Once upon a time book tours went like this: your publisher’s publicist called you up and said, “Pack your suitcase, you’re going on a 10 city book tour. You leave on Monday and will return in one week. The tickets are being delivered by messenger. Good-bye.”
Now this is how book tours go: You say, “O, my gosh, I have a book coming out. I wonder what I’m supposed to do? I know I’m supposed to be doing things like reviews and social media and, o, my god, book tours!”
That is rapidly followed by heart palpitations, the rending of hairs, and, if you’re still lucky enough to be drinking, a very large dirty martini and a bullshot.
I’m not drinking anymore, so I just had to lie down for a while and then bring my fabulous assistants in on this. I have just published my first novel, The Algebra of Snow, through the wonderfully dedicated small publisher, Main Street Rag. Thanks to them, I have a lovely book, some good reviews, a presence on Goodreads, and several boxes of books in the back of my car.
Here is what my assistants and I came up with:
No, wait, first let me say what we didn’t come up with: a book tour that goes to bookstores. Nay. Bookstores, if they are small and independent and still speaking to actual writers, are still doing events, bless their hearts. But you have to set it up way ahead of time, be very targeted, work your dates around their calendar, and hopefully have wealthy, book-reading friends in the area you can personally contact and beg to come to the reading. Forget the large bookstores. Those would be for the people in the first paragraph, the people of legend, with large commercial houses at their back. And I hear that even they are working the crowd just like those of us under the tent of the smaller carnivals of book writing and selling.
I left detailed instructions for my 20-year-old son to ignore about pet and home care. (I especially enjoyed writing the list of how to prep the house for the showings I’m still hoping to have despite the fact that the house has been on sale for 3 months and I have had exactly one, pitiful offer—I know that that 20 item list will not even be made into a paper airplane it is so irrelevant in the world of the 20-year-old whose brain consists of 92.8% video games and the rest FaceBook). And then I drove away. I got completely lost because my GPS turned evil on me and wanted me to travel on urban interstates only and I wanted to go through the back country and over the really interesting, wobbly bridge over the Potomac to the shore of MD.
I got there despite the GPS and spent the night with my brother’s partner, Diane Halvorsen. This might not sound like a real stop on a book tour. Bear with me. Diane is a huge reader and I love this about her. Her daughters and son-in-law read too and I love this about all of them. I had a great evening with her, including a walk on the Chesapeake Bay, and a lot of conversation about the debacle going on at U.Va., where I alumned and now work. Hey, who knows what is going to become fodder for the next book?
Next I bravely let my GPS lead me into Baltimore where it fooled me by being reliable. I went to one independent bookstore, The Red Canoe , whom my assistant Carol had found was willing to take a few copies of Algebra on consignment. This is a huge deal, because their bookshelves are very limited and they are, after all, in business, and would like to sell what is on their shelves. The fact that Nicole, who owns The Red Canoe, was willing to take on an author completely unknown to her bespeaks her extraordinary personality, which is evident in this really lovely, warm, special bookstore and coffee shop. It’s in a neighborhood called “Lauraville” which has some incredible story I didn’t have time to hear and I really would like to because it’s intriguing in every way. I really can’t encourage people strongly enough to go to this bookstore. You will be charmed, feel welcome, want to sit right down with a cup and a book. I’d love it if it were my book, which is right on the local writers bookshelf, but, honestly, I think you should just go there and read anything.
Then I wended my way, lead by the wily GPS, to the next bookstore, The Ivy Bookshop, which is entirely different in every particular (a wonderful thing about independent bookstores—they are independent of each other, have personality, are unique!) and also wonderful, welcoming, beautiful because it is full of books and helpful people. I left Algebra in their care too and hope that you or someone you love will go get her there, because it would be an endorsement not just of my writing but also of these independent bookstores that are the lifeblood of writers like me and of their community. Go see what I mean.
Then I ventured gamely forth to the New Jersey Turnpike.
Stay tuned for the next chapter!
Will I go to another bookstore? Will I meet up with another writer? Will I ever give a reading?