I have been spending my life for the past three weeks in the greenroom. It is the place you wait before you go on television to plug your book.

Greenrooms are not necessarily green. Some are off-white, or any color the television station deems appropriate.

Each is different. Some offer you coffee and soft drinks. The early shows throw in doughnuts and croissants, and others save money by just directing you to a water fountain in the hall.

You meet the most interesting people in the greenroom -- anyone from Madonna (plugging her children's book) to Kurt Vonnegut (waiting to talk about his) to Jack Welch (waiting to tell everyone how to be successful in business).

Most authors are accompanied by their publishers' flacks. This is done for moral support, because most writers are very nervous before they go on the air.

This is how it works. I go into the greenroom with my new book, "Beating Around the Bush," under my arm, making sure the title can be seen by everybody.

In the room are Carly Simon, a lady who lived in an Arabian harem for 20 years, a defrocked priest, and an actress who beat her drug problem and is no longer is a shoplifter.

Believe it or not, we become family. We ask to see one another's books, and talk about our tours and which TV hosts or hostesses have actually read the books before we go on the air.

You don't have much time in the interviews, so we discuss ways to get the titles of our books on the air. If we don't succeed, we're wasting your time.

For example, the question is, "What did you think of Hurricane Katrina?"

The answer is, "It is not covered in 'Beating Around the Bush,' but it will be in the Hollywood horror film about FEMA."

I have seen publishers' representatives who never let their clients get in a word in the greenroom.

The TV assistant in charge of the greenroom asks the author, "Would you like coffee?"

The flack says, "He wants it black with two sugars."

Assistant: "These are some of the subjects we will cover."

Flack: "My writer will discuss any subject except how he spent his time making license plates in jail."

Assistant: "Will you sign the release form?"

Flack: "I'll sign it. That's what I'm here for."

The worst thing that can happen to you is, while you are waiting in the greenroom, you are dumped because President Bush has just given a speech denouncing those who oppose Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, or the show has run overtime because Tom DeLay says, for the thousandth time, that he has been indicted by a vindictive district attorney in Texas.

I am willing to sit in any greenroom with a writer of any ideology, but I draw the line when it comes to cats, dogs and monkeys.

More and more people are writing about their pets, and they insist on bringing them on the air.

That is why people say plugging books is a dirty business.

The greenroom is a home away from home for many of us. If you are lucky, you won't be one of the thousands of homeless writers who never make it on the air.

(c) 2005 Tribune Media Services