Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

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.

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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.

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?”

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.

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!

Kissing and telling … and telling

December 5, 2012

I am thrilled to report that the revision stage of Kiss and Tell is now complete, and the entire manuscript is in the capable hands of Brion Sausser, a book designer in California.

Although I’m sure there will be a proofing process—electronically, I’m guessing—I am proclaiming the writing phase OVER. The final weeks turned into a rather painful process, as I raced to make many of the changes my beta readers suggested. Corralling 455 pages of type is about as fun as it sounds. After wrestling with the words for so many months, the final polish was hampered by just how familiar I was with the material.

That’s the beauty of beta readers. They found rough spots, confusing syntax, missing words, repetitions and more. If I had it to do over, I would have definitely enlisted my beta readers before we hired Tiffany do to the editing work. But you live and learn. This is my first book. If this turns into the biggest regret I have over Kiss and Tell, I can easily live with that.

As publication loomed, Maureen and I circled back around to the book’s title, in order to finalize the subhead. (Maureen is the Wellington gynecologist whose patients filled out our survey on sexual desire and are the characters in Kiss and Tell.) Our working subhead was Sexy Secrets from Behind the Gynecologist’s Door, but we had worried from the start about using the gyno word in the title. It’s an ugly word and it carries an unpleasant visual as well.

So we polled some friends (mostly hers) with some sample subheads, among them Frank Talk From Women about their Sexual Desire, Secrets of Sexual Desire from Women of All Ages and Women of all Ages Tell the Truth about Sexual Desire.

Yes, I realize the distinctions are fine, but titling a book is nothing if not an exercise in squeezing the most and best meaning out of every single word.

Feedback from our public was helpful, but also confusing. Many people voted for the Frank head; just as many said the word was old-fashioned or made them think of a guy’s name instead of women’s desire. Suggestions came in to incorporate words such as “riveting,” “candid,” “explicit” or “raw and unedited.”

After much debate and vote counting, we created four finalists and sent the list back around to our polling group. We asked for votes only, no more suggestions of new titles, since we felt we were closing in on a winner. Of the finalists, Maureen liked Sexy Talk From Women of all Ages about their Desires; I thought it sounded too Cosmo girl. She rightly pointed out that a book’s title should first of all, SELL the book. We waited to see what the votes said.

The winner by a landslide (with 17 votes) was Secrets of Sexual Desire from Women of All Ages. We were very happy with that and Maureen was planning to make an adjustment on our website to that effect.

But then, on Nov. 24, Maureen and I met to have our author photos taken and I asked her to consider yet another change. My riding buddy Ken had reminded me the night before of how intriguing specific numbers can be, and so I asked Maureen what she thought of adjusting the subhead to Secrets of Sexual Desire from Women 15 to 97.

I told her that naming exact ages is more likely to catch people’s attention, as they think “97? 97!” Or “15?” Although I liked the lyricism of the phrase of All Ages, I agreed with Ken’s assessment that 15 to 97 would sell more books.

After all the polling and consideration of outside opinions, Maureen and I knew it was ultimately up to us, so that morning we chatted a bit and then just decided: Yep, we’re gonna use the ages.

So there it is. Kiss and Tell: Secrets of Sexual Desire from Women 15 to 97 is a done deal.

Stay tuned for an update next week on book cover designs. Brion has already sent us 8 samples and we’re debating the merits of erotic vs. sexy vs. serious vs. age appeal, with shades of typography and color choice thrown in to keep it interesting (and complicated).

Hopefully I’ll also be able to narrow down the date the book will be available. It’s going to be early next year, but that’s the best I can do right now. Stay tuned.

Just think, before you know it, Maureen and I will be asking to speak at your community groups and book clubs! Don’t be shy! Get us on your calendars. We kiss and tell.

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.