A few hours ago the fabulous Timoria McQueen contacted me via Twitter. I met Timoria at the launch party for my second novel, Passion, Betrayal And Killer Highlights. It was June 2006 and my party was at The Star Room in the Hamptons. The whole thing was paid for by my publisher and planned by the publicist contracted by them on my behalf. A month before my event Eminem had a party at the same club. Timoria was hired to do women's make-up at the party. At the time she was the National Make-Up artist for Shu Uemura but she's also a fixture at New York Fashion Week and she frequently does the make-up featured in the layouts of Elle, InStyle and so on. She was a great "get."
But to be honest I had mixed feelings about the party. Sure, every girl likes the idea of being the Belle Of The Ball but I couldn't figure out how this was going to help me sell books. The publicist assured me that the party would lead to great press. They would make sure there were celebrities in attendance, it would make the gossip magazines, I would be a star and then everyone would be flocking to buy the new Sophie Katz novel from the woman they saw in the pages of OK!.
I didn't buy it. If Eminem and other people of comparable fame were having parties at this club why wouldn't the Paparazzi be covering those events. They didn't need to cover the party of a little known author. If people did know about me it was because of Susan Schwartzman, the woman I hired (with my own money) to do the publicity for my first novel, Sex, Murder And A Double Latte. Susan had gotten me into Cosmo, The New York Times, The Washington Post, regional television shows across the country, the list goes on and on. In fact she had done such a good job I had assumed that my publisher would contract her to do the publicity for my second book but because of some "in-house" politics that didn't happen. So I hired Susan to essentially supplement what the publisher-hired-publicist was doing. But I only gave Susan a small stipened. It just didn't seem pragmatic to have two publicists doing two full blown campaigns. Plus I had heard (off the record...oops) that my publisher had contributed less to the campaign for my first book because I had hired a publicist for myself. I essentially saved them money by taking initiative. So I put away my checkbook and put my faith in this new publicity strategy. These people were professionals, they had to know what they were doing.
But they didn't. I have no doubt that the woman contracted by my publisher is a fantastic publicist. She knew how to boost celebrity profiles and she knew how to pimp the hell out of fashion designers, she just didn't know how to market books. My publisher spent close to thirty thousand dollars on that campaign, the majority of that money went into that party. When I got to The Hamptons and got a better idea of what was going on I began to get a little panicky. I knew I had to build on the success of my first novel and I could see that what was planned wasn't going to do that. My only hope was that A) the fantastic reviews my second book was getting would generate buzz and B) my editor, who told me flat out she saw the problem, would be able to fix things. Unfortunately by the time she was given more input into author publicity it was too late for my campaign to be redirected and the fall out of bad book publicity is low book sales and nothing protects an author from that. But that was all information I got in the days and months after my launch party. Before my launch party all I really knew was that my publisher was showering me with attention, they were throwing me a party in the Hamptons and that meant something even if the party didn't serve the purpose it was supposed to serve.
So I shelved any budding feelings of panic and went to The Star Room in a dress loaned to me by the renowned designer, Shoshanna. My editor was by my side listening to my every concern, my publicist was making sure I was red-carpet ready and they led me to Timoria who did my make-up and introduced me to the fabulousness of false eyelashes. It was in that moment, while I was wearing the designer loaner, being done up by a nationally renowned make-up artist, surrounded by my readers and others in a club fashioned for the stars that I completely gave into the glamour of it all. So what if the campaign was somewhat ill conceived? So what if I wasn't yet on the NY Times bestsellers list? I was clearly going places!
In the end I fully enjoyed that night and I'm so glad I did because otherwise it would have been a bit of a waste of time. The party wasn't even featured in a local paper, let alone a national tabloid. The new book got very little press. Despite the superior reviews Passion, Betrayal and Killer Highlights didn't sell as well as Sex, Murder And Double Latte and that led to smaller orders from bookstores for my third book (which my publisher didn't do any publicity for at all).
When Timoria contacted me I was immediately swarmed with fond memories...and then I felt incredibly sad because they are memories. It's ridiculous to feel sorry for yourself just because no one is throwing you parties in the Hamptons anymore and it probably wouldn't bother me at all if I wasn't struggling financially at the moment. It was just a oh-how-the-mighty-have-fallen kind of melancholy and I allowed myself to indulge the fear that my career is and will continue to move in the wrong direction.
And then I listened to some P!NK and some Macklemore and danced around my bedroom a bit to snap myself out of it (yeah, I do that) and I thought, If I've fallen then why can't I just pick myself back up? My books aren't selling as well as my first novel did but they are selling. I still have my fan base, I have a contract with Simon & Schuster for an erotica trilogy, I'm a member of the WGA (Writer's Guild Of America, the union for television and film writers). I've had meetings with top TV executives, I sold a pilot script to Lifetime...I mean, any of those things could lead to even better days...maybe better years, years so good that I might even have enough money to pay for my son's ridiculously expensive tuition without living off of rice and beans. And there is no reason to feel like my future can't be sprinkled with the occasional moments of glamour.
Oh, and if I do have another red-carpet party thrown in my honor you better believe that I'll be running to Timoria asking her to do my make-up. I really did love my glamour lashes.
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