Monday, October 27, 2008

The telephone reigns supreme for book promotion and all other communication needs.

Despite the fact that we can now instantly email missives and pictures to people on other continents, there's still no replacing the telephone. Which is why this weekend was a tough one for this book publicist.

I'd heard the weather forecast. The pundits were predicting a thunderstorm. I backed up my data, and I unplugged my computer and external hard drives and modem and router. But -- well, you've guessed the rest of it by now. I failed to unplug one of my phone lines, and that phone line was slammed by a thunderbolt (or so my theory goes).

After I'd spent two days (Saturday and Sunday, for those of you who can appreciate the irony of the story) plugging and unplugging and replugging in devices, cords, adaptors, and what-have-you into the troubled phone line, and after buying $50 worth of new stuff to replace old stuff that I suspected of malfunctioning but couldn't prove had malfunctioned until I'd bought the new stuff -- which didn't prove anything, anyway, but it gave me something to fiddle around with during the two beautiful days that will likely mark the last two glorious weekend days of the year), I finally gave up and called the phone company this morning.

Monday is a back-to-work day for this book promotion specialist, so I was hoping the call would be quick and painless. That wasn't to be. A voice mail system prevented me from speaking to an actual person until I began exhibiting signs of clinical idiocy/stupidity and failed to answer enough vocal prompts to keep the voice mail system cranking out irrelevant questions ... at which point, I got an actual person on the phone who had none of the information I'd just spent 10 minute passing along to the voice mail system. But, anyway, both the voice mail prompt and the actual person who finally dispatched a technician to my office warned me that, because I had no service maintenance contract, it would cost me $100 to have the phone line repaired except in the unlikely event that the phone line problem was the phone company's problem (apparently, an outdoor line problem is still something for which the phone company will take responsibility whereas anything else -- such as smashing important indoor phone outlets in an attempt to get things working again after a system problem is something for which the phone company will not take responsibility). The customer service representative who called to confirm my appointment (which, of course, was loosely scheduled for sometime this week) repeated that this visit would probably cost me $100 if, indeed, I still wanted to go through with this visit.

All I'm asking is: What choice did I have? I have two phone lines, both of which I need to conduct my book promotion campaigns. I can email and fax and snail-mail and even send singing telegrams until I'm blue in the face -- but, if I absolutely, positively have to communicate with somebody who's not within earshot, there's no substitute for picking up the phone and making a call. Nor, by the way, is there a replacement for being able to receive phone calls from the media, authors, publishers, and others who need to call book publicists.

In short, my book promotion efforts require two phone lines. My sanity requires two phone lines. My effectiveness at book publicity presumes that I have two phone lines and that they both work, all the time.

There's an upshot to the story, and that's this. The telephone technician came out (yay!), did his tests, and has determined that the phone line problem is an outside issue that is the phone company's responsibility (yay again!), and he can fix it -- he hopes -- by "climbing a few poles" and locating the wire that got zapped in the storm (again, that's my theory -- the tech can only confirm that there's a wire somewhere that's spoiling to break, and that's what's been causing the problem).

So, as a book publicist who's had only one working phone line for two and a half days, and who wrecked a beautiful weekend by trying to fix the problem herself, I have a bit of hard-earned advice. And, strangely enough, I feel as though I'm paraphrasing the old "People's Court" television show to convey it, but so be it. I loved that old show, anyway. If you have a phone line problem, don't take matters into your own hands, and don't waste your time crawling around on the floor subjecting every outlet and wire in your path to potential harm. You take it to the phone company and let them deal with the issue.

They won't like it one bit. But, then again, you're not conducting a book promotion campaign without a working phone line or two -- so don't hesitate to call on the phone company for help when you need it.

You pay them enough to defend your one phone call per decade to them.