Behind the Scenes of a Book Launch

Writing is like breathing to me. But marketing and publicity? I have no effing clue.

I messed up the requisite Twitter book giveaway, despite multiple coaching emails from my publisher. My Tweet unintentionally implied that everyone who commented and shared the book info would get a free copy, instead of being clear that they might win a free copy. Now we’re mailing out like thirty free copies of the book. Oops!

Then the book launch reception this week: Yes, it was classy and well-attended and logistically went very smoothly, and yet I was still an anxious mess. Mingling events make me anxious. I’m always worried that I’ll forget names, even names of people whose names I really shouldn’t forget, and then guess what happens? I totally blank. And when they’re standing in front of me waiting for me to sign their copy of my book, it’s really awkward.

And then, I’m supposed to be arranging book signings all over, but I’m paralyzed on this. Do I just call bookstores? When would I even have time? What if I forget someone’s name?

Sigh. I’m very happy with how the book turned out, and I’m confident it can help people change their habits, lose weight, lower their blood pressure, and avoid diabetes and heart disease.

Basically, I’m hoping it sells itself!

The evening reception at the MGH Russell Museum was beautiful, and well-attended!

The kids helped promote the book!

Book Launch Speech 12/5/18

I’m going to give you guys a little of the backstory on how this project even happened, include some hopefully humorous details, and acknowledge everyone who contributed.

You may have heard this quote:

“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.”

That bit of wisdom is from Hippocrates circa 400 BC, and it still resonates. What we eat and what we do, day in and day out, our habits, our lifestyle, this is what Healthy Habits for Your Heart is all about.

Yes, it includes plenty of nutritional epidemiology, exercise physiology, and preventive cardiology research. But it’s also what Hippocrates described thousands of years ago: the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little, not too much. It’s about moderation, and balance.

This is what I’ve been writing about over on the Harvard Health Blog, thanks to editors Nancy Ferrari and Catherine Finn, who have let me become increasingly focused on the lifestyle medicine topic, Thank you.

Harvard Health Blog has a massive worldwide audience, 2 million Twitter followers! This all caught the eye of Eileen Mullan, acquisitions editor at Adams Media/ Simon and Schuster, and she approached me about a book project back in March. “We believe there’s a market for this, and we like your writing,” she said. “Can you have a final draft by July?”

I am so thankful that she was forward enough to ask me, and that I was crazy enough to take it on.

So then they asked me to study the comps, meaning, the competitive titles, the books that will be on that same shelf in the bookstore, and I noticed something. The list includes very excellent books like Dean Ornish’ The Spectrum; Caldwell Esselstyn’s Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease; Walter Willet’s Eat Drink and Be Healthy; Mark Gillinov and Steven Nissen’s Heart 411; David Katz’ Disease Proof; Michael Greger’s How Not To Die; Colin Campbell and Thomas Campbell’s The China Study, and more.

I read all of these books. And I noticed something. Not only were these all male authors, but their contributors, the experts they quoted, all tended to be men as well (except when it came to recipes). Now, these are solid books, good books! But I decided we needed to make up for lost opportunities.

And so I’d like to extend a special thanks to my colleagues who contributed their expertise, who answered my pestering emails and spoke to me on the phone in order to better inform the book:

Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, Obesity Medicine Specialist; Linda Delahanty, Director of Nutrition and Behavioral Research; Dr. Stephanie Eisenstat, Internal medicine and diabetes physician; Cassidy Salus, Boston area chef de cuisine; Dr. Anne Thorndike, internist at the Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Center; Dr. Kathleen Ulman, incredibly experienced psychologist; Dr. Deborah Wexler, Director of the MGH Diabetes Center; Dr. Malissa Wood, Cardiologist and Codirector of the Corrigan Women’s Heart Health Program.

I had more help with this project, of course, and I’d like to especially thank my patients, all of whom inspired the writing, and some of whom willingly shared their personal health journeys for this book. The publishers were initially concerned about including these. But the lawyers checked and were satisfied that we were being uber-HIPAA compliant, and I am so glad, because it is these real and powerful patient stories that will resonate with readers who are having similar struggles. I can’t name you, but I thank you.

And of course, to the ground crew, the critical assistance from my husband Bob Socci, kids Gio and Maria, mom Nancy, brother and sister-in-law Jorge and Cristina, plus all of the neighbors, church folks, and friends who provided seemingly endless support as I delved (and kind of disappeared) into this project last spring.

THANKS especially to tonight’s event organizers—Dr. Anne Moulton, Dr. Karen Carlson, Dr. Devon Quasha from Women’s Health Associates, who have also been endlessly supportive of my crazy projects, and Shannon Babbit Hoyt from the MGH Gift shop who arranged for these books to be here for you.

And here we are. I am proud of Healthy Habits for Your Heart, because it is very evidence-based. In fact, the editors, with their understandable focus on a total word count of 50,000, kept asking me if we could maybe not include so many references, or put them somewhere else, like, my website maybe. I’m extremely thankful that after some back-and-forth on this, we got the green light from the higher-ups to push the word count up. A lot.

Because it matters. The science behind the message matters. And the science shows that a diet and lifestyle approach can make people healthier.

So what’s next? I am on a mission to spread evidence-based preventive health information, not just about diet and lifestyle, but also vaccine efficacy, gun control measures, women’s health, opioid and alcohol use disorder treatment, you name it, I’m there. To paraphrase Hippocrates again:

“There are two things: science and opinion. Science begets knowledge, and opinion begets ignorance.”

So here’s to science, and health!

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