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Interview with Lisa Daily, Author of FIFTEEN MINUTES OF SHAME

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Lisa Daily is a dating coach, speaker and popular media guest — she has done more than 2000 interviews on top radio and television shows, including iVillage Live, MTV Live, Entertainment Tonight and top UK national morning show, This Morning, and she appears as a real-life dating expert on the HITCH movie DVD starring Will Smith. A frequent source for reporters, Lisa has been quoted in hundreds of publications, from the New York Times, Washington Post and Chicago Tribune to Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Men’s Health, Christian Science Monitor and US Weekly Magazine. You can visit her website at www.lisadaily.com.

Welcome to Beyond the Books, Lisa. Can you tell us whether you are published for the first time or multi-published? Can you give us the title(s) of your book(s)?

Thanks for inviting me! Fifteen Minutes of Shame is my first novel, and my second book. My first book was Stop Getting Dumped! a non-fiction dating advice book for women.

What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

My first book was Stop Getting Dumped!, which was published in 2002.

For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

Both of my publishing experiences were freakishly rejection-free.
My husband and I moved to Minneapolis after he finished grad school, and our young son was still miraculously taking three hour naps every day. I decided it would be fun to write a dating advice book in my spare time, and sell it online instead of going the traditional publishing route.

I did the math, and figured I’d make a lot more money if I published the book myself.

I never looked for an agent, I never submitted to a single publisher. I have an advertising background, and I knew art directors, I knew printers, I knew production people. I figured, how hard can it be? Besides, I planned to do all the marketing myself, and after 8 years of serving the advertising needs of corporate America, I thought I might like to call all the shots in my next creative endeavor. For a change.

So, I wrote my little dating book in about six weeks, set a pub date (Valentine’s Day, naturally) bought myself a block of ISBN numbers and found a good short run printer. I hired a book publicist to send out review copies ($5000, resulting in 7, count ‘em, 7 media hits) and built a website.

When Oprah didn’t call immediately, I started to worry. When B&N national decided to pass, I started to freak. I woke up in the middle of the night, terrified that I’d spent $10,000 we didn’t really have. I decided that publicity, lots and lots of publicity, would be my only salvation. So every time I woke up with nightmares of being sucked into a quicksand-fast hole of debt, I cranked out a press release and faxed it to every media outlet I could think of.

I got booked on a local radio station. I got booked on the local TV station. B&Ns all over the country started placing individual orders for my book. My $5000 publicist managed to snag a quickie review in the New York Daily News (thank you, Alev Aktar).

The interview requests started to pick up, and I had the idea to pitch the book to the Ally McBeal show –it seemed like a good fit, one of the characters was always doing weird stuff to try to snag a man. I sent off my pitch and received a lovely form letter back stating that they could not look at my book and pitch unless they came from an agent.

Well, that was inconvenient. I didn’t have an agent. Fortunately, my $5000 publicist had a good friend who was an agent, and she was pretty certain her agent pal would be willing to slap a cover letter on my package for Ally McBeal.

I’d racked up about thirty interviews, the book started taking off, but I was spending a couple of hours a day in my garage. (in Minnesota, in February), packaging up books one and two at a time for individual stores who’d ordered, and re-ordered them.

I was spending most of my writing time billing stores (individually, gawd help me) and shipping out books.

Two days later, as I returned from my freezing cold garage/shipping center, I got a message from the agent on my answering machine. She said she’d read my book, she loved it, and to give her a call if I ever wanted to sell it to a major publisher.

Hmmm. Thrills and glory as a big-time author? Or two hours a day in the garage? Hmmm…what to do, what to do? As soon as my fingers started to thaw, I dialed the phone.

We talked for an hour, and I agreed to sign on with her. I worked on a proposal over the weekend and sent it and my contract off on Monday morning. On Tuesday I got a call from the Sally Jessy Raphael show. They wanted to book me for Thursday.

I called Lorraine, my newly-minted agent, who promptly set up meetings with as many editors as she could squeeze in before my return flight. Two days later, I was in NYC, sitting across from Sally Jessy, one of the nicest interviewers I’ve ever met. I had meetings with three editors that afternoon, all at big houses, and had several offers from by the end of the week.

How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

When I first started looking for a job as an advertising copywriter, I was in a very competitive market and spent a lot of time showing my portfolio around. It was the first time I’d ever really experienced any kind of rejection of my work. I tried to listen to the criticism with an open mind – sometimes one creative director would love a piece, and then the next guy would think it was garbage, I’d listen to my own instincts. But when I heard the same type of comment over and over again about a particular piece or line, I took note and made changes. If you want your work to get better, you should at least listen with an open mind to the opinions people who are more talented or more experienced than you are. My portfolio got better, and fairly soon after that, I got my first copywriting job.

When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?

Plume/Penguin published my first book and debut novel, Fifteen Minutes of Shame, as well. I had offers and/or interest from all six major publishers for Stop Getting Dumped!, but I really hit it off with Trena Keating, who was Editor in Chief at Plume at the time. She wanted to crash the book, which meant they would publish it as fast as they could print it (about 6 weeks later) versus the usual 12 – 18 month publishing process.

She was a great editor for me, a very good fit, and I felt lucky to work with her.

How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

On the night the deal came in, my husband and I drank champagne. A few weeks later when the book launched, my girlfriends threw a party for me.

What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I pitched radio morning shows non-stop. I’d send out a pitch in the middle of the night, and by the time I woke up, there would be a couple of interview requests in my email inbox.

If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

No. My brief experience with self-publishing gave me a real appreciation for all the things my NY publisher WAS doing to promote the book, versus the overwhelming feeling that many first time authors get – disappointment in all the things they’re NOT doing.

I got a crash course in how publishing works, and still had the support of a great editor at a big publishing house. I couldn’t ask for anything better.

Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

My first novel, Fifteen Minutes of Shame will be coming out March 25, 2008. It’s the story of what happens when America’s favorite TV dating guru finds out her husband is cheating – live on national television. (It’s fiction, I swear!)

Plume/Penguin is publishing Fifteen Minutes of Shame – I had such a great experience with my first book, we decided not to shop it around to any other publishers.

Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

It would not have been possible to speed things up even more. Six weeks from sale to bookstore was barely enough time to catch my breath!

I don’t know that I would change anything – I learned from the things that didn’t really work (I’d probably avoid paid TV product placement in the future), but everything that happened brought me to where I am today, and I like that place.

What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

That’s tough. Stop Getting Dumped! hit the bestseller lists during its launch week both in the US and the UK – I’m really proud of that. I give love advice on a syndicated TV show called DAYTIME every week, and I’m really proud of that. I’m mostly proud that I followed my heart and wrote my novel, Fifteen Minutes of Shame, when it would have been easier to follow up with another non-fiction dating advice book.

If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

Being an author is the best profession I could imagine. The second-best profession for me was my first career, as an advertising creative. I wrote every day, I worked with really smart people, I traveled and made a really nice living, and I worked on something new every week. For me, it was a dream come true.

Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

I gave up advertising to be an author, and as much as I loved it, I wouldn’t go back. I love this more.

How do you see yourself in ten years?

I’d like to have another ten books published (we’ll see how that goes). Like most authors, I dream of the top spot on the New York Times bestseller list. Mostly, I hope I’m as grateful for the experience of being published as I am today.

Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

What separates working writers from wannabe writers is sticking it out, getting it done, whether your muse is on vacation or not. Don’t give up when it gets hard – it gets hard for everybody. I recommend that anyone wanting to write books starts by getting the best writing job you can swing (newspaper, magazine, advertising copywriter) where you are surrounded by, and hopefully supervised by, writers who are far better than you are. Learn everything you can, and write every single day. Then, be brave and put your work out into the world.

Lisa Daily’s virtual book tour is brought to you by Pump Up Your Book Promotion and choreographed by Dorothy Thompson.

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