Posts Tagged ‘healthy sex’

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!

Managing expectations

July 13, 2013

The traveling that’s required to market “Kiss and Tell” has provided me with plenty of excuses for not keeping up with my blog. Granted, none of the excuses are good ones, but they are new. So they have effectively soothed the guilt over my month-long lapse.

I’d have been better off blogging every other day, because then I could perhaps capture the shifting moods and perceptions I’ve undergone concerning this whole marketing process. Why is it that no matter how people warn you of what’s ahead, we always manage to think our experience will be different, manageable and entirely in sync with the scenario we’ve resolutely constructed in our mind?

Or is it just me who does that?

After the solitude of the writing experience, I was more than ready for the public aspects of book selling. And I have enjoyed every chance I’ve had this summer to put “Kiss and Tell” in front of readers and share what I learned from the amazing women who became the characters for the book.

But the cost of traveling (which I’ve done very cheaply) adds up, especially when you combine gas, airline and hotel expenses with the fees associated with book store appearances (many have a community room fee of $100 to $250) and the occasional buy-back costs that kick in if you overestimate how many books might be sold in one night.  It’s hard. You want to think positive before an event, but if you are too optimistic, you’ll get hit with a hefty price tag buying back your own books—at retail, not wholesale.

Actually, that only occurred at the Barnes & Noble signing I arranged in Phoenix. All the independent stores I’ve dealt with have just relied on me to mail them our self-published books from my CreateSpace account. And after those events, excess books are just mailed back to me in South Florida.

But because “Kiss and Tell” is considered non-returnable, Barnes & Noble stores basically don’t want anything to do with us. The manager at the Phoenix store was just a really great guy who decided to take a chance on me because I walked into his store cold turkey and won him over.

I’ve since taken steps to address this non-returnable handicap, especially after I spoke with a representative of Barnes & Noble’s small press department in New York. A while back I sent B&N corporate a letter asking if they’d stock “Kiss and Tell” but got a rejection form letter in return. Basically the message was: “Of course you want us to carry your book; we’re great. But it’s unrealistic because there are too many self-published titles out there and 90 percent of them sell 100 copies or fewer, mostly to friends and family.”

Wow. Thanks.

I’m guessing whoever opened the mail didn’t read the synopsis I sent or the press clippings or the sales info, which indicated we’d already sold about 8 times as many books as the typical self-published book.

So, I got on my high horse and wrote a second letter asking them to reconsider, and to tell me what kind of sales figures we’d have to achieve for them to add us to their shelves.

And that’s when the B&N rep called from New York. She said our book already had enough sales and that B&N would definitely stock “Kiss and Tell” but for the fact that it’s classified as non-returnable, and warehouse-wise and storage-wise and inventory-wise it’s apparently impossible for Barnes & Nobles to order non-returnable books.

So I called my wonderful book designer Brion Sausser to find out if we could change this and he did some digging and said YES! Per his instruction, I’ve contacted my representative at Lightning Source (which we joined back when the book debuted) and supposedly it’s a doable change. CreateSpace can’t make it happen, but Lightning Source can. Why this is, I cannot tell you. When I figure it out, I’ll share.

Meanwhile, I’m now preparing for Texas book events in Austin (July 19) and Houston (July 22). The two Phoenix events were great, although the one at Changing Hands drew lots more people than the one at Barnes & Noble. Yes, it was 112 degrees the day of the B&N event, and there were lots of high school graduations in the area that day, but still . . .  those are just excuses. I can’t tell you definitely why one event gets more turnout than another. I can just tell you that for each event I try to spread the word as best I can.

But as I alluded to at this blog’s start, keeping one’s spirits up 24/7 while one “spreads the word” is far harder than I expected it to be. I’ll circle back around on that complicated process in a future blog.

To give you a taste of the back-to-back travel I’ve been indulging in this summer, allow me to note that I flew straight from Phoenix to Grand Rapids, Mich., to spend a week with my sisters and Mom to celebrate her 85th birthday. The morning after I returned to West Palm from Michigan, I drove to Boynton Beach for a weekend dog sitting job, which meant that when it ended, I had just two days back in my condo to pack for a road trip with my cycling buddy to St. Louis and Cape Girardeau. (We were looking for fun and adventure and also some book selling opportunities along the way.)

We pulled out in his van on June 24th, and I flew home from St. Louis on July 2. Three days later I started a week-long dog sitting job that ended the same day I started a pet sitting job in the house I’m in right now. It ends Monday and on Wednesday I fly to Texas for 10 days. Two days after I return to Florida, I start the first of four August pet-sitting gigs (including one in Key Largo! Woot!)

I adore traveling; during the time I was writing “Kiss and Tell” I deeply missed the excitement and joy it brings me. But not surprisingly, I feel a bit unmoored these days, ping ponging from place to place, taking in new faces and experiences, but lacking the time to process and absorb lessons along the way.

With so little time spent in ordinary pursuits at my familiar home base, I sometimes catch myself wondering “Now, who are you again?”

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.

Life as a bookseller

April 20, 2013

Retail was never my calling.

My early efforts to earn money didn’t include stints at clothing stores, sit-down restaurants or grocery stores. Instead I taught gymnastics at a rec center, bussed tables at a cafeteria and played receptionist at an H&R Block office during tax season. So my sales skills, if indeed one could call them that, were honed amid the bare bones landscape of door-to-door dealings as I peddled Girl Scout cookies annually for perhaps six years. (Yes, I was a Girl Scout for a long time.)

Let’s agree that this rudimentary training did little to entice me into the world of retail. Sure, in my journalism career, I feel like I “sold” the product of the news every day, and was an enthusiastic spokesperson ready to recount the reasons why a daily subscription was a bargain. But my pay has never been linked to sales or percentages, so I’ve never felt that pressure to “move product.”

Till now, of course.

Selling Kiss and Tell is a full-time job. I decided to devote the spring and summer seasons to spreading the word any way I can, whether through interviews, talks, social media, book-signings, chance encounters or just plain begging for coverage. I have a small, black notebook that I’ve used to jot down marketing ideas for months, and every few days I page through it to remind myself of what’s yet to be done. It lists everything from the email address and phone number of an acquaintance who belongs to the Red Hat Society to a reminder that I need to send Kathie Lee and Hoda of Today a copy of the book.

For the Today show gals, I will use the same tactic I employed for Dr. Oz, who was in South Florida recently for a wellness seminar at Gardens Mall. I put a copy of Kiss and Tell in a brightly colored bag with his name on it, and included an Oral-B battery-operated toothbrush. A ribbon attached to the toothbrush held a note reading: “Why is a respected gynecologist recommending this toothbrush as an enhancement to her patients’ sex lives? Turn to Page 3 and find out.”

Call it guerrilla marketing.

I was unable to hand my gift to Dr. Oz himself. About a thousand people were there before me. But I left it with his handlers, who were collecting all manner of Oz offerings for their famous boss. I feel cheered by the effort. And though the daily rewards are small, I rarely feel discouraged.

Sooner or later, something will come of all this. My friend Libby, who worked in a PR firm, says you’re after just that one break, that one contact, the one book that makes it to the right desk. You don’t know which book it will be, but it arrives at the perfect moment and its recipient decides to share Kiss and Tell with the world. That’s the goal!

Meanwhile, I’m finding genuine satisfaction along the way. Last Thursday’s book signing at The Palm Beach Post was truly fun for me and I had this moment about three-quarters of the way through when I felt completely grounded and secure and also thrilled. I realized I was comfortable talking about this sensitive topic, and had a glimmer of how passionate I feel about sharing what I’ve learned in order to bring about more understanding on the subject of sexual desire. And I simultaneously sensed that the audience was with me, was receptive and open to everything I was hoping to impart. It was really a special moment.

And considering that I was a bit anxious heading into this event (because it was my first public book-signing), the fact that I had such a great time in the moment means I can use that experience to talk myself out of future nervousness. Call it self soothing.

Clearly, I’m a novice  in the world of retail marketing, so I have much to learn. But when a Girl Scout cookie badge marks your sales success up till now, you take your small victories where you can!

A new perspective on the power of the press

March 24, 2013

I’m riding high right now, admittedly, because a few days ago I spoke about “Kiss and Tell” to a local book club and sold lots of copies in that posh country club setting. The members asked smart questions when I finished my half-hour talk, and then lined up to purchase the book, which I was naturally thrilled to autograph.

But most of the time, marketing a book is a behind-the-scenes job, with only the very tip of that iceberg being public appearances that translate into book sales. I’ve verified the conventional wisdom that the skills needed to write a book are totally different from the skills required to then launch it in the marketplace. Self-publishing—as my partner and I did—means you have to quickly switch from one skill set to another; otherwise your beloved book will languish once your family and best friends have purchased their copies.

I try to make progress every day on getting the word out. My digital marketing skills are fairly dismal, but a savvy friend is giving me tips and I’m trying to implement all the suggestions about Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter and more. I did score an interview at Austin’s famous BookPeople (which I mentioned I was hoping to land in my last blog) and the coordinator there sounds like she will be happy to find a slot for me to hold a book-signing there in the summer. To maximize exposure, I’ll try to set up other events around that book signing, as I’m doing in Phoenix.

Speaking of Phoenix, I found out about a wonderful women’s group there called Wild Boomer Women, who get together for adventures such as hot-air balloon rides, theater outings, cruises, happy hours and more. I emailed the president to see if I could interest her in having me talk with one or several of her chapters about “Kiss and Tell” when I’m in town. But that was 9 days ago and I’m still waiting to hear back from her.

I have a couple of other “fishing hooks” I’ve thrown out into book media land, and I wish I knew the formula for how long you wait to hear from someone before following up with a gentle nudge.

It doesn’t make sense to give up after just one contact: To wit, I waited 11 weeks to hear back from a hard-working friend I emailed at Entertainment Weekly and finally took the plunge to call him, only to discover my oh-so-carefully-worded missive had been routed to his spam file.

When we talked he was happy to give me the name of the right person at his magazine to contact for coverage, and I was very glad I had taken the initiative to call. And yet, when I’m asking for a favor—even if it’s just contact information—I worry that my recipient is going to be annoyed at my request or just too busy to respond altogether. Living constantly in that tentative frame of mind is not a particularly comfortable space to inhabit, I’m finding.

Back when I was a newspaper features editor, I knew I had it good, but I’m realizing afresh how nice it is to be in a position to sift through all the ideas that come across your desk and choose what you want to cover . . . rather than being the abiding supplicant, that hopeful, powerless one who waits for another to bless their idea with publicity or coverage.

Well. Turnabout is fair play. It’s helpful (if humbling) to view the world from this angle, and I’m grateful for the learning experience.

I’m also very thankful to be marketing a fun product I believe in. I can’t imagine navigating this territory if I was peddling, say, draperies or used cars. There’s a story I never want to write!

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.

A dash for the finish line

January 30, 2013

We’re probably only a few days away from announcing Kiss and Tell’s availability on Amazon, but meanwhile I’m keeping plenty busy trying to juggle all these last-minute requirements that are an integral part of self publishing.

Settling on a price for the book, which Amazon will immediately discount by about $5, was a requirement. Ditto for the e-book version. Then we have to arrange for unique url addresses that will signal Amazon when the buyers come directly from us. We earn credits with Amazon that way, sort of like being a loyal customer, I suppose. We had to get a tax ID number, set up a bank account for our already-formed writing corporation and make sure Lightning Source and CreateSpace were supplied with every piece of information they need in order to make the book available. Not to mention double-checking cover type, subheads and more on the online versions of the book.

It’s a lot.

And it’s a long way from interviewing subjects and wrestling alone over my computer on the best words to tell their stories.

But that’s OK. I’ve said good-bye to the solitary phase of my life that produced Kiss and Tell and am eager to enter the marketing phase, where I’ll get to share the book with the wider world.

An experience I had earlier this month boosted my confidence about what’s to come. A week or so after I returned from Christmas break, book designer Brion forwarded the email copy of his work on Kiss and Tell for me to proof. Rather than viewing my chapters in Word documents, this version positioned the type on book pages, complete with page numbers, chapter titles, subheads, footnotes, etc. It was the first time I had seen it altogether in that form.

Almost a month had passed since I had looked at the manuscript, so for the first time since I began writing Kiss and Tell, I was able to approach it fresh.

And I liked it! A lot!

Every other time I’ve looked at these pages, I’ve seen the problems yet to fix, the transitions that need strengthening, the weak verb I meant to replace, the doubts, the doubts, the doubts. Since I built it from scratch, I’ve grown to consider Kiss and Tell as merely a series of separate sections, each with issues and problems that I’m responsible for fixing. Often, it felt like a burden. A burden I volunteered to carry, but still . . .

Well, that viewpoint disintegrated when I proofed Brion’s work. For me, obtaining some distance from the work was a wonderful thing. Freed of the need to be a copy editor, I was somehow able to dive in and read as a consumer. And I was pulled along from page to page effortlessly. The writing felt smooth to me, and occasionally a vocabulary choice would delight me. Did I choose that? I did! Good job!

It was such fun to transform my relationship with the work from taskmaster to admirer. Always before I’ve seen what needed to be done; finally I got a glimpse of the finished product. It was a heady feeling.

Which is truly nice, because the majority of the “heady” feelings I’ve been visited by this month are of the migraine variety. I brought the flu back from Texas with me, and have wondered if perhaps it contributed to the fact that I had a total of six migraines in January. And two of them recurred, which means I woke up with migraines eight days this month. That is way too many.

However, I ended my two-year run with Lyrica early in the month (it’s a preventive) and so perhaps this is my system adjusting to its absence. Lyrica has numerous side effects and is NOT a drug one stays on indefinitely, but it did reduce the number of migraines while I took it.

I’ve decided to practice some patience and see if I drop back into a better rhythm once my body adjusts to Lyrica’s absence. With so much happening in the book front, it’s not like I don’t have distractions aplenty!

Stay tuned for a notice as soon as Kiss and Tell can be ordered online.

And thank you for sticking around this long!

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!