Here's a little test to measure intelligence. When planning a book tour, should one:
A) Schedule it for February
B) Do it in the Midwest in February
C) Make it a driving tour through the Midwest in February
A clue: Pick any of these and you ain't that bright.
Sean and I just returned from a Type C tour through 8 cities, 7 scheduled events, and more than 50 drop-ins. Other statistics include several hundred signed books, 3 snowstorms, 14 Powerbars, and 2 minor car accidents (we're fine, thanks).
Suffice it to say, we had a great time.
Touring is a strange experience, especially for debut novelists. The truth is that we still don't really believe that our books exist, that people across the country can go into a bookstore and buy them. So it's a tremendous thrill to see your book on the tables in a city you've never visited.
Better still are the people you meet: indulge me in a quick shout-out to all of the booksellers who hosted us, especially Jim Huang of the Mystery Company, Paul Klein of Barnes & Noble, and the folks at Joseph-Beth (Rachel, Hali, Jeff, Amy and the rest of the awesome crew ). Thanks also to the friends that came out to see us, especially Meryl Neiman and Jim Winter, both of whom took special care of a couple of road-weary guys.
It's funny -- my book came out in early January, and since then, the bulk of my time has been spent in self-promotion. Things are finally starting to wind down; I have a few more appearances booked and a couple of speaking engagements, but no more marathon touring or serious traveling. Which is perfect, because I'm getting the first tingles of excitement (terror?) about starting my next book.
But before I switch gears, I've been thinking about the value of all of this self-promotion. This is hardly a new topic; my friends J.A. Konrath and M.J. Rose have both dedicated their blogs to the subject. But as this is my first time around, I wanted to reflect on my own feelings.
Basically, I think it comes down to this: Are you in it marathon or sprint? If you want to write a book a year and build a career, hopefully growing more successful with each book, hitting the road is an important component for a couple of reasons. First, every bookseller you shake hands with has the potential to become an evangelist, someone who hand-sells your books. This is a very good thing. Second, though debut authors don't draw huge crowds, the folks who do come out really, really love your work, and chatting with them is both the right thing to do and a great pleasure. And finally, the effort that you put out there demonstrates to your publisher that you are committed -- that this is a job to you, one you take seriously.
That said, even with Priceline and Powerbars, it costs a lot of money, and it requires a lot of time. Time that could be spent writing.
For me, it's worth it. But that's just my opinion. What do you guys think? Is a regional tour worthwhile? Are there better ways to get your name out there?
For you readers, does it matter to you that an author comes to your town, or that you can find signed copies of a book? Would you hold it against an author if they didn't tour?
I'd really like to know. Because it'll be February again sooner than I'd like to admit.