The business of publishing can really knock the wind out of you.
There are dozens of people involved in turning a big stack of paper into a book — the writer, agents, editors, publicists, marketing people, print managers, sales people and tons of support staff.
But sometimes it feels like the loneliest gig in the world.
If it’s your first book, you probably won’t go on tour. You probably won’t get rich. You probably won’t get on Oprah. And you’ll probably show up for at least one book signing where nobody else does. And sometimes, when you call your publisher, you’ll feel like that old publishing joke “the only good author is a dead author” might actually be real.
I was lucky enough to go on tour for Fifteen Minutes of Shame.
When I say “book tour” most people get this really glamorous idea of five-star hotels and limousines, formalwear, a ready-made entourage, and non-invasive paparazzi hanging around to take photos from your best angle outside your hotel, while a handler whisks you from party to interview to party to every author’s fantasy, a book-signing with throngs of your adoring fans lined up around the block.
The reality of a glamorous book tour is that you either a) take a flight at the crack of dawn, or b) show up in an airport the night before, and take a cab to a Ramada, or some other similarly-ornamented halfway house for business travelers. In the morning, you’ll drive yourself all over a strange city in a rental car, or if you’re really lucky, an author escort named Marge, or Betty, will pick you up in her late-model Toyota with used Starbucks grande cups and McGriddle wrappers littering the floor of the passenger seat.
Marge will know all of the gossip on every author on tour over the last five (to twenty) years, and can tell you who’s nice, who sleeps with bookstore managers, who takes uppers before she does the local morning show, and what bestselling spiritual author let his ratty little dog poop in the back of her car and didn’t even offer to clean it up.
You might head to a radio station at the crack of dawn to do a morning drive show, or a local TV station to do Good Morning Little Rock! or Good Morning Tupelo! or Good Morning Wherever The Hell You Are! and do your four minutes with a host who is graciously small-talking with you on-air, despite the fact that he probably doesn’t know or care who you are or what your book is about. Then, you’ll go to your bookstore signing, where even if you’re well-known, you can expect to sit at a faux wood table, looking a lot like those survey people in the mall, hoping to God that at least ten people will show up, so the bookstore manager won’t believe your appearance and frankly, your existence, to be a complete inconvenience and utter waste of her time. Typically, you’ll just be sitting around for two hours trying to catch any customer’s eye as they enter the store so you can psychically will them to your table. Mostly though, you’ll be giving them directions to the bathroom.
Whenever there are breaks in your day, you’ll drive-thru for coffees or sandwiches, then drop in at bookstores en route to your next gig, where you introduce yourself to as many unfazed bookstore employees as possible, and offer to sign any copies of your book they happen to have in stock. Which, if you’re a first or second-time author with a major publisher, will probably be one.
After you sign the single, lonely, copy they’ll rummage around the desk for one of those gold foil “signed by the author” stickers to slap on the front.
After your day is done, you’ll head back to the airport. You’ll grab a quick slice at Sbarro before your nine pm flight, and head (in coach) to your next glamorous destination. Maybe Akron.
You’ll miss your family or your sweetheart, you’ll gain ten pounds from eating crap at the airport, and you’ll spend much of your week(s) trying to figure out where the hell you are.
But here’s the reality that’s better than the perception:
Seeing your book, the book you wrote, for the first time in a bookstore. (Actually, that never gets old, even after the hundredth time)
And the best part, meeting your readers — the people who thought enough of you to spend $20 of their hard-earned cash on your book, and nice enough to tell you that your work means something to them personally.
For a writer, it just doesn’t get any better.
15 Replies to “Beat Me, Whip Me, Send Me on Book Tour by Deb Lisa Daily”
The only part of my book tour fantasy you didn’t cover is calling home to hear how everything is falling apart, your children’s resentment is thicker than wildfire smoke, and the local college football team has moved into your living room. I’m so jealous.
It’s all worth it. It really is. Thanks for sharing, Lisa!
Oh, it’s all so true! And don’t forget the vagrants who come to the signing for your freebie candy at the table. That was rite of passage I met on my very first signing, in Orlando, at which I felt enormous pressure to sell books so that said bookseller didn’t think I was a useless waste of time. I worked it pretty hard, engaging in eye contact with every remotely possible reader of my book. The one person I deliberately did NOT engage in eye contact with was the obvious homeless guy who came in lugging a watermelon beneath his (stinky) armpit.
Sure enough, his gaze zeroed in on my stockpiled-from-christmastime Hershey’s white chocolate crunchy peppermint kisses. He looked at me. I looked at him, then quickly averted his gaze (and grizzly, dirty-encrusted countenance). Too late. He had my number.
He faked it, meandering around the store with his watermelon in tow, feigning interest in travel books, philosophy, parenting. But eventually he made his way back to my lonely little table. Picked up a copy of Sleeping with Ward Cleaver as if he’d come there just to buy it. Leafed through the pages (please! don’t render it un-sellable! I thought). Then he took one of my business cards. Grabbed my signing pen (ugh, somebody get me the wet wipes!), flipped the card over and began to pen a sketch of some sort. The first image looked a little to much like a set of breasts. I didn’t want to ask. The next thing was a jagged rendering of a stick figure, looking as if it was about to drown. Jagged, of course, because the man’s jittery hands trembled with a palsy likely induced by years of drug and alcohol abuse. My original artistic renderings actually were a bit interesting. Sort of a modern-day Keith Haring wannabe rendition.
Upon completion of his masterpiece, he handed me the card, looked at my candy, I urged him to take a handful just to get rid of him (I’d lost a couple of potential sales in the meantime), and he picked up his watermelon and went on his merry way.
Oh yes, I neglected to mention that part. Depending on how long you’re gone, your home life will probably fall to pieces.
Also, if you’re over 30, it will take you twice as long to recuperate from your tour of 16-hour days as you were gone. (2 month tour = 4 months of recuperation)
I got back from a 2-month tour on Monday night, so I’ll be back to normal by Halloween.
So true 🙂
Oh yes, homeless watermelon guy. Actually, he’s a major reviewer. NYT, I think. He’d only there when they’re considering you for a big feature.
So you’re saying it’s poor form to let your dogs go the bathroom in the back seat of someone else’s car? huh. Polite society is so fussy these days.
Great descriptions of what can be a dream/nightmare come true! I have to say, though, that the small slice of your tour that I was fortunate enough to be able to attend with you, was so much fun! It was amazing to see you in action, whether at The Tattered Cover for your debut signing, watching you tape your segments for The Daytime Show, or observng your interactions with your readers. You are an incredibly talented, savy, brilliant woman, and a gifted writer as well! I am so happy for you and your success, and so proud of the wonderful person you are!!!
Love and kisses,
P.S. What happens next for Darby and Holt???
I enjoyed it Lisa – very much! Hope you’re hard at work on the next one!
http://luanne-abookwormsworld.blogspot.com/2008/05/fifteenminutes-of-shame-lisa-daily.htmlisa – very much!
Now why does this sound like Darcy — although she did make it to he Waldorf? Welcome home, Lisa!
I’m not telling 🙂
You busted me! 🙂
My big plan was to do a Book Expo recap for this post complete with lots of photos, but I had a camera downloading problem, was up WAAAAYYYY past my bedtime. (And the bleeping thing still didn’t work)
After two hours of frustration, I finally started the post above from scratch at almost midnight, practically comatose from traveling and as I struggled with the first two sentences for 30 minutes (I know! And they’re not even that good!) I realized that I had already written a pretty good accounting of what I was trying to communicate in Fifteen Minutes of Shame — so I pulled out the relevant paragraph and sandwiched it in between my cumbersome first paragraph and what I really wanted to say at the end, which is, being an author is pretty much the greatest gig in the world.
Even if you have to eat Sbarro for two straight months to keep it.
Email me your address and I’ll send you a Dreamgirl Academy t-shirt for being the ALERT READER OF THE WEEK — you deserve it! 🙂
Love the author gossip. LOL. I’m going to spend the next few hours trying to guess which best selling spiritual author has a doggie who uses the backseat of cars as a litter box.
Lisa, you are too fantastic and funny. I am SO loving the posts this week!
Thanks! I LOVE the topic this week! Kudos to our topic whisperers…
Lisa, I love the play-by-play of the book tour. Thanks to you, I’ll be prepared for the reality. I really do look forward to meeting readers-especially the ones who didn’t buy and read the book just because they know me. Though I love them too, of course!
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