Ellen Sussman is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel, French Lessons, published by Ballantine in 2011. Her first novel, On a Night Like This, was a San Francisco Chronicle Best-Seller. It has been translated into six languages. She is also the editor of two anthologies, Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia Of Sex and Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave, which was a New York Times Editors Choice and a San Francisco Chronicle Best-Seller.
Why I Love the Book Tour
I just finished a two week book tour for the release of my novel, French Lessons, and I’m here to report:
I experienced the best and the worst of bookstore appearances.
I loved it.
I’ve heard the grumblings from my writer friends. Book tours are hell. No one shows up. The hotels are crummy. The media escorts, if you’re lucky enough to get one, are annoying. And the publisher is never happy, no matter what.
Wrong. At least for me. I loved almost every minute of my book tour. I’m a social animal and I love a crowd. There’s also no better topic for me to talk about than writing, especially the writing of my latest novel. Well, that’s a recipe for a good evening’s entertainment! My favorite part of a reading is the audience questions – and I always got great questions – about my writing process, about publishing, about Paris. The folks who show up for author events are smart people – I had a blast chatting with them.
But here’s the trump card. I love booksellers. We need booksellers. Booksellers are a dying breed. At every store on my tour, the bookstore manager or owner or at least one of the booksellers sat down and listened to me talk about French Lessons. They asked questions and shared in on the conversation. And later, they told me they would hand-sell my novel to everyone who walked in the store. Call that a love affair in the making.
We write novels in isolation. When the book comes out into the world we often don’t get a good sense of that part of the process. And that’s the most important part. We write to communicate – to tell our story to readers. And the book tour is the beginning of reaping our rewards. Readers show up – to say they read the book or they’re half-way through. They tell me what they loved and what they hated. (the sex scenes! Everyone seems to love or hate the sex scenes.) They ask for my email address so they can email me when they’ve finished the book. Nothing could make me happier.
I got lucky on my book tour. I stayed in great hotels (except for a dump in Dayton), I met fabulous media escorts who kept the hours in between readings filled with good conversation, and I had a few events with huge crowds. But I also got unlucky – I was in the mid-west for that record-breaking heat wave, I had one reading where 3 people turned up, and I kept failing to recognize people from my childhood who showed up unexpectedly. But when I’m done balancing the good and the bad there’s no question: I loved my book tour.
About French Lessons:
A single day in Paris changes the lives of three Americans as they each set off to explore the city with a French tutor, learning about language, love and loss, as their lives intersect in surprising ways.
Josie, Riley, and Jeremy have come to the City of Light for different reasons: Josie, a young high school teacher, arrives in hopes of healing a broken heart. Riley, a spirited but lonely ex-pat housewife, struggles to feel connected to her husband and her new country. And Jeremy, the reserved husband of a renowned actress, is accompanying his wife on a film shoot, yet he feels distant from her world.
As they meet with their tutors—Josie with Nico, a sensitive poet, Riley with Phillippe, a shameless flirt, and Jeremy with the consummately beautiful Chantal—each succumbs to unexpected passion and unpredictable adventures. Yet as they traverse the grand boulevards and intimate, winding streets, they uncover surprising secrets about one another—and come to understand long-buried truths about themselves.
How do you feel about book tours – as an author or a reader? Tell us and say hello to Ellen in the comments below!