Monday, April 30, 2007

Don't You!

Russell Simmons, "the CEO of hip-hop," is apparently doing the full-court publicity press for his new book, DO YOU! 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success.

Stephen Colbert interviewed him on "The Colbert Report" last Thursday, and if I were the Gotham Books publicist, I'd have been tearing my hair out afterward. No, make that DURING the show.

Colbert was being his usual contentiously funny self, and Simmons got rattled and allowed himself to be led WAY off-topic. He never answered the Three Big Questions (which I'm putting on fridge magnets to give away at BookExpo):
  • So what?
  • Who cares?
  • What's in it for me?
Obviously realizing that the interview had gotten away from him, Simmons stopped abruptly, stood his book up on the table and, to laughter from the audience, said, "Let's get back to the book!"

To no avail; Colbert swooped in and almost immediately pulled him off-subject again. Worse, Simmons then started looking away and speaking directly to the audience. Colbert nailed him. To gales of laughter, he pointed off-camera and said, "Is there someone out there you're talking to? I'm right here." Simmons barely got a coherent sentence out after that--not that he'd had many before. (See for yourself here.)

After that fiasco, I was rather surprised to see an interview with Simmons in the Sunday NYT Magazine: Hip-Hop Guru. Simmons was more articulate; or more likely, benefited from some editing:

You write extensively about your devotion to yoga in your new self-help book, “Do You!” Is the title your own coinage?
No. It’s an old hip-hop expression: “Do you!” It’s just something we say all the time. It means do what you want to do. Do what inspires you. Don’t be a sheep. Keep it real. The book was originally called “Russell Simmons’ Laws of Success.”

Really? That’s pretty generic.
Oprah renamed the book. [That's about all I got from the Colbert interview.] It was like God calling. She gave me a better title.

But then we have the pièce de résistance (the publicist must need a wig by now):
Why don’t you try dating, say, a professor the next time around?
A professor? I can barely read.

Are you dyslexic?
No. I can read. But I can’t understand anything. I just read “The Autobiography of a Yogi,” by Paramahansa Yogananda, over and over again.

My first thought: And we should read Simmons's book why?

Second thought: I'll bet Simmons didn't even write his book.
(I just checked Amazon. Well whaddaya know! There's a co-writer: Chris Morrow.)

Third thought: I'll bet Simmons didn't even read his book.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Lookit My Shiny New Website!

I'm feeling like the Queen of HTML, after having spent most of the past week flipping through 2 books & a bunch of websites, laboriously futzing with @#$%! code. (I didn't want to wrestle with learning--or paying for--DreamWeaver.)

Hence no blog posts, mais voilà! My sleek, revamped Book Promotion 101 website. With pictures and everything.

Comments & suggestions gratefully appreciated.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I'm So Proud!

One of the attendees at my Book Promotion 101 workshop in DC last weekend was Barbara Oakley, author of EVIL GENES: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend (Prometheus Books, coming in Oct). We suggested that, since there's an unending supply of evil acts, she'll never run out of subjects for a blog or newspaper opinion pieces.

Little did we know that a horrific event would occur just two days later. As soon as I heard the news about the Virginia Tech shootings, I told Barbara to write a piece immediately. She did, her Prometheus publicist gave her contact info for the NY Times, and look what was in today's paper: The Killer in the Lecture Hall. Horrible that there was such enormous evil for her to comment on right away, but fantastic that she did it.

Barbara's been inundated with emails all day: comments from readers, offers to review the book and write about it in magazines, an invitation to speak later this week, and interest from the UK for a documentary. Heady stuff!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Baby Got Book

This is a hoot! From J'ai voulu vous avez dit (I wanted to say...and you said):
(based on the original by Sir Mix-A-Lot)

Spoken: "Oh. Mai. Gyawd, Becky, look at her bookbag...she must be one of those, like, Barnes & Noble's guys''s so heavy...and bulging...she's just so...SMART!"

I like big books and I cannot lie
You other brothers can't deny
That when a girl walks in with a fat Tolkien
And Cervantes in original tongue
You get sprung
Wanna read the spine
'Cuz you noticed that book was stuffed
Deep in the bag she's carrying
I'm hooked and I can't stop staring
Oh, baby, I wanna get wit' ya
And read your volumes
My homeboys tried to warn me
But with that book you got
Makes me so horny
Ooh, leather slipcase
You say you wanna get in my den
Well use it, use it, 'cuz you ain't that average reader
Read the whole rap here.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Planning Ahea

I was scheduled to fly to DC tomorrow morning, for a Book Promotion 101 workshop I'm giving on Saturday. I decided that it would be a good idea to start getting ready for the trip a day early, since I had appointments with 2 doctors this morning & an MRI in the late afternoon. (I'm having problems with my much-mended right arm.)

So I did some necessary shopping and in the late afternoon started doing the laundry, editing my workshop presentation and printing out the agenda. I was feeling very efficient and virtuous, when around 5pm I got a call from my osteopath's office manager, whom I'd called to change an appointment. In passing, she mentioned that of course she couldn't reschedule for Friday because of the snowstorm that's coming.

"WHAT?!?!?!" I shrieked.

"A big snowstorm," she replied. "Haven't you heard? We're supposed to get a foot of snow on Friday."

"AAAAH!!!" I shrieked again. I made an appointment for the 20th, slammed down the phone then checked the weather online. "WINTER STORM ADVISORY" blared the local report, with 6-12 inches predicted for Denver by Friday afternoon. I immediately went on the Frontier site to change my flight out. No dice: every one to DC for today read NOT AVAILABLE.

Then I called Frontier, and after sitting on hold for 20 minutes, a nice lady took down all my info, put me on hold some minutes more and then brightly announced that she'd booked me on an 8:40am flight to DC today.

"Um, could you put me on a later flight?" I asked, hoping that I could still go for the EMG (nerve torture) on my arm first thing and then head out to the airport.

She put me on hold a while longer then said, less brightly, "That's the last seat there is."

"OK, I'll take it," I said. Much to my wonder and relief, I didn't have to pay for the change.

By this time it was 6:20pm. I'd been slow and draggy all day, not a little depressed and worried about my arm. But as soon as I put down the phone I was in high gear; there was no time to think of anything other than what needed doing right then. First thing: Kick myself for not having washed the scuffed-up black pants I'd bought two weeks ago and left in a bag on my dresser.

In the next 5-1/2 hours, I:
  • did 4 loads of laundry, including said pants
  • made & ate a roast chicken dinner (the menfolk cleaned up)
  • finished editing my presentation & printed it out
  • printed out handouts and attendees' name tags
  • sent a flurry of emails re DC & LA workshops
  • updated the BP101 website and Publishers Marketplace page to include June LA workshop
  • called people to set up meetings in DC today & Friday
  • called doctors' answering services to cancel today's appointments
  • packed
  • collapsed into bed
MORAL: Don't be like me! Get ready before the last minute and always have business materials organized and a good outfit ready to go.

P.S. There's no place like Washington in the spring. I'm so happy to see trees and hills again!

P.P.S. Friday: Denver didn't get one single flake of snow. Meanwhile I had a wonderful day strolling around Georgetown.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Was It Good for You?

It's been some six years since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of freelance writers in the landmark New York Times v Tasini. As a gung-ho member of the American Society of Journalists & Authors and the Authors Guild, I followed directions and stood firm for my rights and those of my fellow writers.

What did it get me? On the plus side, I received a few hundred dollars as the result of a settlement with the Authors Guild. On the minus side, I was summarily drummed out of Publishers Weekly, for which I'd been a contributing editor for 14 years.

To get around the Tasini decision, PW (and I assume all Reed publications) required freelancers to sign a paper relinquishing all rights to their previous book reviews, with no compensation. Following the ASJA line, I refused. A few days later, I received a curt note from the editor-in-chief (then Nora Rawlinson), telling me that since I wouldn't give up the rights to my reviews, PW no longer had need of my services--in any capacity whatsoever.

What to do? PW had me over a barrel. It was the major source of my freelance income; I'd been compiling the spring & fall announcements for more than a decade, which brought in a tidy sum of money. After a few days of soul-searching, advice seeking, hemming and hawing, I caved. I signed the #%@! agreement.

And then, guess what? My services were still no longer needed. So much for my life as a scab.

I'm wondering how other writers fared under Tasini. Send me your stories.

For one opinion, see: The Tasini Decision: A Victory for No One.

Don't Try This at Home!

In Escape POD GalleyCat writes about an author who self-published his memoir after he got a lousy contract from a trade publisher.

Here's the weird part: Said author had an agent who apparently didn't negotiate the contract at all.

Weirder still: Said author hired a publicist to send out a press release about his book touting the raw deal he got from the trade house.

My first thought when reading this was WTF?*

My second was that this author is going to have to stick with iUniverse from now on, as I can't imagine an agent or trade publisher would want to touch him after he broadcast his ugly little backstory.

*© Miss Snark

Stop me if you've heard this one...or, Cool Hand Luke Was Right*

This just in from an author:

I've been setting up publicity events right and left, and thought I should let my inhouse publicist know, since it's the wise and proper thing to do.

I email her and it bounces back to me. Hmmm. This is new. I email again, on the off chance her mail box is full. Bounceback. I email her assistant, and when I get no reply from her either, I email my agent.

My agent looks into it and finds out that, yep, three weeks ago my inhouse publicist left for another house. So she makes an inquiry to my editor, asking if I've been orphaned, and I finally get an email from my former inhouse publicist's assistant, who is now my publicist, swearing up and down that she replied to my email, she took over the book weeks ago when my former inhouse publicist left, and apologises for the fact that no one sent me any kind of missive to let me know that publicist #1 was leaving in the first place.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't good communication skills part of the publicist's job description? So very frustrating! But I've been lovely and polite through it all, so...onward.

*"What we have here is a failure to communicate!"

Monday, April 09, 2007

A Face for Lit Crit

Alex Kuczynski, the multi-surgically enhanced author of Beauty Junkies: Inside Our $15 Billion Obsession With Cosmetic Surgery, wrote about A Model Summer, the debut novel by model Paulina Porizkova in yesterday's NYTBR.

Ms K comes out with claws blazing:
...Porizkova makes her own contribution to a literary sub-sub-genre, books by supermodels. Most of these get bad reviews, either because they’re truly awful, like Naomi Campbell’s “Swan,” which won Seventeen magazine’s Super-Cheesy Award, or — call me a conspiracy theorist — because jealous book critics aren’t tall and gorgeous, so they try to wield their puny amount of power to establish some sort of moral order.
GalleyCat rightly calls her out and adds a challenge:
Setting aside how this wounds me personally, I have to take that (much like Gawker did) as a challenge to the book reviewing community, many of whom are quite fabulous (although I have no idea how tall anybody is, really)... Who else do you know, especially outside New York City, that puts the lie to Kuczynski's jocularly cruel generalization?
I wouldn't characterize Ms K's generalization as "jocularly cruel." I would call it self-revelatory. Maybe she tries to establish some sort of order with her writing--notice I don't call it a "review" (more about that later)--but I would call it a pecking order, not a moral one. She comes off as the jealous one, proof that all life is high school.

I would never call myself gorgeous, though I still look OK if the lights aren't too bright. However, I am tall (6 feet in flats). I'm always the tallest woman at the National Book Critics Circle meetings. In fact, I'm often the tallest woman everywhere I go. (I stay away from sporting events, so I'm never around any female basketball players.) I'll bet I'm taller than Alex Kuczynski.

But guess what? An author's looks and height don't matter when I'm reading a book for review. Before I write, I don't look at the press kit and author headshot, if there even is one (not usual with galleys). And how can you tell height from a headshot anyway?

Beyond all this, what really struck me about Kuczynski's piece is that it's a book report (and a catty one at that), not a book review. After 850 words, most of them spent on plot recitation, I had no idea of whether Porizkova's book was well written or worth reading. A poor model indeed.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Out of the Vault: BEA 2004 Program Report

So what if all the below programs took place three years ago? The information & advice offered are still golden, especially:
  • Manage expectations.
  • Yelling doesn't work.
  • If you want to be a successful author, you must show up dressed like one.
  • Your writing career shouldn't exist in a vacuum.
  • Spend part (or nearly all) of your advance on publicity.
  • To reach media and your audience, you must be passionate, persistent and personal.

Editor & Bookseller Buzz Forum
Nora Rawlinson of Publishers Weekly did a good job of keeping things on time and--wonder of wonders!--for once the panelists actually spoke into their microphones. However, most did not do as instructed: talk about 2 "sleeper" books for fall. I think the only true sleepers may be the MacAdam Cage titles and WEST OF THEN from S&S. Interesting that MacAdam Cage's Anika Streitfeld was the only woman on the panel--and also the youngest, and that only 3 of the 14 authors are women (one with a male cowriter). Umm, which 51% of the population buys something like 80% of the books in this country?

Little, Brown - Michael Pietsch:
  • BLINK: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcom Gladwell (Jan.) Great tagline: "Don't think, blink!"
  • THE HA-HA by Dave King (Jan.) I know what a ha-ha is because I read Jane Austen. Ha ha!

MacAdam Cage - Anika Streitfeld:
  • HOW TO BE LOST by Amanda Eyre Ward (Oct)
  • PINKERTON'S SISTER by Peter Rushforth (spring '05)

Penguin - Scott Myers:
  • WE ARE ALL THE SAME: The Life and Death of Nkosi Johnson by Jim Wooten (Nov.) About a 12-year-old African boy who died of AIDS.

Random House - Dan Menaker:
  • ELEVENTH MONTH, ELEVENTH DAY, ELEVENTH HOUR by Joseph Persico (Nov., of course). About the end of WWI.
  • THE LAMENTS by George Hagen (June, i.e., now)

ReganBooks - Cal Morgan:
  • AMERICAN SOLDIER by Tommy Franks. Some sleeper!
  • An 11-book (fantasy? mystery? thriller?) series by some author I never heard of. Zzzz.
  • CITIZEN VINCE by Jess Walter (Sept.) About a wiseguy who goes into the witness protection program and gets into trouble again.
  • HOW TO MAKE LOVE LIKE A PORN STAR: A Cautionary Tale by Jenna Jameson (Aug.) It was pretty funny when Morgan said of Jameson, "Well, of course everyone is pretending that they don't know who she is," and most of the people, including Your Humble Correspondent, stared at him blankly until he explained that she's a billion-dollar-grossing porn star. The room was at least 50% women. What do we know from porn stars? (Or from making a billion dollars, for that matter.) Incidentally, the guy sitting next to me hadn't heard of Jameson either, nor had my husband. But Morgan did get some laughs (incl. from YHC) when he said, perhaps ingenuously, that it was going to be a "Trojan Horse of a book." Oh, and here's a big surprise: She has a cowriter, Neil Strauss.

Simon & Schuster - David Rosenthal:
  • WOLVES EAT DOGS: An Arkady Renko Novel by Martin Cruz Smith (Nov.) A sequel to GORKY PARK.
  • THE KNOW-IT-ALL: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A.J. Jacobs (Oct.)
  • WEST OF THEN: A Mother, A Daughter, and a Journey Past Paradise by Tara Gray Smith (Oct.)

How to Work Best with Your Authors' In-house Publicity & Marketing Departments
This was sponsored by the AAR (Association of Authors' Representatives), and I thought for sure would be packed. Instead it was sparsely attended, which was a shame because the panelists were excellent speakers and shared a lot of vital information. I was very gratified to hear them say some of the same things I tell people at the Book Promotion 101 workshops. (My rule: If two people who don't know each other give the same advice, it must be right.)

(Ms) Pat Eisman, publicity director(?), Scribner:
Scribner (div. of Simon & Schuster) puts out 125-150 books per season, with a "tiny" publicity staff of 7. They devise a master plan for each book, from the shelf to the cash register. Each publicist reads every book s/he handles & works on some 30(!) per season--past, present & future titles. The first question they ask is, "Who buys this book?" The publisher--not the publicity director--decides how many cities an author will tour based on prediction of advance sales. The publicity director calls: the three morning national TV shows, New York Times, major reviewers. The books are presented to NPR. The problem with book coverage these days is, "fame vs. the rest of us"; i.e., the media pay attention to celebrities first.

The typical author's complaint, "'They did nothing,' isn't true." Each book gets a galley mailing: 125+ galleys w/ a letter. They call PW, Kirkus & the major dailies; send out 300-450 review copies. They do few press releases and use few freelance publicists. "The campaign never ends. We chase books. We worked on ANGELA'S ANSHES for 5 years."

Important points for agents (and authors):
1) Manage expectations. "I'm paid to be enthusiastic, but enthusiasm should never be confused with 'got it done.'"
2) Communicate via email.
3) Yelling doesn't work.
4) The publicity department is the link. Send them video & audio of the author. Save press clips.
5) It takes six man-hours to set up a book signing.

Louise Brocket, publicity, W.W. Norton:
Releases 250-300 books a year; 50% original hardcover, 50% paperback. Eight in publicity department; each person handles 4-5 new titles per month. They prepare early on & look carefully at the author questionnaire. A statement on why the author wrote the book is very helpful, as is an author Q&A. Publicists send out: galleys 4-5 months pre-pub; a "very generous" mailing with press release, bio, etc. They pitch to all major book review sections and media. "Fiction authors need a nonfiction hook. Fiction and nonfiction are pitched in an increasingly similar way."

Lisa Gallagher, marketing director(?), Wm. Morrow: Morrow/HarperCollins is different from other publishers, in that the publicity and sales departments are involved in acquisitions. Hence, "If a book is acquired, we are passionate about it." She speaks to the publicity director "25 times a day." Morrow does 3 lists a year, each with 45-50 original titles. They prefer not to work with independent publicists.

Jeff Seroy, VP marketing & publicity, Farrar, Straus & Giroux:
"We publish authors, not books." Publish 150-175 new hardcovers a year. 7-1/2 in publicity department (the 1/2 person comes in 3 days/week). Books are assigned to publicists by affinity. They start publicity after the editor presents the book to the marketing and sales force (the "launch meeting"), approx. 10 months before pub date. They try to have the author in to talk about the book between the launch and post-launch meetings. They just did a pre-publication tour for a first author, who went to San Francisco with the agent and the publicist.

They use very few outside publicists, except maybe regionally. "It's no less work for us to have an independent publicist; sometimes it's more."

Advice to authors:
1) Have a realistic view of the publishing process and have feasible expectations. Build from there.
2) If you want to be a successful author, you must show up dressed like one. You must be good to go.
3) Your writing career shouldn't exist in a vacuum. Are you willing to write book reviews, articles for women's shelter magazines, NPR essays, op-ed pieces?
4) Ask when the launch meeting is.
5) Identify holidays & anniversaries that tie into the book.
6) Introduce yourself to local booksellers.

Making the First Novel Work

People said a lot of good stuff, but I didn't take many notes because I say much of the same stuff in my workshops. As I recall, Tucker's inhouse publicist was in the audience & she added some sage comments. Basically, they all stressed the importance of teamwork in making a book successful. Tucker certainly seems to have had the dream team, starting with her wonderful agent. This is especially remarkable for a paperback original, rather than a hardcover.

An important component in the book's success was that Rusoff (a former publicist at William Morrow & other houses) got a manuscript--or maybe it was a galley--to Shipley, who, despite her store's remote location, is legendary in the bookselling world for spotting hot titles, getting the word to other booksellers & reviewers, and handselling to her adoring customers.

Shipley noted that your local bookseller is far more likely to pay special attention to you and your book if you're a regular customer. So if you have a book in the works, stop buying from Amazon & start showing your face in your neighborhood bookstore.

Important points:
1) Spend part (or nearly all) of your advance on publicity.
2) Build author credibility by getting blurbs to go on the ARC (advance reading copy).
3) To reach media and your audience, you must be passionate, persistent and personal.

Out of the Vault: What I Did at BEA 2004 in Chicago

Wear coordinated outfits, walk & talk, exchange printed matter, walk & talk, eat, walk & talk, drink, walk & talk, ride in taxis & shuttle buses, walk & talk, go to restaurants & parties, walk & talk, sleep (very little). Repeat.

Chicago is a lot more low-key than LA, so there weren't as types in attendance this year, but here are some memorable moments:

On my way out the hall one day, I spied a blonde woman in a beige pencil skirt and matching tank top with boobs the size of dodgeballs. At first glance, I thought it was a publicity stunt and that she actually had stuffed balls down her shirt, but then I realized that they were for real (or attached, anyway). At second glance, I thought, "Her poor back!" At third glance, I thought, "Porn star." And in fact, some publisher was touting a book of porn star self-portraits, with what appeared to be that woman on the cover cradling her bare dodgeballs.

In the atrium outside the show hall entrance, there was a guy dressed as a ram, complete with huge curving horns, fur-clad legs, repulsively hairy back, and Ares symbols on his arms. Blech. He was doing "interpretive dancing" (BLECH!) to promote Wild Animus, apparently a self-published book. There were also a couple of "protesters" carrying pickets denouncing the book. Someone told me that the author had taken a whole booth, complete with huge color transparency backdrop. What a waste of money. Sure, he got noticed, but not in a good way. (My correspondents tell me that he left piles of his book at book festivals around the country, and it is laughably awful.)

Ditto for the guy who walked around with a toilet seat around his neck promoting his self-published book. I think he and goat guy should have gotten together.

At the rockin' Publishers Group West party, where bluesman Lonnie Brooks played at least two hours without a break, there was a bleached blonde who didn't appear to be in publishing. Don't ask me how I knew; I just have a sixth sense about these things. Maybe it was her outfit: A sparkly black satin bikini top with matching hip-hugging pleated mini-skirt and a string of bling trailing from her navel. For some reason she struck up a conversation with me (I wasn't wearing my show badge), as follows:

    Blonde: I wrote a book! (Hands me hot-pink business card with pix of her scantily clad self striking naughty poses.)

    Me: Really?!

    Blonde: It's about how I went to LA to be in Playboy. I wanted to be Miss April or Miss May so I got breast implants.

    Me: I know.

    Blonde: But to get into Playboy you have to sleep with Hugh Hefner. But I...[dramatic pause]...wouldn't sleep with Hef! So I was banned from L.A.!

    Me: Oh well!

    Blonde: You're not from L.A., are you?

    Me: No.

    Blonde: Where are you from?

    Me: New York, originally.

    Blonde: Don't you have to sleep with people to get a job?

    Me: I guess it depends on your line of work.

    Blonde: I can send you my book.

    Me: No thanks, I have your card.
(For the curious, her website is [now gone, alas]. And she has smaller implants than the ones pictured on her card. Downsizing indeed affects everyone.)

As reported in Publishers Marketplace: "A panel discussion on 'Bibliocide' featuring reviewing bad boy Dale Peck--who writes lengthy essays about why generally admired literary fiction writers 'suck'--squaring off against assertive Philadelphia Inquirer book critic Carlin Romano left audience members shouting at the panel to suggest something productive rather than brawling."

Going in, I wanted to smack Peck. To my surprise, he turned out to be reasonable and mild-mannered--rather sweet, actually--though a bit disingenuous about his criticism and its effects. Going out, I wanted to smack Romano, who came off as a self-important, bullying blowhard. I called out that they should take it outside. A couple of booksellers, one of whom was near tears, stood up and gave 'em hell. I've never seen such a fiasco of a program. At least O'Reilly & Franken last year were entertaining. This was just plain dumb--though I did have a great conversation about it next day with Peck and Book Babes Ellen Heltzel (who was on the panel) and Margo Hammond.

I went to a couple of fantastic panels: "Making the First Novel Work: What the Publisher, Author and Bookstore can Do," moderated by agent Marly Rusoff; and for agents (applicable to authors, too), "How to work best with your authors' in-house publicity & marketing departments." See program report in the next post.

While waiting on line in the security screening area at O'Hare airport, I had plenty of time to examine a painting made by local teenagers. One of the panels sports this message, which after slogging through the aisles at BEA struck me as particularly apt: "Look out Toni Morrison cause my writing is fantastic and it's going to take me to the top."

Out of the Vault: BEA Dispatches of Yore (LA)

I'm cleaning up and rearranging my cyberspace. In so doing, I'm moving my BookExpo Dispatches from Book Promotion 101 to here.

Where has the time gone? My copious notes from BEA 2005 are still sitting in a notebook somewhere, I missed BEA '06 due to my equestrian fiasco and now here comes BEA '07. Oh well...

Report from BEA 2003, Los Angeles

Darling, it was just TOO fabulous! Mwah! Mwah! (air kiss noises...)

I met movie stars & famous writers & famous editors & ate at divoon restaurants. Wed. night [May 28], Jeff Goldblum wowed the crowd at a club on lower Wilshire Blvd, where he played piano in a jazz band--and had a string of gorgeous, leggy women glued to him during breaks. At The Grill in Beverly Hills on Friday evening, billionaire Kirk Kerkorian was in the next booth with his "niece" (1/3-1/4 his age) & Larry King walked by. (His jawline is waaay too sharp; he's obviously had some work done. But darling, who hasn't?).

Oh right, I was talking about BookExpo...

The educational sessions on Thursday [May 29] were excellent overall, especially "The Art of Crafting the Perfect Pitch" with book publicist Kim Dower (aka "Kim from L.A.") and actor/media coach Bill Applebaum, who's her partner in Perfect Pitch Productions [now Kim-from-L.A. Literary & Media Services]. What a dynamite pair! They worked with three authors on their pitches, then did a fake morning drive-time radio show with a fourth author that was simply amazing.

LA radio & TV producers were on 2 panels moderated by Kim, which were also stellar. Note: Almost none of them reads Radio & TV Interview Report. They don't need to, as they're inundated with requests from authors & publicists (150+ emails & 50+ phone messages a day). Someone told me later that RTIR is mostly used in the smaller markets.

I left during the TV panel to go to the SRO "Editor & Bookseller Buzz Forum." Don't believe the media reports: It was a real snore. And is it so hard to speak into a microphone? There was one conveniently placed for each of the 6 editors. After the 2nd made her practically inaudible presentation, I yelled out that we couldn't hear. Then Norton's Starling Lawrence sort of got near his mike and went on and on...and ON...about a March '03 book on the heroic dogsled team that brought the diphtheria serum to Nome in the 1920s (BTW, covered in a Fall '02 Walker & Co children's picture book). Great, except the editors were told to talk about books that are coming this fall, not ones that are out already.

Knopf's Sonny Mehta (speaker #5) announced to the crowd of top media and influential booksellers, "I have nothing prepared to say," then proceeded to mumble a laundry list of fall authors: "There is the new Toni Morrison, there is the new Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which is still being translated..." For this we needed to shlep to the LA Convention Center? The same information is in the Knopf fall catalog sitting in a pile on my office shelf. Claire Wachtel of HarperCollins, who came last, was the only one of the pack who: (a) followed instructions, (b) didn't need training by Perfect Pitch AND (c) spoke into the damn mike so everyone could hear without holding their breath.

High point for me was on Sat. morning [May 30], when I got to chat with Carl Reiner for 2 minutes (after standing in line for 30) while he signed his new kid's book at the Little, Brown booth. (I figured the line would be shorter there than for his memoir at I forget which other pub.) I'll treasure it always.

I was at the Saturday & Author Luncheon with Molly Ivins, Bill O'Reilly and Al Franken. Wow! What a show! My stomach is still in knots. Afterwards, I patted Pat Schroeder on the back (a friend who saw it on CSPAN said she had that "deer in the headlights" look) and shook Franken's hand before he was whisked away by his handlers.

MJ Rose and Jacqueline Deval's "Buzz Your Book" program on Sat afternoon was very good and the two ladies were a font of clever ideas and useful advice. However, the audience was larded with many of the same strident, needy and naive self-published authors who had attended the Thursday programs. They raise their hands to speak, but instead of asking a question, launch into a QVC infomercial for their books. After the 3rd one started her pitch I just had to leave. Besides being boring, many of them need stylists as well as therapists. It's hard to take an "expert" seriously when she has streaky orange-red hair and is wearing a blouse to match.

And speaking of style, I would have been SO much happier if the security guards had banned belly buttons instead of wheeled briefcases. OK (in small doses) on Janet Jackson or some other well-toned celebrity at a concert or movie premier. Unappetizing and wildly inappropriate on the flabby woman trudging down the concourse to the West Hall; worse, she was also wearing a sagging halter top. Blech. (And she wonders why she can't get an agent for her book!)

Saturday evening I met some folks (one of whom aptly remarked, "L.A. is the cleavage capital of the world") for drinks at the ultra-retro-moderne Downtown Standard Hotel. Afterwards, three of us went to dinner at the fabulous Il Cielo in Beverly Hills, where--surprise!--Harlequin was having their fabu party. While waiting for our table, had a great time chatting with other publishing types, then watching their faces crumple ("Oh, you mean you weren't...invited?") when they realized that we were on our way IN and not on our way OUT with them to the next fabu soiree.

The Sunday Book & Author Breakfast w/ Michael Moore, Madeleine Albright, Walter Isaacson and Maxine Hong Kingston was just as enthralling as the Infamous Lunch, though much more polite and civilized. Isaacson is a terrific speaker and moderator; funny too. At the end, Albright said that she and Moore might go out on the road as a "tag team," which elicited enthusiastic whoops from the audience, including Your Humble Correspondent.

Most surreal moment: Dr. Ruth, in a flowery mauve dress, signing her memoir at a university press booth on Sunday, when a woman in a sci-fi outfit (black spandex catsuit, black spike heels, 2-foot-high black cylindrical hat, purple face & 2-inch green eyelashes) asks can they have their picture taken together. Seems she's a big fan. I helpfully point out that Ms. Bizarro's face matches Dr. Ruth's frock. Neither takes any notice.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Join Today!

Ad in a Pacific Northwest publication:
Writer's Critic Group: Looking for writer's serious about the craft with an aim to publish.
(Seriousness about spelling and punctuation strictly optional.)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Happy April 1!

I'm joke-free today, but Ed Champion has been very busy. The first of his hot news stories is a scoop on how Jane Smiley is giving up writing about horses.

Via the inestimable Miss Snark, I came across this important press release: Google announces free in-home wireless broadband service.