A critically acclaimed dark comedy named Norman came out in theaters last year, and my sister and I went to see it. Richard Gere, the formerly drop-dead-gorgeous hunk of An Officer and A Gentleman plays Norman Oppenheimer, a white-haired, wrinkle-browed, New York City conman in a tan overcoat and brown tweed cap who is kind of an upscale version of Peter Falk’s Columbo.
Promoting himself as a “consultant,” Norman chases the rich and powerful people in Manhattan promising to connect them with his even richer and more powerful friends. Ok, no similarities with me yet. But I realized recently that Norman and I do have a few things in common. This character spent 85 percent of his on-screen time pulling business cards out of his pocket, signing them, “Many thanks! Norman” and pushing them into people’s hands as they tried to avoid him.
Somewhere along the line, marketing my book, All in My Head: How a Hypochondriac Beat Brain Cancer, has made me a royal pain in the ass. I had a business card designed, which bears an image of my book cover, along with my website and contact info. And since the first order from the printing company “Moo” arrived at my house, I have become completely obsessed with handing out these cards. I keep them in the front and back of my purse, my glove compartment, on my desk, and in the pockets of every item of clothing that I own, except my pajamas.
I hand my card to everyone—people at the beach just trying to soak up the sun, the Dunkin Donuts worker who passes me my coffee, the librarian who checks out my books, the pharmacists who fill my prescriptions, my priest, my dry cleaner, book store owners, and total strangers. It’s become a way of life.
But on a recent Saturday morning, I realized I had become 50 shades seedier than Norman Oppenheimer when I handed one of my cards to our red-haired, freckle-faced paperboy, who looked at me and said, “No thanks, that’s okay,” and gave it back to me.
But the fact is that distributing my business cards does get results. Some of the throngs of people I accost on the streets actually do buy my book. I’m pretty sure the poor woman who took a card from me last night while she was trying to load groceries into her Ford Escape (she didn’t escape fast enough) must have bought a book. When I checked sales on line this morning, there was one more. I felt elated, but also a little guilty as I thought of her canned peas falling out of the ripped bottom of her white plastic bag while she reached for my outstretched hand.
So, I want to apologize in advance to all the unfortunate souls who happen to cross my path and are subjected to my sales pitch and my ever-present business cards. Please know that my motives are not the same as Norman Oppenheimer’s. I don’t desire fame or fortune (although I’m not technically opposed to either), but I do want to get the word out that my book is available for the people who need it— people who are feeling as shell-shocked and hopeless by a cancer diagnosis as I was in October of 2008. All in My Head will help them, and I really want them to know it’s there.
Writing my book was the easiest part of the journey, but marketing it is much more daunting. Soliciting newspaper stories, radio spots, book signings and author speeches is a never-ending effort. It requires passion, persistence, and the willingness to annoy the hell out of people and accept rejection.
I’m not thrilled with the rejection part (that freckle-faced paperboy can go pound sand for next week’s tip), but, to be honest, the in-your-face annoying part hasn’t been too much of a stretch for me. It almost feels like I’ve been doing it for years.