Thursday night my husband drove me down to Manhattan in the pouring rain to the apartment on West 79th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenue, my favorite neighborhood in the city. It was a bitter, gloomy night with pounding rain and strong gusts of wind, just the type of weather that induces you to stay indoors. When I first settled in the apartment, I wished I had stayed home. The producer from Fox & Friends had called me at 4:00 that afternoon to order car service which was scheduled to pick me up from the West-Side apartment at 5:30 the next morning. In fact, it was the producer who persuaded me to make the trip into the city even though she offered to have the car service pick me up from my home.
My husband, who had planned to join me for dinner on Sunday evening, had work to do was unable to join me. Friends in the city were all busy. I felt melancholic at the prospect of a lonely night in the city.
In my single days, I would have thought nothing about traipsing up and down Columbus Avenue by myself in search of a trendy restaurant and dining solo. So I switched mental gears, put on my raincoat, and afraid I would be taken for a tourist, hid my Zagats in my bag. As my umbrella blew inside out from the fierce wind, I walked past restaurants I had once dined at with dates from hell, reminiscing about my life as a single woman. Then I chanced upon Kefir, a Greek restaurant my husband had suggested.
I boldly walked into the crowded bar, the restaurant alive with the buzz that only a restaurant in Manhattan could have on such a stormy night. And I instantly felt at home.
I grabbed a chair at the bar, ordered an appetizer and entree that the bartender recommended, struck up a conversation with him and learned that he was writing a novel. I was charged with that energy that is so infectious in Manhattan—and that I hadn’t felt in a long time.
When I returned to the apartment, I was too wired to fall asleep, so I watched the remaining moments of Grey’s Anatomy. As I looked out of the huge bedroom window to the lit-up apartments across the street, I saw Grey’s Anatomy reflected through one window on a huge flat-screen TV and instantly felt connected in this city of a million strangers.
The next morning, at 5:15 AM, I received a call from the car service that a black limo was scheduled to pick me up on time at 5:30 AM.
Already dressed, I took one more look in the mirror, and left.
When I got into the limo, the driver said, “Fox studios?” I felt a sudden inner glow, a charged up sense of satisfaction mingling with pleasure and pride, as I thought to myself that I was the star of my own story. I experienced a swell of joy as we sped down an empty Columbus Avenue. It’s a rare city experience to be the only car traveling on a busy avenue in the pre-dawn hours that would be congested with bumper to bumper traffic in just a few hours.
I alighted from the limo, was escorted to the green room, and met Dr. Pryce, who had his own story to tell. His flight from Ohio had been delayed. He hadn’t arrived at his hotel until 3:00 in the morning. Sleep deprived and nervous, he was understandably anxious about how he would be able to discuss all the points he wanted to make in three-minutes, when another guest asked him about his book. Nothing like a dress rehearsal. Dr. Pryce was animated as he discussed the points he wanted to make, which he had written down and studied during the long delay in the airport, where he had re-read his book—advice I give to all authors. There’s nothing worse than to see all of your hard work go down the drain when an author can’t remember what he or she wrote in his or her own book.
The big moment arrived. Dr. Pryce got his three minutes of fame. The hosts, Steve Ducey and Gretchen Carlson put him at ease before the cameras starting rolling. Once on the air, they were enthusiastic about his book and well-informed, asking great, probing questions that elicited answers to showcase Dr. Pryce’s well-conceived health-care plan (If only Congress would read his book, I thought to myself). An author could not have asked for more. Dr. Pryce was right on the money as he explained his health plan. “Sounds so simple,” Steve Ducey said with a grin.
After the interview, like many people after a particularly great first date, Dr. Pryce replayed his appearance over and over again, wondering how he did. Standing in the wings of the set, where I could see and hear everything close-up, I was very pleased with his interview. But naturally, he still called his friends and family for feedback. He relived the interview during breakfast. And during lunch. And as I said goodbye to him in the hotel lobby.
I could see it would take sometime for the adrenaline rush to wear off.
As I headed back uptown, however, this time on foot, the only thought I had was getting some zzzzz’s.
It was back to the burbs for me. The night before already seemed like a fantasy. Reality would hit all too soon, when I would return to pitching more producers and editors. Trying for additional TV appearances and print placements. Facing rejection, or even worse, turning on my computer only to discover that not one of the hundreds of producers and editors I had e-mailed the day before had even responded.
But all those unanswered e-mails are well worth that moment’s glory when all of your efforts and hard work are met with one single e-mail: “We want to invite your author to be a guest on our show.”
All in a day’s work.
The big moment, or should I say, the big thrill, for any author, is when a national TV show comes a calling. It’s like that first date you’ve been waiting for: butterflies in your stomach every time the phone rings or you hear the click from your computer alerting you to a new e-mail.
And then the adrenaline rush when you first hear the good news from your publicist—a rush that continues before the appearance, creating the ultimate high authors feel during TV interviews on national TV (even on local TV, for that matter). And then moments after—or sometimes hours after—when the comedown replaces the adrenaline rush.
Working behind the scenes, a publicist also experiences similar symptoms. When a national show e-mails you that they want to invite your author for an interview, it’s like scoring a touchdown.. I’ve been known to scream, cheer, and make odd noises at my desk in an apartment with walls so thin I’m surprised my neighbors have never called 911.
Last week I received such an e-mail from a producer at Fox & Friends, who invited Dr. Michael Pryce to be a guest on the morning show this past Monday, October 12th.
Dr. Pryce is the author of a very timely book that is a must-read for anyone who is interested in health-care reform: ANATHEMA! America’s War on Medicine: A Veteran Doctor Offers a Cure for What Ails America’s Health Care System.
Dr. Pryce has been an orthopedic surgeon for more than 25 years. In ANATHEMA! America’s War on Medicine, Dr. Pryce exposes the untold story behind our present health-care crisis, outlines what is wrong with America’s health-care system, and offers a plan that will not only make health care affordable but will also offer universal coverage without raising taxes.
What makes this booking a coup for me is that it is the first time I’ve ever booked a self-published author on national television, which bodes well for future self-published authors whose books are timely and written well.
The day before the author’s appearance, however, I received a call from the producer. It was a Sunday morning, and I was driving to one of my favorite parks along the Hudson to take my morning walk before I headed into the city to stay at an apartment belonging to a friend of the author’s. He had graciously made arrangements for me to stay at the upper West Side so I would be able to accompany him to the Fox studios in the wee hours of the morning.
“Your author has been bumped due to breaking news,” the producer said. “Can he make it tomorrow?”
Dr. Pryce had re-arranged his schedule, which meant cancelling all of his office appointments for Monday.
“Tuesday he performs surgery. Wednesdays and Fridays are the best days.”
The producer hung up abruptly. He didn’t wait for me to tell him that the author was traveling from Ohio, and that he would need at least 48 hours notice before he would be able to appear.
That’s not unusual. I’ve had many national shows call me up, wanting an author to appear in studio the next day. When there is a breaking news story, producers will often call publicists at the last minute if they are representing an expert or related book on the subject of the breaking-news story. An author’s schedule or travel plans are of no concern to a producer who is working on a time-sensitive segment with a tight deadline: if the author wants to get on air, he needs to hit the road pronto and get in studio.
Many interviews are written, produced and scheduled less than 24 hours before that segment airs, and guests are often booked at the last minute. Even though these days cable shows have satellite hook-ups from major cities, a live show may want the guest to appear in studio, as was the case with Dr. Pryce. For an unknown author who wants to get his message out there and sell books, this is a great opportunity, and Dr. Pryce did everything he could to re-arrange his schedule for the second time in a week to make that in-studio appearance happen.
On the following Wednesday, I received a phone call from an excited Dr. Pryce that a producer from Fox & Friends called him directly to pre-interview him for an appearance on Friday morning at 6:15.
I wasn’t holding my breath, but this time it looked as if the interview would actually happen. On late Thursday afternoon, however, I received a call from the producer who had pre-interviewed Dr. Pryce. Oh, no, I thought. The interview is going to be cancelled again…
TO BE CONTINUED…
Your hometown, that is, if you are an author.
Last week, I attended a Farmer’s Market in Irvington, New York, the hometown of Toni Lydecker, whose new cookbook is SEAFOOD ALLA SICILIANA: Recipes & Stories From a Living Tradition.
Toni was selling her beautiful cookbook at the Irvington Farmer’s Market, giving out scrumptious samples of poached mackerel in olive oil served on crostini, prepared from a recipe in her book. She had purchased the mackerel from the fishmonger whose was selling his selection of the freshest fish at the booth next to hers.
People are always drawn to free food, and in this case, the food samples were so delicious that Toni sold two cartons of her $30.00 cookbook. There was a bitter, blustery wind blowing off the Hudson, which resulted in a smaller crowd than usual at this farmer’s market which is usually packed in the summer and early fall. Even so, Toni sold more than most authors do at similar out-of-town events.
I have set up many out-of-town author events only to hear an author complain that only one person showed up. This even happened to a bestselling cookbook author whose publisher had spent a lot of time and money preparing for a cooking demonstration in a highly visible well-trafficked kitchen store for that author. Other authors have told me that while there was a continual flow of traffic from people who wanted to sample free food, not one person bought their book.
The lesson, according to Toni Lydecker, is that one should focus publicity events in one’s hometown.
I not only encourage authors to do hometown events, but also to focus on their hometown media. Last winter, I promoted a haunting debut novel, THE TRICKING OF FREYA by Christina Sunley (St. Martin’s Press), about an immigrant family from Iceland who settles in North America. More Magazine hailed THE TRICKING OF FREYA as “an instant classic” and The Seattle Times compared Ms. Sunley’s work with that of Jhumpa Lahiri and Junot Diaz, two novelists who also write about the immigrant experience.
But it was her hometown newspaper that catapulted her book to the bestseller list. The San Francisco Chronicle ran a rave review of THE TRICKING OF FREYA and, a week later, it hit The Chronicle’s Bestseller List, where it remained for three weeks.
Newspapers often love to shine the spotlight on their local authors. The first question I am asked by a book or feature editor is if the author is local. The Chicago Tribune featured a profile story on Father’s Day about the father-son co-authors of TRUST ME: Helping Our Young Adults Financially, a self-published book. It is usually very difficult, if not impossible, to get print coverage from a top newspaper such as The Chicago Tribune for a self-published book, but the local angle trumped the self-published stigma that many self-published books have to bear.
In today’s media climate where it is more difficult than ever to get TV and print coverage, hometown media is an author’s best friend.