Posts Tagged ‘gynecologist’

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.

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.

Healthy sex

April 29, 2012

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!

A matter of balance

November 26, 2011

Libidos, for women, are an inconstant thing.

My research has proven this again and again, and while delving into sexual desire for the ladies in their 60s, I encountered an imbalance I was forced to address.

Here’s what happened. After we selected 16 excellent and balanced surveys, I started calling the respondents, hoping to set up 8 interviews. Some said yes, some had voice mail machines, some had left the state. The out of towners all expressed a willingness to do phoners, but that’s never my first choice — so I thanked them and moved on.

And I started doing interviews.

Wonderful interviews. With women who shared very interesting stories.

But a little ways into the process, I realized my subjects were trending toward the low-libido side. One married woman hadn’t had sex in 7 months; a single woman said it had been 7 years. A married lesbian said she and her partner hadn’t made love in over a year.

All of this is to be expected in a chapter dealing with women in their 60s, but I knew from the 193 surveys in this decade that other women were having a different experience. I flipped back through my 16 chosen surveys and realized that all four of the Florida evacuees had filled out surveys indicating a high libido and sexy stories to share.

Darn!

I became more aggressive about reaching the remaining women in my batch that were interested in sex, but even so, when I sat down to write the chapter, I realized the overall balance was tipped too far in the “no, thanks” column. So I called Dr. Mo, told her the situation, and suggested I go back for more interviews before I tried to write the chapter. Though I already had 7 interviews, enough for a chapter, she agreed — and we moved our deadline date for the chapter to be completed. I lined up another interview the next day and then called one of the relocated gals who was returning to Florida for Thanksgiving and pigeon-holed her for a face-to-face interview while she’s in town. She was a great sport about sacrificing some of her vacation, and our talk is scheduled for tomorrow.

And then — we’ve allowed just 5 days to write the chapter. I know. Very tough. I had 57 pages of notes last time I checked, which is even more than the 40s. But I’m hopeful. The 60s feel less scattered and somehow more manageable material-wise than the 40s. The ladies seem to fall into groups more easily, instead of being quite so distinct — although of course each woman’s story is filled with unique details. Two women began having sex at age 16, two more at 17, one each at 18 and 19 and one at 22. Kay, the lesbian of the group, started earlier, at age 14 with a girl a couple of years older.

And most of the women are in their late 60s; the youngest is 64, though tomorrow’s interview is 63. The older ages are partially a result of the sheer length of time it’s been since they filled out their survey. We spent 15 months accumulating the 1,300 surveys and it’s taken me this long to work my way through all of the decades. So most of the women are two years older now.

I’m not worried. The project and research are valid; that I know. I still feel confident about landing an agent with our good idea and the book’s progress so far. Just this week I sent out six query letters or proposals to agents I feel are a good match for the material. Keep your fingers crossed that the right person signs on to help us turn this project into a book you’ll find at Barnes & Noble.

Meanwhile, I am struggling through the final indignity of my ordeal with adult braces. I write a monthly column for The Palm Beach Post and I’ve decided my next one will deal with the topic of outright deception by orthodontists. The information they don’t give you on the front end of braces could easily fill a file cabinet, and while I understand the impulse, I cannot forgive it. Again and again I was blindsided by unpleasant surprises and unforeseen requests. When this is over, I will never look at rubber bands the same. They are no longer friendly, helpful office supplies; their evil twins are instruments of torture.

The zig zag elastics I’m wearing now are woven criss-cross between my bottom and top teeth to “set” my bite, and they do not allow me to talk, drink water except through a straw, take pills or even lick my lips. It creates this weird claustrophobia, where you feel trapped inside your mouth. I distract myself in order to not get panicky about it. Then when you remove them to eat, your teeth feel all loosey-goosey and it hurts to chew meat or anything crunchy.

But what else is new? After 16 months, I should be used to this. Funny thing: I never got used to it.

HOWEVER … God willing and the creek don’t rise, the braces come off Dec. 6, which is a few weeks before my predicted removal date. I attribute this to my dogged insistence on following every rule laid down for me. In all this time, I have only once forgotten to wear my bands at night, and I’ve been pretty compulsive about daytime wear as well.

Yes, I’ve been a good little patient — but I haven’t been good-spirited. A girlfriend who’s well acquainted with my usually optimistic nature told me recently she loved that for once I was not taking mistreatment lying down. She made it clear she was fine with me refusing to look on the bright side and instead complaining with gusto.

Needless to say, she immediately became my favorite person.

Just think, Faithful Blog Readers. Very soon these posts will no longer contain my grumblings and whinings on the oh-so-absorbing topic of braces.

I’m thinking that will be a day we can all celebrate!

90s – done!

February 10, 2011

My book plan for 2011, which I shared here recently, is to write one chapter a month, each one highlighting a decade in the life of women and exploring what influences they most commonly cite as affecting their sexual desire during that period.

Uh oh. Long sentence. I promise not to write such long sentences in the book.

Anyway … I’m happy to say I’m on track.

Well, sort of. Kind of.

I know, I know. You’re thinking I’m lame … but it’s the teenagers’ fault, I swear!

Allow me to explain. After two fascinating teen interviews last month, none of the other young ladies would return calls or texts so that I could schedule face-to-face meetings or even phoners. So I revisited the surveys and pulled out additional candidates, solicited my doctor partner for their phone numbers and then diligently tried contacting the new ones. Also to no avail.

With the month ticking away, and my self-imposed deadline approaching, I made a command decision to switch over to my 90-year-old respondents and see if that went faster.

Voila! You will perhaps not be surprised to learn that women of this advanced age group — if not actually awaiting your phone call — are at least willing to have cordial conversations, and in a couple of cases, were bold enough to allow me to come meet them for in-person chats about their lifetime of desire. (Uh oh. Is that another overly long sentence? I feel sure it is.)

In fairly short order I was able to get an excellent sampling of our most senior ladies. I found that talking to the oldest and youngest survey respondents so close together was as enlightening as I’d hoped. I spoke with six 90something women (of 11 who took our survey) who described a sexual climate that seems light years removed from the one the teens I spoke with inhabit. Most of the senior ladies never received a sex talk from their parents, accepted a marriage proposal from a man they were not intimate with and were virgins on their wedding night.

Their talks with me for the book usually constituted the most detailed sexual conversation they’d had in their life. I was respectful of this and very careful in my language with the ladies, who were paying me the compliment of being vulnerable and candid about a subject their lives didn’t prepare them to share easily. I came away with great admiration for them, along with heartfelt gratitude.

I spent four days last week writing furiously, and as a result had the chapter 90 percent finished by Sunday’s work session with Dr. Mo. I had several NEED DOCTOR’S COMMENTS HERE notations, which we talked through as I took notes. The very next day I incorporated all her comments into the text, which means the chapter is virtually complete. I intentionally left it a bit vague at the very end, so that more definite conclusions can be drawn as the book unfolds.

And now I’m back to the teens. On Sunday, we pulled out yet another batch of young candidates and Dr. Mo dug up their phone numbers (which are not attached to the survey to protect patients’ anonymity). I’ve already done a phoner with one gal from Gainesville and have a face-to-face with another scheduled Saturday morning. They have busy lives, I get it. And I need them worse than they need me, so I must wrestle their slippery schedules and vow to be victorious!

How does this all make me feel? In a word — energized. And I’m happy at how well I seem to be responding to my own deadline. Who knew I’d listen to me?

Of course, this is only Month 2. Sometimes I look way ahead, to all the chapters undone, and all the pieces that have to be pulled together somehow. When I do that, when I take the long view, I feel scared and overwhelmed. So I just pull back, and think about the one chapter, the one next call, the one next interview.

And that — I can do.

(Please note: I did not end with a long sentence!)

Sex, sex, sex

October 24, 2010

Sorry for the sensationaistic headline, but, well, it’s true.

My whole life these days revolves around sex — and not because I’m having any personal experience, but that’s a different post.

The survey results about women’s sexual desire are in and we’ve gleaned some basic statistics. (For instance, we surveyed 27 teenagers, 11 women in their 90s, 771 married women and 95 widows.) But because the survey questions were open-ended and difficult to quantify, as of yet I don’t have the juicy stuff, i.e. how many women mentioned kissing as something that stimulates their desire or what percentage of women say rushing to intercourse is the one thing they wish their partner would NOT do.

I talked to my statistics guru about this today and and he explained the need to turn our qualitative answers into easy-to-read categories. It seems I need expanded spreadsheets for each of our 6 questions.

Soooo. I have more work to do.

But that’s fine! I’m totally energized for the task.

Mostly that’s because I had a highly motivating work session a week ago with Maureen Whelihan, my book partner. (If you knew her, you’d see why; she’s super upbeat.) She loved the intro I’d written, which was lovely to hear, but more importantly, we talked about voice in the book. Our conversation and her comments gave me confidence and in general freed me up creatively.

As a result, I’ve spent the week crafting a chapter tentatively titled “A Day With the Doctor,” where I set the stage for what Dr. Mo’s patients experience on a typical visit. (Hint: She asks her patients if they’re having sex, and if so, is it good?) Plus, this is the chapter where I have inserted all the surprising details about how minimal the training is for gynecologists when it comes to sexuality. A study of medical school curriculum in North America on sexual health showed that 61 percent of schools offer less than 10 hours (!!) of study in this subject.

What? Aren’t they supposed to be experts? No wonder physicians and specifically gynecologists are hesitant to bring up sexuality with their patients! Their education didn’t help them overcome whatever prejudices, hang-ups or fears about sexuality they carried into adulthood. Until the majority of doctors are able to have knowledgeable, non-judgmental conversations about sexual function with their patients, women will continue their frustrating quest for reliable, accessible information in this arena.

OK. Climbing down from my soap box now. Let’s see if I can pull myself back on topic.

Oh yes. Overall the book is progressing very well. Dr. Mo and I agreed to talk on the phone for update meetings every 2 weeks and we set our next work session 4 weeks out. This is very motivating for me and breaks tasks down into manageable bites. I definitely feel more organized and productive.

In related news, I’m approaching the 3-month marker for having the braces on, and I still despise them. I never forget they are there, never find anything to like about them and never fail to be annoyed by them. I am, however, resigned. I had two more bottom teeth banded last week and will be given the dreaded spacers soon to make room for more bands on my upper molars. I’m afraid to ask the dentist how many teeth will be banded before this nightmare ends. I reserve the right to take to my bed for a month if the number tops 10.

But maybe a women writing a book about female sexual desire shouldn’t use expressions such as “take to my bed for a month.”

Note to self: Be sensitive.

Progress on all fronts

September 21, 2010

As the dog days of this Florida summer draw to a close, I’m moving into a whole new phase of my book project. Yes! Data entry is finally complete and chapter writing begins.

But first: An interruption for dental news of the most exciting level. The turbos are already off!

It’s true. The nasty metallic spikes glued to the back of my two front teeth — which were installed to keep my top teeth from scraping the braces off my bottom teeth — are gone. I had thought the turbos and I would be intimate pals for 6 months, but a blessed reprieve occurred. Last week, on a quick trip to the dentist to reattach a loose bracket, Iris asked if I’d like to get the full adjustment the we had scheduled for the following week. A no brainer for me. Anything to speed up the process.

So when the dentist wheeled over, I of course wanted to know exactly when the turbos were coming off, because I had a big-time party to plan for the day those intruders were removed. I might have also indicated that I was not amused by said turbos’ unpleasant influence during the previous six weeks.

To answer my question, the dentist told Iris to check my back teeth with that tracing-paper-like stuff they use to get ink on your teeth — you know what I’m talking about, right? And she does the test on both sides and tells the dentist it looks like my teeth are OK and the turbos can come off. “You’re not just saying that so she’ll quit whining, are you?” asked my jovial dentist.

“Let me assure you,” I broke in, “I have not yet BEGUN to whine to the extent that I’m capable of when it comes to these turbos. I have saved that particular joy for my family and friends — and those intrepid readers who follow my blog.”

Despite my surly attitude, a closer examination by Mr. Dentist revealed that my front teeth have actually moved forward enough ALREADY to avoid the lower teeth, although little rubber “bumpers” were fastened to four bottom teeth for good measure. (The clearance is still too close for comfort; thus the friendly bumpers, which are actually kind of fun to moosh my top teeth against cause they’re bouncy.)

Needless to say, my life took an immediate turn for the better. Iris said the turbos would come off in 30 seconds, but that getting the glue off the back of my teeth would take much longer. She was right; that glue was more like cement. But so what? Turbos were off! I left the dentist elated.

The fretfulness I felt from the awkwardly placed spikes disappeared, the constant soreness of my tongue was gone in 24 hours and the necessity of disentangling food from the turbos after every single bite of food was over. Hallelujah indeed.

Thus, I was able to turn my attention to much more rewarding pursuits and wrapped up the data entry phase. Only a dozen surveys remain to be added to the spreadsheet, and they await missing information from my book partner, Mo. Meanwhile, I’ve gone back into my book proposal to update it with solid information about what we learned from the surveys, replacing the speculative statements I wrote before the numbers were in.

But I don’t want to spend too much time there. I’m itching to get into chapter writing, and interviewing the 6 or 7 women from each decade who will “represent” for their age group. Because we have the largest representation from women in their 40s and 50s, I’m considering doing more interviews from those decades, and perhaps only 3 or 4 from the teens and 90s. There seems to be so much to learn from mid-life women about what does and doesn’t stimulate desire.

More to come about these fascinating women. But first, a short trip to Texas — because I seem to have this thing for states where the summer drags on forever.