Posts Tagged ‘sex survey’

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.

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!

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!

A dash to the deadline

July 13, 2012

Exactly one month from today, on Aug. 13, my book’s manuscript is due to the editor.

This is NOT an editor hired by a publishing house; we didn’t get a book deal for Kiss and Tell. It’s an editor Dr. Whelihan and I hired privately, although she also works for all the big New York publishing houses. I mentioned her in an earlier blog, and was impressed with the sample edit she did on the intro to my chapter on the 80s Ladies. (Plus I met her in Austin when I was in Texas for two weeks enjoying an annual girls’ weekend and celebrating my mom’s 84th birthday. Her name is Tiffany Yates Martin; she’s 6 feet tall, gorgeous and extraordinarily charismatic. Yes, you’re detecting a bit of a girl crush.)

Kiss and Tell‘s book proposal has now been officially turned down by seven publishers. It’s a little bit discouraging, sure. But the reason they are saying no to the book still strikes Dr. Mo and I as just being off. They seem to think readers will only care about the sexuality of women their own age; that our focus is too broad and no one’s interested in the passion of women in other age groups.

I realize everyone is super savvy up there in New York, of course, but I think the suits in the city maybe don’t know as much as they think they do about women’s sexuality. I mean, did they completely miss the uproar over Fifty Shades of Grey? Why don’t they see that women—of ALL ages—who read about desire in the form of fiction will also read about it in non-fiction form?

And believe me, the book is going to be erotic.

I know this because our agent told me after reading the sample chapters that I needed to mention the material’s steaminess in the proposal. “You’re missing the turn-on factor,” she said. I hadn’t really planned that effect, but I was quick to follow through on her suggestion.

And it makes sense that when women talk about what stimulates their desire, and those scenarios are faithfully transferred to words—reading them might indeed stimulate desire.

I digress!

The breaking news to share here is that I have committed to finishing the book’s first draft in one month. I was terrified into paralysis at first. I spent two days assuring myself this was impossible. For so long I’ve been saying, “I’m writing a book.” I still can’t quite grasp what it will mean to say, “I’ve written a book,” since the process itself has defined me for so long.

But then the soldier mentality took over, and I just started marching. I’m digging in every day; I figure it’s a six-day-a-week proposition from now till the deadline. I have to read every single word I’ve written so far and try to drag them all under the umbrella of one voice. As the project unfolded, the narrative shifted, and now it’s time to solidify the chapters under a unifying voice.

I’m also having to finish up certain chapters, which I left undone purposely, waiting for closure on other decades in order to come back and wrap up earlier chapters with more expertise and authority. The overview chapter, which explains what trends we found and sets the stage for the whole book, is proving to be a gigantic time suck. I’m wrestling with whether or not to break it into several chapters, because some of the (juicy) stories that accompany the overarching trends are lengthy.

But big picture problems like that aren’t enough. I’m also doing meticulous copy editing as I go, since there’s no point in ignoring it as I do a final read. Tiffany was kind enough to provide me with some style tips, which is a good thing since it turns out that journalism’s AP style isn’t at all what book editors are looking for. Oh joy. Live and learn.

This final push toward the deadline is a microcosm of what the entire book process has been. If I look up and survey the landscape of what still has to be completed, I become overwhelmed and frightened. If I keep my head down, and put one foot in front of the other, one paragraph after another, I can hold on to the hope of finishing.

Here goes!

Healthy sex

April 29, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making sure to get it wrong

April 11, 2012

I thought I’d write this week about how important it is during this project to protect the anonymity of the women who trust me with the stories of their sexual histories and deepest desires.

It’s on my mind because the issue came up several times as I worked on the 50s chapter, which by the way I’ve just completed. (Insert roar of crowd here.)

During interviews, I ask each woman to choose an alias for herself — just a first name. If she’s married or talks extensively about a partner, I will often ask her to come up with a fake name for that person as well. Force of habit is strong, so as they talk about these people, the women often use real names. This can get confusing when I start writing the chapter a couple weeks later, because while taking notes, I might accidentally type the name the woman says, rather than the agreed-upon fake name.

Which is why, at some point in my notes, I usually type something like “husband’s name is Sam but we’ll call him Mike.” That way, if I type in the wrong name at any point, I can double check for accuracy when I’m compiling the chapter. (My method has been to conduct all the interviews for a chapter and then write that decade’s chapter before moving on to the next.)

As I wrote about Alexa and her lover Tony, I looked in vain for my cheat note to myself as to his real name. I couldn’t find it, and suddenly worried that we had not chosen one — and I was perhaps using his real name. So I called Alexa back and she reminded me of his real name, reassuring me that I had it wrong.

Whew. That’s the goal!

Certain identifying factors about people are too distinct, so occasionally I will change a woman’s school, profession or perhaps country of origin. I stay true to physical appearance, family details and sexual history of course, but even so, many of the women are unrecognizable. I know this because Dr. Mo, who has of course met all these patients, usually can’t recognize them as she reads the chapters upon completion.

Compounding her challenge to figure out who’s who is the fact that Dr. Mo rarely knows who is interviewed. She and I narrow down prospects to maybe 15 or 20 women, she retrieves their phone numbers from her medical files (which I don’t have access to) and then I set about the business of arranging interviews. Availability is key, so by the time the chapter is finished, it’s very difficult for her to sort everyone out.

Nevertheless, her patients out themselves from time to time. They come in for a check-up and proudly proclaim that they are going to be in the book. “Anne interviewed me!” they tell her. “It was so fun. It was like therapy!” (Tell me I don’t love to hear that; it’s my goal for these brave, candid women to feel at ease and comfortable no matter how intimate the topics are.)

All of this makes me confident that my ladies’ anonymity is being protected, but I had a special case in this 50s chapter (my FINAL decade chapter, by the way!). Christina confided to me that she had emotional and sexual relationships with women in her 20s, but returned to a heterosexual lifestyle at age 31. She then asked me to exclude that fact from the book.

I made the case to her that such an omission invalidated the integrity of her story, and that other readers, if only a few, would surely identify with her life experience. She was still reluctant, so I offered her veto power over the chapter once it was written — something I’ve never done before. But I was positive that once she saw her experience in the context of nine other 50-somethings, she would realize how comfortably it fit in among the tapestry of stories.

I finished the chapter, Dr. Mo gave it her stamp of approval, and then I called Christina and made an appointment to take her a copy. (I wasn’t comfortable with an email version of the chapter floating around in the ethernet, as paranoid as I’m sure that sounds.) She had no problem with any of the identifying factors I used about her, but felt some of her quotes, while accurate, didn’t quite reflect her thoughts. So we sat down and worked them all out together, until she was satisfied she’d been as clear as possible.

So her anonymity was protected, her quotes were sharp and the chapter included her invaluable and interesting input. A win-win.

Honestly, I protect these women so completely that by the time a chapter is finished, when I think of an interviewee, only her pseudo name comes to mind. This week, when I spoke to Christina and Alexa, I automatically called each of them by these assumed names.

I guess if I run into them at book signings, I’ll have to pretend I don’t know them because I may only recall their book names — and using those would give them away!

Yep. The 50s were fabulous

March 9, 2012

So. Despite a couple of cancellations and some rescheduling, I have now wrapped up the 10 in-depth interviews for women in their 50s.

I suppose it was completely predictable that I would feel connected to these women. They’re my contemporaries and I feel a kinship with each, sharing as we do a list of common points of reference. I find delight in talking to women of all ages, but it’s lovely to note that extra little spark that kicks in when someone identifies with all your childhood memories and markers.

As a prelude to writing, I’m compiling a cheat sheet, a helpful habit I developed four or five chapters ago. It’s a crude chart that simply includes name, age, pseudonym, number of marriages, number of kids, number of sexual partners, frequency of sex … basically just a few quick details so I can do comparisons and know at a glance what percentages I’m dealing with. It helps to jump-start the process of identifying trends within the decades.

One thing I immediately noticed this time was the effect of birth control pills. Not a single woman in her 50s married due to pregnancy, while 33 percent of the 60-something interviewees did just that. Another 33 percent of the 60s women got pregnant on their honeymoons, proving that although The Pill was technically available to that older decade of women, its cultural and practical assimilation took years.

Another difference — which may or may not be connected to the elapsed decade — is the number of women who identified themselves as bi-sexual or lesbian. When possible, we strove to include a lesbian woman in each decade’s interviewees, wanting their voices included. A gay woman in her 60s and one in her 50s were therefore part of our sampling. But two additional 50-somethings told me they were bi-sexual during our interviews.

Their stories were very different but equally fascinating: Christina dated women exclusively during her 20s, but has since returned to a heterosexual lifestyle; Alexa began having sex with women only after she and her husband entered the swinger lifestyle when she was in her late 30s.

Christina lost her virginity to her first boyfriend at age 16 and dated him for 4 years. She had another male lover as well, but then as a freshman in college, began a lesbian relationship, and dated women exclusively for a decade.

“In my 20s and into my early 30s, I considered myself bi-sexual,” she says, “but in the past decade, when I think about making love to another woman, I find it unappealing. So I would not consider myself to be bi-sexual anymore. However, when I was younger, I was open to not only sex with either gender, but a relationship.”

At age 30, Christina started dating a man.

“It wasn’t a gender issue,” she clarifies, “it was a relationship issue. I happened to be attracted to him as a person. At that time in my life, the circumstances were right. I didn’t just wake up one day and say, ‘I’m gonna go back to men.'”

After that relationship, Christina dated one more woman, and that was the last time. She says she stopped being interested in women around the age of 31.

“I think women have much more in common with other women,” she says. “I have a hard time understanding men, I truly do. I understand women much better, but there’s not that physical attraction any longer. There’s still an emotional attraction, but not a physical one.”

Alexa, on the other hand, is attracted to women physically, but has had no exclusive, long-term relationship with one. She considers herself bi-sexual, having engaged in multiple encounters with women in groups through the years (sometimes with one other couple, sometimes with several other couples).

Though she’s now a widow, during the 16 years when she and her husband Greg were swingers, Alexa says she looked forward to sex with the women: “Women know women’s bodies a lot better than most men, I would say.”

However, she never had sex without Greg’s presence.

“He loved to watch two women getting it on,” she recalls. “For guys, it’s like their favorite fantasy.”

There’s more to Alexa’s story (she became involved with a bi-sexual man after Greg died), but it’s all rather involved as you can imagine, so full disclosure will have to wait.

Meanwhile, have you visited the website we set up for Kiss and Tell ? If you share your email with us, we’ll notify you when the book is published.

Yes, that’s still a ways off, but it’s getting closer all the time!

Snug and signed

February 25, 2012

While I continue to chastise myself over the speed at which I write and the ability I have (or have not) to focus on the tasks at hand, somehow things keep moving ahead at a decent clip.

Case in point: The proposal for Kiss and Tell has now been sent out to a handful of publishing houses!

Yes. Dr. Whelihan and I signed an agent’s contract with Victoria Skurnick at Levine Greenberg Literary Agency in New York. Victoria’s a pro with decades of experience, and wasted no time dithering (as I am constantly wont to do). She and I emailed back and forth a few times while I tweaked the Kiss and Tell proposal to her liking and in no time she had forwarded it to several houses, along with an introductory letter that made our team sound sexy, smart and sell-able. Gotta love it.

It’s been just one day since the call went out and we’ve received a response already: a very polite turn-down from an editor who assured us the idea was appealing, but that it wasn’t the right fit for her publisher. I realize a turn-down is supposed to make you feel all rejected and stuff, but instead I’m encouraged. The editor read the information quickly, was clearly engaged by it, responded in a positive way and even signed off with a comment about how sure she was we’d land a publisher in no time. So excuse me for being excited! I can’t help it. We’re another step closer to the brass ring of a good contract with a publishing house.

By the way, I do realize it’s a brass ring. Horror tales abound from writers who’ve seen their precious work treated poorly by publishers. The promise of national marketing is the carrot held out to get you to sign on, despite a paltry advance. But follow-through on those promises to get your book wide exposure is far from a given. Disappointed writers with legitimate reason to feel resentful are everywhere.

Still, we decided against self publishing at this juncture. So far, Victoria makes us feel confident and optimistic. And though Maureen and I both know how to sell this book locally, we have to get a publishing house to really push it if we hope to jump to a broader platform.

Putting the polishing touches on the final proposal hasn’t deterred me from my sessions with the 50-something women. I have completed six in-depth interviews and have another four scheduled for early next week.

I’ll stop at 10 interviews, even though I yearn to interview all 290 women in this decade who completed a survey. I’m 57. This is my decade. Though their stories don’t mirror mine, I feel a kinship with each woman. She feels familiar to me almost as soon as we sit down to talk.

And the stories! Ah, the stories. They are priceless.

I promise I’m putting them down with all the ability I can muster. And I can hardly wait for you to read the book!

Sizzling 60s

January 30, 2012

If the nine women in their 60s I’ve interviewed for Kiss & Tell are representative of their decade — and I have every reason to think they are — readers are in for a big surprise.

What thoughtful, rich material they are adding to the book. And what wisdom they bring. In this decade, I find most women are taking stock of their relationships, their sexual history and their choices — both bad and good — in an effort to glean what lessons they might carry into their futures. It’s been an inspiring chapter, I have to say.

Today’s 60something women were high school girls during the 60s, so the winds of societal change were beginning to pick up. Though the Pill was talked about, virtually no high schoolers used it for fear of the stigma attached. Today, when girls can openly ask their gynecologists for birth control alternatives without fear of moral condemnation, it’s hard to recall how narrow the choices were not so long ago.

I’m sure several of our nine ladies wish they’d had at least the option of birth control. Except for the one lesbian in the group, all the women were intensely fearful of premarital pregnancy, and three had those fears realized, becoming pregnant in their teens. Another three conceived almost the second they married and a fourth became pregnant within a few months. While listening to their stories, I could clearly see why the Pill was poised to revolutionize the female sexual experience.

The total number of marriages for this group — 14 — further illustrates the transition society was making in its acceptance of divorce and therefore multiple sexual partners. Three of the women had 30 or more partners; two had a dozen. Just two of the nine interviewees remain married to their sole partner.

One newlywed, a bubbly 63-year-old, supplied fresh energy to the group. Another described a satisfying love life she shares with a longtime lover. But several of the divorced and single women were between relationships and — despite happy memories of previous partners — had not been sexually active for periods of 7 months to 7 years. Some were on the lookout, while others wondered if their window for a satisfying relationship might be closing.

Sophia, an attractive 68-year-old widow who was introduced to a couple of lovers through her ballroom dancing connections, hasn’t taken a lover in a year and a half.

“I don’t know where to meet men anymore,” she laments. “In my heart, I say I’ve been single too long.”

Another woman, a statuesque and striking blonde named Laura, has come to feel uncomfortable with the increasing demands she fields for oral sex.

“I resent a man that wants oral sex more than he wants regular sex, because it doesn’t do anything for me sexually. If that’s what he wants more than anything, then he’s selfish. I find as they get older, they want that more and more.

“If that’s true, then I’ll just pass,” she concludes.

And then there’s Jana, who at 68 has just discovered she can be multi-orgasmic, and is willing to tell us all about it.

Yep. The sexy 60s ladies have views that are wide ranging, but I find that to be true for the women of each chapter. And yet the similarities are always visible, running through their stories and reminding us all that there is much we share in this realm.