My face popped up in the right hand corner of the screen as guest anchor, Peter Jennings, introduced the closing story on ABC World News Tonight one Friday in 1981. I’d authored an oversized, limited edition reference book under the Americanized spelling of my last name and it somehow engendered enough interest to garner a mention on national television.
I look back at it as pure luck now because, as any author (past or present) will confirm, writing a book can be exhilarating — but marketing it is exhausting.
Back then, individualized press releases were expected to be composed and printed to accompany personally written letters, each snail-mailed at considerable expense to those listed in Editor & Publisher Yearbook nationwide. Even for a book as minor as mine, the effort required to sell it seemed mammoth compared to the time it took to write. That made getting featured during prime time on ABC with Peter Jennings equal to an eagle feather in a yarmulke.
The follow-up was a headline and shout-out in the Sunday New York Times — not by a book reviewer, but by the much respected and often feared antiques and arts columnist, Rita Reif. I’d caught a wave, did some appearances, signings, a few more interviews, and a stint on PM New York, all culminating in a monthly column syndicated in a dozen trade publications for a couple years. It was a flattering, generally enjoyable, often tiresome experience that I was grateful ended after it contributed to resurrecting a fad that others were tooth-and-claw dedicated to treating as a full time endeavor.
Because, regardless of how glamorous it may sound or look, that’s what even miniscule fame and fleeting fortune boils down to; an eagerness and need to become the product by foregoing (and oft times, forgetting) the person.
I was never willing to put anything before my personal life.
I’m still not.
Fast forward to the present when everyone can be an author, cyberspace has taken over the vast amount of book promotion, cable and YouTube have obliterated the allure of network news, and most the magazines and newspapers in which my name, or byline once appeared are history.
In a time when Amazon gives every author a one-time-only opportunity to write a description of one’s novel for access by book reviewers nationwide — and even after being reminded that the 25,000 word maximum description must entice those reviewers to choose my novel over all the other hundreds of cyberspace book releases bombarding them every week — I chose to submit just 35 words about Imogene’s Eloise in free verse form:
“This is a history you haven’t read elsewhere,
about people you don’t realize you know,
containing phenomena you’re unaware of,
within a love story you’ve never heard,
that has an ending you can’t possibly predict.”
Thank you, Peter Jennings.
And, rest in peace.
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This essay is copyright by Marguerite Quantaine © 2014.
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