If you're like me, there's something funny that happens when you make your dreams come true. I've always been self-motivated with an innate drive, so when my book was finally published after five slow years, I didn't have the burst of elation expected. Instead, a whole new wave of anxiety filled me as I embarked on the book tour I created. Would people show up? Would people even like the book?
In retrospect, getting your book published by one of the top five publishers is a feat for the ego, but not much else. When you're not a celeb or social media personality, you're at the very bottom of the totem-pole--all the way down--on their priority list. So while I wanted to enjoy the journey and embrace the positive response of the book, my mind was focused on marketing, PR, and how the hell to get the book into retail stores. That's their job as the distributor, but as of now Barnes and Noble carries only 1-2 copies at each store, with hardly a presence in other retailers. That's a downward spiral I'd rather not get further into.
About a year ago, Rachel (who works for me in New York) and I started organizing the marketing plan based on Tim Ferriss's blog post on marketing his second book with his intern. This is the story of what it feels like to be on a book tour of five cities in three weeks.
New York City
The skirt won't close-- it's covered in hundreds of fake flowers reminiscent of a wall from the Dior show--and I can feel my heart racing; that panicky overwhelming feeling coming on. My boyfriend Brandon is using safety pins to close up the back of the skirt I made in an effort to have a wardrobe fit for Dolly Parton. We're sitting in our room at the Morgan Hotel, modern and chic, with a European feel, which I booked off of secretescapes.com while my mom and brother are getting ready at their exquisite hotel they absolutely love, the Omni Berkshire, in Midtown.
My demons antagonize me with fear that no one will show up to the Strand bookstore. Originally I pitched a floral installation, and to my surprise they agreed--on the condition that I have my book signing there on pub date, March 1st. The satisfaction of being asked felt really, really good.
My dad's flown in from LA, and my mom is up from Philly. I see my aunt and uncle, some friends, and a few strangers. Note to self: never wear a white Oxford shirt that sweat can seep through (I will in fact where this very outfit at nearly every signing). I'm a bit deflated when I realize other friends and clients aren't showing up, but chalk it up to flakiness.
We place a few arrangements out, setup a makeshift bar, and I greet my brother Matt, his girlfriend Anya, and their friends. My agent Alyssa comes with her assistant, and Amanda, the kickass editor that originally bought my book (who left to my dismay for another publisher). Nick, my kind publicist from Grand Central, is also there.
The crowd wants to see demos, and although I've done TV, and taught more classes than I can count, I'm incredibly nervous to perform in front of my close family. Flashbacks of elementary school stage fright kicks in.
Rachel's agreed to be the interviewer, and she chimes in with anecdotes and praise I'm too nervous, modest, or frazzled to mention. I'm asked the first round of questions that I will soon be asked over and over again at each signing. So this is what it feels like to be at a press junction! People want to know how I started out, what my favorite flower is, and how to make their flowers last longer.
Two hours later, a small gang of us head to a local Mexican place nearby, and the night seems anticlimactic after five years of working to make this happen. Confetti didn't fall from the sky, the New York Times didn't ask for an exclusive interview (yet), and gifts weren't received from the publisher. But nevertheless, I did it, damn it.
In the next few days, my mom and I head on the train to Connecticut where I do an interview and signing at a library. Followed by an interview and signing at Brooklyn Brainery where I teach. It's fun meeting new people and watch them look through the book. It definitely doesn't feel like I wrote it. All those days of writing in cafes, and on planes, the subway, and trains feel like a past life. The strenuous shoot of photographing 100 arrangements in 6 days is a dream. The photos glistening in perfection are the only reminder of sleepless nights in an effort to meet the deadline.
It's been my mission to get to the Philadelphia Flower Show, the most impressive show in the country. After a million emails bugging Nick to set it up, he comes through. Matt and I take the bus to Philly and stay with my aunt. While he's a successful photographer, he's used to being my honorary schlepper, handyman, and photographer.
None of us are naturally early risers, and at 6am on Sunday we frantically get ready and head to the convention center. I'm on at 9am, and am wondering who on Earth would be there so early. Oh, people are. It's massive and magnificent, filled with floral installations that emulate this year's National Parks theme.
Quickly realizing I will be on the large stage, I place a few vases on the demo tables, and head backstage to check out what they have in stock. An older man with a sparkly tan greets me saying he's the MC for the show, asking my name and what I do, while I have a meltdown inside that time's ticking and I need to prep. No, you can't go back out there he tells me--you're on in 5-10 minutes.
The A/V guy puts one of those singing mics around my ear and I slip into my flamboyant hot pink flower jacket. I'm basically Britney Spears.
I've learned to always go out with a smile and keep on smiling. When I take the stage, I survey the crowd and go for it, relying on my go-to demos. It's so much easier teaching a large crowd; the faces melding into one another. A precocious child in the audience asks what's trending in floral design, which gets a laugh.
During the signing portion, an androgynous teen and her mom come up and say that although they're not into flowers they like my quirkiness and want to support me. When I tell her daughter that the book is named after Julia Child's The French Chef, she perks up saying she wants to be a chef. In that moment, we both felt a nudge of perseverance.
That night I fly back to LA. Rach comes the next day and we install the window display for Book Soup in West Hollywood. Our hanging moss and flowers installation comes out better than we expected seeing how we had no blueprint for the design, opting instead to do it on the spot.
It's Tuesday, my huge book release party is Thursday, and once again, how the hell is it all going to come together. My dear friend Maureen from Arizona flies out for the party. Thank god she's here to stabilize my mind.
I've worked with the PR team at the venue Rolling Greens for months now. Will it be a repeat of Strand? Will no one come? We have a huge chalkboard photo backdrop of the book logo, beverage sponsors, and a lot of hype. Ali Landry, former Miss America and entrepreneur, has agreed to host it. I met Ali through Twitter--yes, that's right. Heidi Nazarian who has a huge following agreed to host as well. I met her through Instagram--it's true. My buddy from high school who heads Getty Images has sent a photographer, and about an hour before start time, I just want it to be over.
But then people come! A slow trickle turns into a full on jam-packed house. Family, acquaintances, work industry friends, peripheral friends--they all come. There's a line wrapped around of people wanting their books signed! I can barely say hello to all those familiar faces. People drink, talk, and take photos. It's exactly what I wanted! I feel relieved not for myself, but for Rolling Greens. My only regret is that while there are photos of the event, there are none that capture a birds-eye view or video to show the scale of the party.
I halfway take Friday off, stopping at the flower mart with Mo, hungover off of one drink and tired, to check on a wedding we have the next day. I'll be at the Vroman's bookstore signing, so Rach and Jill will be setting up the wedding.
That Sunday I fly to Dallas. In a web of relationships too complicated to unravel, I find myself doing five events in three days. Now I can handle many hours on little sleep, but this really tests me, especially having to be "on" the entire time. The folks in Dallas as so warm, and as an aspiring southern belle I enjoy each bit of time I have there. Marissa, a recently divorced mom of two, organized most of the events, acted as my driver and kept me on track, knowing to give me an hour more of time than anyone else would need. We did an event at the park, for the North Dallas Food Bank, for a private preschool, for her friends, and had a party at The Loveliest store. Fate would have it that Britni, one of the owners of The Loveliest, was the book stylist for The Flower Chef and moved to Dallas after we finished shooting. I savor the small moments, the mansion I'm staying at, and the people I get to meet. Expanding business to Dallas in now in the works.
I'm extremely exhausted and am beginning to think that when stars check into hospitals for exhaustion, it could be legit. I cross the Oakland Bridge at a snail's pace, navigating the hectic roads by Union Square and pull up to Villa Florence hotel, charming and comfortable. I treat myself to a relaxing, three-course lunch at their restaurant Kuleto's, diving into their unusual dishes with fervor. The grilled lettuce drenched in pesto, savory; the mussels, delightful; the squid ink seafood pasta, delectable.
After playing tourist in The Mission with an old friend, I wake early and head to the San Francisco Home and Garden show where Debra Prinzing of Slow Flowers has coordinated the speakers. Compared to Philly, it's like playing a casino after a stadium. The show is well organized, and I get to meet fellow florists that I've followed. The stage has one of those mirrors above the table used in cooking demos, which is so smart. One attendee tells me about the Oscar de la Renta exhibit, which I check out the next day. My childhood next-door neighbor Fayne is by my side for most of my visit, accompanying me to my signing at Book Passage (they gave me the loveliest customized stationary), and to the De Young Museum.
In the End
Coordinating the dates was a challenge, but the experience was worth it. Expectations can lead to disappoint, but it's better to have high expectations that fall short than low standards that surprise big. Even if my book is one of those that grow in popularity with time, and if I do fill stadiums around the world, I'll never forget those first signings with people that came to meet me and say hi. As Brandon reminds me, even if there are three people in the audience, those three people still came. That's pretty amazing, and I'll forever be grateful to all those that helped make all these firsts cemented in time. My hope is to always leave people with more than they thought they'd learn and to inspire them to leave the world a more positive place.