On the road again

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By Harvey Mackay

Beverly Sills of the Metropolitan Opera was on a concert tour of 19 cities. At about city number 14, a fan came up to her and said, "Oh, Ms. Sills, I read in the paper that you have to go to 19 cities. By this time, you must really be sick to death of having to do that sort of thing." 

"Not at all, my dear," she said. "You see, I don’t have to go to 19 cities. I get to go to 19 cities." 

They don’t call her "Bubbles" for nothing. 

I treasure that story as my thought for the day, many a day that I’m on the road. Most recently it has been to peddle my latest literary effort, "Pushing The Envelope." 

There are a zillion different products being sold and a gazillion different ways to sell them. I’ve tried most of them, and I can report that one of the most painless is the author’s tour. 

Why? Because to your immediate customers, the radio and TV talk and interview shows that agree to book you, you are not a salesperson, you are a guest. If they didn’t like you or what you had written, they wouldn’t have you on their show. You’re helping them sell their stuff by entertaining their audience and telling them about a worthwhile product. They’re helping you sell your stuff. It’s a warm, collegial, everybody-wins atmosphere. 

The newspaper interviews are somewhat more hard-edged. You’re not performing in front of an audience. But that’s fun, too, because the questions tend to be probing and challenging, and often involve an angle that never occurred to you. 

And besides, anyone with an ego, and I have been told that I have one, enjoys being asked about himself and his work. It’s particularly enjoyable when the people doing the asking are among the nation’s leading pros. Syndicated columnists like Jane Applegate, Dale Dauten and Joyce Lain Kennedy. CNN. CNBC. WGN. KMOX. WCCO. Chicago Tribune. Dallas Morning News. San Francisco Examiner. And many, many more. 

That’s the good part. 

And now for the bad. 

Bumped. I’m all set for a national TV show and a Monica flash preempts me. Remind me not to schedule any future publication date within a decade or two of when "Monica on Monica" hits the bookstores. 

Rebumped. I’m in the studio, all primed and ready to go when the mayor preempts me at the last second because of a local crisis: their stadium deal has just gone south. 

Bad weather shuts down Chicago’s O’Hare for one-half day. Good-bye Columbus! 

Luggage? Luggage? Who’s got the luggage? Is it okay if I wear my sneakers with this suit? They won’t show on TV as long as you shoot me above the waist, like Elvis’ debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. 

"How about a little powder on that face, Mr. Mackay? Those TV lights are pretty hot." Shazam. One well powdered contact lens pops out on the floor where it remains throughout the show. I think they made a movie about this once: "Dr. Cyclops." 

How not to do a "phoner." "Phoners" are call-ins. This is my fifth road trip, and I’m finally learning the jargon, but the execution still seems a bit beyond my grasp. I was in New York, scheduled to do a radio show in LA. I miscomputed the time difference, adding three hours instead of subtracting three hours, totally missing my time slot. The LA producer never lost his cool. Radio is the mother church of improv. 

"No problem, Mr. Mackay. We’ll soldier on here. Catch you next time — on your paperback tour." 

It’s all part of the game, and as always, a learning experience. One lesson I’ve carried with me from my first author tour is that many books never see the light of day because of poor promotion, but even the best promotion in the world can’t save a dog.

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