Boy, if I didn’t already know that you don’t get what you don’t ask for, I certainly have been learning that in spades lately.
Having come from a family of “Oh, I don’t want to be a bother” and “You don’t have to if you don’t really want to,” it’s taken some getting used to this idea of promoting oneself. Like it doesn’t come naturally. At all.
I have to be reminded by my pr savvy girlfriends that I’m trying to do good work, and part of how I can help others is by shouting from the tallest branch with the most authentic message. And shouting a lot. Or maybe whistling. Or making a video that rocks the shizzocks.
So there I was at the Zero Breast Cancer Dipsea Hike event the other Sunday, having been convinced by my one girlfriend to set up a table and at least hike the course. So I did what I was told. I set up my little card table, put out copies of my book, and stood behind it with my cup of coffee in my hands and a big smile on my face. I sold 2, count ‘em, 2 copies that day. One to a teacher of young kids from Tahoe and another to a nice woman who kept tearing up when she looked at the pictures.
Not exactly a spike in sales. But I have heard of such things, from other authors, who have talked of book signings where nobody shows up. (Ouch!)
So I’m standing there post hike, and I notice that there is a woman who looks familiar not because she is a friend of a friend, but because I know she is on television. Somewhere. I know it. And as I try to watch her without staring, her name pops into my head: Gayle King. That’s it, it’s Gayle King. I know she is a television news reporter from San Francisco. In that moment, my PR mavens jump on my shoulder and start whispering into my ear.
“Go talk to her, Sue”
“Give her a copy of your book.”
“It’s perfect. This is a breast cancer event and you have a breast cancer book.”
I watch as she winds down from the run, as she peruses a table of free swag from another vendor, and as she goes and gets food to eat. I try to do the mind meld where I ask her mentally to come over to my table, but that doesn’t work. I even mention to my friends next to me, “Hey, that’s Gayle King, and she’s on tv. Should I go and tell her about my book?” They of course encourage this action on my part.
So, what the hell, I think. And I grab a book, a business card, my proverbial nuts, and stride over to Gayle who is sitting in a chair flanked by some friends.
I don’t lead with “Hi, my name is Sue, ” or “Excuse me, I have something I’d like to share with you.” I lead with “Is your name Gayle?”, which it turns out, is NOT her name. She doesn’t offer her name, which is absolutely her right but leaves me with this terribly horrid feeling that I must have either a) thought she was someone famous and she isn’t or b) that she IS that famous person but she would rather not talk to some half-sweaty stranger obviously interested in showing her something. The Not-Gayle woman tells me that if I’m looking for someone named Gayle, the women at the finishing table might be able to tell me whether she has come in from the hike yet. And so I thank her for that information, and in another awkward moment decide on my next move.
“Well, I’m here, and you’re obviously moved in some way to support breast cancer awareness because you’re here, so let me show you what I’ve done.”
Thus ensued the pulling out of the book, which one of her friends asked to see and started to read with a couple of the other women. Not-Gayle said that this is an important issue, and clearly a pretty book, and I said something about how I thought she was on television and that’s why I came to share it with her. And that’s when she said,
“I am on television.”
And then I wanted to vomit. Because that’s when she told me her name is Dana King, and I looked at her and her friends and smiled and realized in that split second that Gayle King is Oprah’s friend and not the Emmy-winning anchor of the CBS news affiliate in San Francisco that I was currently talking to.
So. It blows when you make a fool of yourself. But here’s the thing. Dana ended up telling me that she would take the book and give it to one of the medical reporters at KPIX to check out, because “it’s breast cancer awareness month in October” and everyone is looking for an angle. And indeed Dr. Kim Mulvihill called me a week later to ask if she could come and interview me, which she is doing next week. When I told her about how I’d majorly blown Dana’s name, she said that Dana hadn’t mentioned that, and that she in fact had said that I was quite nice, which, Kim pointed out, is not always the way that famous people are approached at events.
So note to self. Don’t think you know someone’s name. Offer yours and go from there. And sometimes being bald has nothing to do with how much hair you have on your head. That Sunday, I was totally bald and just cloaked in my embarrassment.