Monday, February 26, 2007

Have Novel, Will Travel

by Marcus Sakey

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.


Anonymous said...

I don't know about anybody else, but it matters to me when an author comes. I always try to go. But then, I'm a collector. 1100 signed firsts. :)

Anonymous said...

I agree. I appreciate the effort an author makes to meet his/her readers. Of course, I'm a librarian and a collector of signed firsts. I think an author visit builds more visibility for the book with people who might not otherwise purchase the book. And often readers can make helpful comments which can spur the author on down the road. I wish more authors would tour! Looking forward to your next book!

Rob in Denver said...

Marcus wrote:
"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."

I wish this were true. Alas, the Barnes & Noble on Denver's 16th Street Mall did not have it yesterday.

Marcus Sakey said...

...and then there's that.

Carolyn said...

I live in a place where very few authors come to town, or when they do, they're not anybody I follow. But when one of my favorites DOES roll in, I try like heck to make it to their presentation.

Don't give a fig about having a signed copy. However, if I'm there, I'll always buy one of their books and have them sign it.

Sean Chercover said...

Bless you, Carolyn.

The Dark Scribe said...

Thanks for the shout out, Marcus!

I had a great time hanging out with you and Sean. Sure, driving through the snow sucks. But what fun would it be if you could actually roll down the windows, take in a nice warm breeze, crank up the radio, let the wind blow through your hair?

Envious yet?

Definitely go for the summer tour next time :)

Again, much success with Blade!

Rob in Denver said...

Rest easy, Marcus. I picked up your book at the same B&N this afternoon. I'm eager to start reading it.

Anonymous said...

An author came to my middle school in seventh grade and I still read his book just because he made the effort to talk to us and signed the book of every student who wanted it, which is saying something because our graduating class was more than 800 students.