Monday, January 8, 2007

Sex, Blogs and National TV

Last night we had a wonderful meeting for my writers club, one of the best ever. It was due in no small part to our guest Joan Price and her amazing story of how her latest book Better Than I Ever Expected: straight talk about sex after sixty came about, and how her blog led to a recent appearance on ABC’s “Nightline.”

First off, Joan had written five books about health and fitness and was in the process of promoting her book, The Anytime, Anywhere Exercise Book when she got a call from her publisher’s publicist saying that she was trying to get Joan booked as a guest on a cable show in New York City called, “Naked New York.” The cable show dealt with sex issues, and did Joan have any exercises that were good for sex? Joan said yes, and then the publicist asked for a hook to grab the producers.

Joan answered, “Tell them I’m 59 years old and I’m having the best sex of my life!”

That did it.

She was booked as a guest. Joan thought she’d be able to get on the show and then ease on into talking about fitness. WRONG. They wanted to talk about sex.

As she sat in the Green Room waiting to go on as their last guest for the show, she kept hearing them promote her appearance before and after each commercial break with “And coming up, Joan Price who is 59 years old and having the best sex of her life.”

She said it made her sound like a freak.

Joan went on the show, and she did get to talk about fitness. For about ten seconds or so. They did mention and show her book, but mainly they wanted to ask her about having the best sex of her life as a woman in her late fifties.

She came home from that experience and talked with her lover (now husband) about it. She then started researching the market and found that there really weren’t any books about sex and the older woman where the subject was treated as anything other than a medical malady. Robert suggested that she write her own book on the subject.

Joan thought seriously about the idea. She bounced it off her agent, who felt that Joan’s expertise was in fitness books. She suggested that Joan consider ghost writing a book on sex.

Then comes the great part that I just love: Opportunity came looking for Joan.

She had a cover story article appear about fitness in the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine

and the Saturday after it was published, an acquisitions editor from Seal Press read Joan’s article. She liked it. She liked Joan’s voice. She went to her computer and looked to see what she could find out about Joan, and found Joan’s website.

The editor picked up the phone and called Joan, introduced herself and said that Seal Press published women’s titles, but doesn’t publish fitness nor self-help books. She then asked Joan if there were any other ideas for a book she had been dying to write.


Joan pitched the idea of writing a positive book about sexuality as you age. The twenty-something editor loved the idea.

Then, she told Joan that they were going to have a meeting on Tuesday to decide titles to acquire for the upcoming year. Could Joan have a book proposal to her by the next day?

That could have been the end of the story, because Joan had written book proposals before and knew exactly how much work went into book proposals and knew that it was an impossible task to start from scratch and have a full proposal done in less than 24 hours. And have it done right. She demurred due to the timing.

The editor then offered to help, because she knew exactly what was needed in order to convince the other people in the meeting.

A few days later, Joan had a contract to start writing the book.

Amazing, huh?

I had heard part of that story back in September when I met Joan at the Sonoma County Book Festival I was there with other writers representing the Redwood Writers branch of the California Writers Club, and Ana Manwaring told me that I had to meet Joan Price. She thought Joan was a kick in the pants.

I went over to Joan’s booth and started schmoozing. I was talking up the writers club and wanted to see if there was some angle for Joan to be a speaker for our writers group. We don’t want our meetings to be simply a series of book signings. No, there has to be something regarding the business of writing and publishing that will be informative for other writers.

In our conversation I casually asked Joan if she had a website or blog, because our October meeting was on the topic of literary websites and blogs. It was then she told me the story of how her website led to a book contract. After she told me that story, she wanted to make sure that I didn’t just think it was good luck on her part.

Hardly. I knew that for that to happen she had to have worked her tail off to have a presence on the web, and to make herself as an author known. And that hard work paid off.

I had her scheduled to speak as our guest, and then the producers of ABC’s “Nightline” decided to do a story about the Baby Boomers, sexuality and susceptibility to AIDS/HIV. They didn’t go through a stack of press releases from publicists to find Joan. Nope, they surfed the web and they found her blog.

A producer called Joan, identified herself as being from ABC Television said the magic words, “I’d like to chat with you about…”

Joan knew enough that this was their screening process to see whether or not she would be a good guest. The producer would decide based on that phone conversation if Joan could speak in sound bites and give pithy answers that would make good television.

Joan passed the pre-interview hurdle. Later the interview was scheduled and a film crew was hired from Marin County to do the filming of the segment, and a producer from New York flew out to interview Joan. They spent close to six hours with Joan filming her at house, watching her teach line dancing and also interviewing her. All that and Joan’s appearance in the segment amounted to only about two and a half minutes on the nationally televised show.

Then came the waiting game. Joan told me about her upcoming appearance and while I was excited for her, I also knew from the experience of friends of mine that “things happen” with TV appearances. Both friends were on nationally televised shows, but their appearances were blacked out in the local viewing area due to major news events pre-empting their shows. GRRRR.

This was back in the early 1990s and long before You Tube, the internet, etc. I never saw the shows.

Anyway, Joan found out that nationally televised news show have their own inherent rules for schedules. Such as breaking news of national importance trumps “evergreen” stories that can be aired anytime. Her show was scheduled and rescheduled several times. Hours after Joan sent out email alerts telling people to watch for her that night, she’d get word it wouldn’t be airing that night after all.

After several iterations on this schedule/reschedule theme, the show aired. She had a nice bump in traffic to her blog, and then a nationally syndicated radio show of irresponsible shock jocks heard about her appearance. Then her positive national exposure turned ugly.

Because these “forty-somethings” somehow think that sex by “sixty-somethings” is sick. And they turned their dim witted listeners into trolls who spammed her blog with filthy, disgusting, age-ist flames.

As if neither of the radio shock jocks want to have a satisfying sex life when they reach their sixties, and none of their single digit IQ fans can imagine reaching that milestone either.

Joan tracked down the source of the trolling from a fan website of the radio show, and then saw some of their own online comments to one another. Infantile and despicable.

The hosts of the radio show then had the nerve to call Joan and ask if she wanted to come on the air as a guest. She turned them down flat.

I’m glad she did. I know how talk radio works because I’ve listened to it, been a caller and guest for that medium for about fifteen years. The hosts control the microphone, and they can cut you off at any time. After you are no longer on-air, they can sit and trash you for as long as they like. Going on with a hostile host is always a dicey proposition, and their listening audience was not Joan’s target market.

It would have been a waste of her time, and most likely a negative experience.

Furthermore, I’m thinking that those men/adolescent boys who made such sick comments about sexuality and aging need to realize that Karma can be a Real Bitch.

Joan wound up deleting the horrible comments on her blog, but unfortunately it was the same day that she received coverage by a local newspaper columnist telling about her appearance on national television and gave her blog address.

She just hopes there weren’t too many people who read the nasty-gram laden comment trail before she had a chance to delete them. She also changed her blog to screen comments before they are posted for the public to see.

Joan told us her story last night with verve, candor and great humor.

Our meeting room was packed, and we kept having people show up throughout the meeting. It was a great night for networking and for learning about how with persistence, hard work and talent that you can sometimes create your own good luck.

Thanks Joan!


Oh, and her book is a riot. I came home and started reading it. Funny, honest and energetic. Just like Joan.

Here's another perspective on that fabulous meeting from another writer who I'm still working on becoming a member.

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