat chapters (the very long 40s, 50s and 60s decades) for judicious trimming and more.

Something had been niggling about me about those chapters, and my astute beta reader helped me identify what it was. Because there are more women included and because I gave them free rein to share their stories, readers can get lost in the wilderness so to speak. My friend suggested I make more frequent use of my narrator’s voice to paraphrase and then assist the reader to know what’s important about these decades, what the take-away is. It’s a matter of guiding my readers and helping them stay on the path through these more complicated chapters.

Which is hard work. Anyone who writes knows how difficult it is to make sweeping changes when you’re too close to the material, and I’m definitely close to this material after more than 2 years of steady research and writing. But I realized if I just go day by day, and concentrate on each chapter separately until I am satisfied with it, I can maybe, just maybe, hit the deadline.

I was supposed to have everything to our designer by this Friday, but THAT wasn’t going to fly, so I pushed it back, to my chagrin. Even so, I know it won’t be perfect. I console myself with the knowledge that if I worked on it for another month, or even another year, Kiss and Tell wouldn’t be perfect.

Instead it’s going to be the best book I can write right now.

It’s still early and I’m feeling refreshed, so guess what I’m going to do now that I’ve posted a blog?

Yep. I’m going to go back to writing about sex!

Plus, I promise to blog again in a couple days about the process of honing the book’s subtitle, which required massive polling, much democratic input and then a final executive flourish of a decision.

It’s all good.

A pitifully short update

October 27, 2012

My procrastination skills—always formidable—have experienced a recent surge in power. Thus, it has been an entire month since I’ve chronicled progress on Kiss and Tell for you. Which is crazy, because I actually have a boatload of stuff to report.

I have a very minor amount of revision work left (maybe a few hours), and then the finished manuscript is ready to go out to a couple of beta readers, a term I just learned from my copy editor’s website. Beta readers provide a preview for an author of what the public might say about the book, pointing out things that are confusing, repetitive or even missing. Since the book is about 450 pages, agreeing to be a beta reader is no small task.

Fortunately, as I say to anyone who’ll listen, I have the best and most supportive friends anyone could hope to accumulate, and two of them have agreed to the “beta” task. One is an editor and the other a writer (though both can do both), so I’ll be fortunate indeed to see the book from their perspectives.

While they are reading, I’ll turn my attention to creating type for the book’s cover, which includes soliciting cover blurbs from authors I’ve met over the years. Dr. Whelihan and I met last week to discuss hiring a book designer and together we interviewed two candidates on the phone. I’ve since had additional calls with several online organizations who specialize in helping self-published authors bring their books to market. It’s a complicated field: not rocket science or anything, but there are multiple paths you can choose and we want to explore all the options before jumping in.

Although December is a huge month for selling books, it would be a rush for us to pull everything together in time to make a holiday release feasible. And let’s face it, sexual desire is understandably not at the forefront of women’s minds when they’re trying to buy and wrap gifts, arrange holiday dinners and parties, send cards and trim trees. Enough already! As we learned during interviews, sex can feel like one more thing on a to-do list if a woman is feeling overwhelmed by the requirements of daily life.

So right now we’re aiming for a lead-up of Kiss and Tell marketing to dovetail with Valentine’s Day. We’ll get advice from more experts along the way on how to make sure the campaign effectively builds momentum, and though I’m sure we’ll hit some bumps along the way, I’m hopeful we can generate some strategically-timed media excitement to help things along.

Fortunately, I have friends who have been down this road and are willing to lend their advice and expertise. Though the process seems a bit scary to me, they give me confidence that it can be done! Books do get published. It’s not impossible. Even for little old me!

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got just a few more revisions to make.