Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Last Hollywood Hustle: Amorous Adventures, final episode

Yeah, I know, the last blog entry sounded like a finale, but every good show has an encore. Today I’m going to tell you about the last and most exhausting day of my LA book tour. In many ways it was the most educational, too. That’s been the real profit in my Amorous Woman adventure—learning more about what I’m capable of doing.

Who’d ever thought I could be such a whore?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Sunday, September 28 was the day of the West Hollywood Book Fair in Plummer Park and it was, in fact, the original reason I went to LA at all. As I mentioned, the wonderful Eden Bradley (with me in the picture above) suggested I join her and some of her Phaze colleagues at their booth this year. I’m not one to turn down an interesting opportunity, so I signed up, bought my tickets, and then later managed to include the Hustler Hollywood reading and Dr. Susan Block interview. Eden had warned me it would be hot, exhausting and fun. She also suggested I bring some freebies to give away as the fairgoers liked that sort of thing. Since we were doing an Asian/Exotic theme thanks to Eden’s new book Exotica: Seven Days of Kama Sutra, Nine Days of Arabian Nights as well as my Japan book and Christine London’s books set in England, I thought maybe fortune cookies with grown-up, sexy fortunes might be appropriate. I found a place that sold fresh cookies with up to 17 custom fortunes, made from a classic recipe called Good Fortunes, Inc. (There are lots of “creative” places with weird flavors like blueberry that allow only three fortunes and are more expensive, but I’d definitely recommend these guys).

Several people have mentioned, very kindly, that my book tour diary has made them feel they’ve traveled right along with me, so just to keep you all in the loop, these are the fortunes I wrote up:

Sip hot tea; swallow. French kiss your lover’s most sensitive spot.

Blindfold your lover; order him/her to remain still. Do things to make this difficult.

Caress your lover’s body with silk; try velvet, then your tongue.

Have your lover pick a number from 1 to 10. Caress his/her secret pleasure spot for that number of minutes.

FOR HIM: Sip crème de menthe; spread it over his member with your tongue. Blow gently.

Your lover’s been naughty. Maybe s/he needs a gentle spanking?

Give your lover an erotic book; mark your favorite passages first.

FOR HER: Don’t take off your lingerie tonight—make him (or her) “work around it.”

Have phone sex—even if you live together.

Make love anywhere but the bedroom. Be creative with the furniture.

If you have suggestions for others, do let me know for next time!

Anyway, on Sunday morning I was up early to fortify myself with the complimentary breakfast at the Magic Castle Hotel by the pool you see here. I really liked this hotel (my son wants to come back because of the endless free drinks, candy and cookies they offer at the front desk in lieu of a mini-bar). In a way it was a come-down from the Beverly Hills Hotel, rather like a star’s career in reverse. This was more like Marilyn Monroe’s first apartment in Hollywood, which we’d passed on the Starline Tour. It’s the kind of garden apartment complex you might expect an aspiring actor to live in if they have some subsidy from mom and dad. It cost me about $130 a night though and with the convenient location, and the access to their famous magic club—which is usually members only—it’s a great bargain.

Not to mention the art in the room was very cool—old tyme posters of magician’s acts which are just the kind of ephemera I love!

Okay, so I was up early, had my breakfast, packed up 20 copies of Amorous Woman and a few hundred fortune cookies, plus a kimono and dancer’s fan for decoration and was waiting for Eden in front of the hotel. She showed up in her van which was packed with all the necessities for our “harem” themed booth—a potted plant, cushions, a fur rug and sexy scarves. The book fair was not far from my hotel and we soon arrived, pulling into the area near our booth, E44, to unload. It didn’t take long to set up with four of us working and my kimono definitely added a touch of the exotic as our main wall décor.

You’ll note our sign read “California Erotica Writers” which included Eden, Christine London and Will Belegon, as well as yours truly, the Bay Area ringer.

We were all set up by opening time, and, as I mentioned before, I tend to avoid facing the facts of book promotion until they are staring me in the face. The fair was open and harsh reality was glaring at me, close enough to smell its foul breath. I was here to sell my book, but how the hell was I going to get people to come over to the booth? Then it occurred to me why Eden had suggested freebies. I had to lure these unsuspecting folk over and give them a sales job, face to face.

This is not something I’m good at. Never was, never will be.

But Amorous Woman has tested my limits before. I’d spent a nice chunk of dough to come to the fair, it was my duty to do my best for my baby. None of it came easy, but by the time the sun was sinking in the west, and shining right in my eyes, I’d hit on a strategy. Here’s what worked that day, more or less.

First, I stood behind the table and called out, “Would you like to try a grown up fortune cookie?” Standing out in the path of strollers just alienated them, I had to give them the space to say no and then more said yes. Although plenty said no, either expecting they needed to pay or watching their West Hollywood figures. Het couples were the easiest marks (West Hollywood is mainly a gay town), but singletons sometimes took the bait. The fortune cookies were generally a hit. Most people smiled, many shared what they got with us and thought it was a good idea, although the “give your lover an erotic book” seemed more mercenary than I’d originally intended. (For the record, I do think it’s a good idea—it doesn’t have to be my book, but it could be!)

Once I’d gotten them over to my book, I launched into my pitch. In this case, I went for the historical hook, mentioning that Amorous Woman was based on a 17th century Japanese erotic classic. This always got a look of curiosity. Then I’d say how it was based on my own experiences living in Japan. If that put a twinkle in their eye, I knew I might have a sale. And I did sell to a handful of wonderful people, strangers all--hey, you know who you are and I hope you enjoy the book!

In the meantime, I did have some nice chats with people, my potential reading public. Some who’d lived in Japan or traveled there. Some who wanted to talk about the fortunes or erotica. There were a few unpleasant folk. The drunk lady who talked and talked forever and just wouldn’t go away. The old guy who chatted for some time, then said “thanks,” pressed his crushed fortune cookie in my hand for me to throw away, and walked off empty-handed.

In the end, I only sold a modest amount of copies, but gave away tons of bookmarks, brought smiles to many faces and had a great time with my boothmates. Truly the most satisfying part of promotion is doing something for the good of the book. If it only sells a few copies, that matters less than if I had fun. Really.

In fact, the most satisfying and exotic part of the day was that I proved I could do something so very foreign to me. Here I am with Will and Christine, looking tired, but happy and ready to come home to rest up for the next part of my book tour.

Start spreading the news—I’m leaving next week for New York, New York, baby!


Jeremy Edwards said...

My favorites:

Give your lover an erotic book; mark your favorite passages first.

Have phone sex—even if you live together.

See you in New York!!!!!

Donna said...

I like the phone sex one, too. You picked the literary ones, Jeremy--no surprise! I am SO looking forward to our literary gatherings in NYC....

Anonymous said...

Congratulations again on doing something that stretches your comfort zone, Donna (or blows it away completely, heh). Really -- I find that truly heartening and impressive, and perhaps especially because I myself can personally relate to such a thing being challenging...and thus knowing that if I were in your position I would likely feel quite similarly.

Yay meeting up in New York!!

EllaRegina said...

Sounds like you did just fine! Good for you for testing what you think are your limits.

Next stop: New York City!


Donna said...

Yep, I guess my limits are a bit different now.

NYC will be so different. It's my past in a lot of ways. And I'll get to see so many friends! I am so looking forward to this....