Posts Tagged ‘writing’

What’s up on Thanksgiving

November 28, 2013

I began my Thanksgiving with chilly morning walks for Sadie and Dexter, elegant standard poodles who require separate outings, thank you very much.

Their owners asked that I walk them one at a time, which I strongly prefer anyway. I find that two dogs, two leashes, multiple distractions and however many poop bags I end up with can lead to more confusion than I care to handle.

Also, I discovered during Sadie’s first walk that she enjoys barking and mildly lunging at any dog she encounters along the way. Since Sadie is 13 years old, and since I will be with her for just one week, I harbor no illusions about my ability to break her of this particular habit during our time together.

Fortunately it’s a very quiet neighborhood, and in three days we’ve only seen two dogs, so it’s hardly an issue. Both dogs are very sweet and docile all day long, though Sadie’s mischievous nature extends to a trick I’ve only heard about but never seen up till now—and that is grabbing the end of the toilet paper roll and pulling it out. Actually, I haven’t caught her doing it, though I think that would be funny. I’ve only seen the results, about 12 feet worth of toilet paper laid out across the bathroom floor in a perfect line. It’s pretty hilarious to find when you think you’re alone in a house.

Needless to say, I am thankful to be in the company of two entertaining, four-legged clowns this Thanksgiving. I’m preparing a dish to take to some friends’ home for a big dinner later this afternoon. Although it’s tempting, I won’t load up Sadie and Dexter to bring along, since my friends have a giant mastiff, and although all three dogs are good as gold, I don’t care to take chances that someone will get their nose out of joint.

When last I blogged, Dr. Mo and I were wrestling with the question of whether to sign a contract with a public relations firm to represent “Kiss and Tell.” After nine months, I feel like I’ve done about 75 percent of what I know how to do to market the book, so seeking help makes sense. We researched some other firms and asked dozens of people for their opinion. Honestly, there was a lot of disagreement. Plenty of people said DO NOT DO IT. And lots of people said THIS IS YOUR SHOT; DO IT.

We realized it was going to be a gamble. After much soul-searching, we threw the dice and decided to bet on “Kiss and Tell.” We signed a four-month contract last week with InsiderMedia out of Boca Raton. Already I’ve seen the difference, which is encouraging. A magazine in Fort Lauderdale needs a high-res photo of our cover for an article they want to do about us for Valentine’s Day; I wrote a 1,000-word blog yesterday for a relationship site; we did some fine-tuning on our website and Facebook page; and Dr. Mo wrote some tips on sustaining desire during the holidays for the company to use during marketing. I’m sure there’s much more to come.

The best thing for me is that the momentum of my life seems to have picked up, and that is a definite positive. When the Topamax made me so sick in August, I did pull out of it, but I don’t feel I’ve fully regained my normal energy or motivation. (Faithful blog readers will recall I started the Topamax in late summer as a migraine preventive, and immediately slid into a nasty six-week depression.)

Anyway, having the structure and contact of a relationship with a PR firm seems to be helpful for me at this stage, so that’s another thing to be thankful for on this particular day. I’m thankful as well for a few weeks at home here in sunny West Palm, although I thoroughly enjoyed a three-day trip to Charlotte, N.C. with Dr. Mo earlier this month for a book signing at Park Road Books. While there, I also watched the doctor at her professional best as she taped her live segment for “Charlotte Today,” a spot she does every month for the NBC affiliate.

Also in November I visited my former roommate, who moved to Cleveland about four years ago and took a job in a marketing department of a large law firm. A girlfriend from Austin flew in as well and we made it one of those fabulous girls’ weekends you never want to see end. Wonderful pubs and restaurants, the West End Market, Great Lakes Science Center and shopping at Crocker Park.

And, oh yes, cocktail hour with her parents.

My friend’s parents adhere to this quaint little tradition called cocktail hour. Like you see on “Mad Men.” Something I heard about but never experienced growing up in Richardson, Texas. Complete with ice bucket, olives, delectable snacks, napkins, drinks. Everything else gets put on hold. People sit down. Chat. Sip a drink. Have a little something to eat. Talk over the day’s events. Relax. Think about dinner.

It’s incredibly civilized. I could definitely fall in love with the whole ritual.

My vacation euphoria let my senses override what I know for certain: For me, alcohol equals a migraine. After my first (very moderate) cocktail hour, I woke up with a migraine, so I gave up the practice the day after I started it. I drank ginger ale on subsequent days, along with fancy snacks on cocktail napkins and a bit of sophisticated conversation. I am sad to report it wasn’t the same. I mourn my inability to imbibe, but I assume my long-range health (insert giant yawn here) will benefit. Sigh.

So that’s it. A Thanksgiving report, and a very good one overall as you can see. A bit of complaining in the headache department as I am wont to do, but I am definitely grateful for progress on the book front, good friends to be having dinner with, happy dogs here in the house with me, and loving friends and family all year long.

Plus, the chilly day in West Palm has turned bright and sunny, and it’s blown away the heavy humidity. So it is truly glorious outside. Before long it’ll be time to get Sadie and Dexter out for walks again. Happy days!

The long wait for medication to kick in

September 29, 2013

I began a new migraine preventive almost two months ago and—to put it mildly—it didn’t work at first.

(And yes, I am simultaneously working on a blog to update readers with “Kiss and Tell” news, but as it turns out, when life kicks your butt with health issues, you pretty much end up being forced to put them first. So let’s get those out of the way first and then I’ll fill in the missing pieces of the book tour summer.)

Let me hasten to add that most of the migraine preventives out there don’t work right away. They are powerful drugs that must be introduced to your system gradually and have long laundry lists of side effects. But if they work, they are worth the trouble. I began my Topamax regime at 25 mgs. nightly for a week; then 50, then 75 and finally to 100. My neurologist said if I got too sleepy or had trouble adjusting to any level for whatever reason, to stick there for a while before jumping up to the next dosage.

One month in, at the end of August, I was miserable. My migraine chart showed seven headaches for the month, and one had lasted multiple days. That is not a good month, friends. Only two other months this year have been as bad. (Yes, I keep records. Thank you oh-so-much, obsessive-compulsive tendencies.)

I knew one month wasn’t a long enough trial period for the medication, but I was in despair over my pathetic situation. In addition to all the days of painful headaches, the drug was causing some of the predicted focus problems, plus I occasionally felt very disconnected and drift-y. Since I live alone and don’t have a person that regularly fastens me back to Earth so to speak, this became an issue. My appetite decreased and I never felt like cooking because nothing ever sounded good to eat, probably due to the distinct metallic taste in my mouth. I even lost the craving for my beloved Dr Pepper; never would have believed it.

I tried to keep exercising, but it was a struggle. I started visiting a neighborhood juice bar for healthy smoothies because meals felt like too much of a chore. A friend told me she noticed the circles under my eyes looked like bruises, so I knew I needed more sleep. I felt more depressed every day, like I just couldn’t keep up with the self-care treadmill.

At the beginning of September, I told a friend I was prepared to shoulder a second month of “adjustment period blues” but fortunately she was thinking more clearly than I: She admonished me to call the doctor for advice. D’oh.

He recommended I up my dosage from 100 to 125 mgs.

Though I continued struggling for another couple of weeks, the weirdest thing happened shortly after I upped the dosage. It was so abrupt that I went back and checked my calendar. At 6 1/2 weeks after I began taking Topamax, I woke up one morning and suddenly felt clear again. The fogginess that had crept in, and the tendency of my thoughts to kind of drift off down side roads was abruptly gone. I regained my productivity and felt grounded and engaged in what was right in front of me. And having that clarity restored made me realize just how far afield I had drifted.

And here’s the miracle: With the Topamax dosage at 125 mgs., we’d found the dosage—for me—that pushed the migraines back.

For how long is anyone’s guess. I’ve been in the business of waging war on my headaches for almost two decades, and I know nothing lasts forever. But September will be over tomorrow, and this month has hosted only TWO migraines. Up till now, February was the month this year with the fewest migraines—and I had four that month—so a month with just two is pretty much heaven for me. A super month like this reminds me of how amazing a migraine-free life can be.

It was only two weeks ago that I shook off the Topamax fog, with its depressive tentacles and nasty, isolating tendencies. It’s tricky to know what part the chemicals played in final analysis, because fogginess made it all, you know, foggy (which is why I was not blogging or even Facebooking or doing much of anything, honestly). All I know is the end result is positive.

It makes sense to me that my body chemistry had to assimilate the drug over a period of time. For now, the combination is working very well. My pharmacist told me there is a good reason doctors start Topamax at small doses; many people have adjustment issues. I’m interested now to hear what my neurologist has to say when I relate my experiences during my appointment next month.

For now, I’m just grateful to be waking up day after day with no migraine aura.

For my money, that’s a miracle.

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.

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

May 11, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so the marketing begins

February 27, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing a cover

December 20, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so the kissing couple was selected.

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

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

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

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.

A pitifully short update

October 27, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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