me: I think I may write about how much of a book tour is living out the “writer’s life fantasy” vs how much of it is effective marketing.
Elvis: How about “how much of the book tour is not going from tv show to tv show and 4 star hotel to 4 star hotel, but instead is driving a lot of interstate miles to sit at a table in a bookstore and watch people go stampeding past you to look for the new Twilight novel”
Sometimes in our pursuit of publication, we fall in love with parts of our dreams. We develop these romantic notions of what the writing life is like. Imagine ourselves writing in a coffee shop, sipping our chai while writing the Great American Novel. We dream of getting an agent, getting a big book deal. We dream of book tours and signings with lines going out the door; of setting up tables with banners, stacks of our books, and a special pen to sign with. We dream of advances and royalties large enough to live on (if not necessarily of Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, or James Patterson proportions).
Sometimes we short circuit the dream, accepting counterfeits that allow us to go through the motions of the dream (falling for vanity presses or being poorly published) or don’t fully think through aspects of the dream. Right now, my big issue is whether or not to tour.
Keep in mind, the first thing I have to do is justify to my wife and kids why they will be without me more. After all, they’ve had to deal with my absence while writing the book. Once I typed “the end” they expected to have their husband and father back. Now I have to look them in the eyes and say “I’ll be back. I just need to jaunt around the country to promote the book.” And when I’m done, I will sit down and begin a new book, with a new round of absence. So in this age of author web sites, platforms, social media, Second Life, and all manner of e-industry, is a book tour actually necessary?
I’ll fully admit, I am quite cognizant of the fact that as a newbie author, if I announce a signing, most folks aren’t going to know who I am. I know the reality of such signings is that I will be sitting behind a table with a stack of unsold books and a stupid, yet welcoming, grin on my face. And I can’t just whip out my notepad and begin writing my next novel, because I have to be constantly making nice nice with folks. My dream cognizance also factors in my book envy should I be sitting next to Gary Braunbeck and Lucy Snyder, watching their long line of admirers while I twiddle my thumbs.
Seriously, this is what I think about.
So, what would I accomplish on my imaginary tour? Unless I sell dozens of copies per event, I’m not going to make much back in terms of my royalty to cover my gas or time, much less being able to get something to eat afterwards. On the actual productive side of things, I would sign available stock and treat the bookstore employees like the precious commodities they are. They will be the ones doing the selling and (re-)ordering of my books.
When all is said and done, I’ll probably take it easy, as in, I’m not going to live out of my car for three months traveling up and down the coast. I will make a few appearances in my local book stores to do readings and signings. Ditto when I go to conventions and I may mix in hitting a few local spots while I’m there; maybe even work in a couple stops with family vacations. I’m just not convinced that full blown book tours are worth the effort. What do you think?