Book Tour: Spilling My Guts, Part 2

THIS FRIDAY: If you listen to NPR Morning Edition, you can stream it on WNCW
and hear me read from
Flashes of War on the regional spotlight at
8:50am EST. [Squeal!] Locally, come check out City Lights Bookstore in Sylva @ 6:30pm for a reading and signing. Also, check out the feature article in The Laurel of Asheville this month, which details the upcoming Carolina Mountains Literary Festival.

A friend asked me the other day about how I felt diving into this career transition and being “an author with a book.” The only response I could offer came from somewhere in between. In other words, I don’t feel I’ve fully made the transition yet. What I do know is this: I have learned so much since the release of Flashes of War that it doesn’t even feel like I have the same brain I had a few months ago. Beyond that statement, the only other information I seem to be able to articulate comes out only to close friends when I spill my guts about highs and lows of book touring, adjustment of expectations, and my feeling-pretty-good sentiments today. When I speak I’m sure I’m using run-on sentences and touting half-formed insights…but that’s what friends are for, right? Eventually, those valued, listening ears will help me find my way to a succinct version of lessons learned.

I’m more than halfway through my “month back at home” that was supposed to nourish and rejuvinate me between these two legs of the book tour. So far, my thinking is that nothing
could be harder than teaching and book touring at the same time, all while learning the ropes. That’s what summer felt like and, despite some very good moments, the energy output this required nearly did me in. Coming up, I have nearly 16 events in 4 weeks (see left side bar for details). That’s the same number of events as this summer, only in half the time. What I’ve got to remember is that just because I have something scheduled from 7-9pm, for instance, doesn’t mean I can work all day long, hop in the car an hour beforehand, and head to the event. A 7-9pm event is really more like 6-9:30pm if you count travel time, prep time, and those final farewell conversations and thank you’s that happen at the end of the night.
That’s like half a day’s work…and good, fun work, indeed. In order to pace myself, I’ll need to start my days slowly and gently–perhaps just focusing on yoga or the novel, reading or good coffee. If I don’t, I’m likely to create a string of 12-hour days for myself for another month straight. Can it be done? Sure. Do I like myself when I do that? Not so much.

The reality of balancing a checkbook while maintaining this kind of schedule is what I seem to struggle with. It’s not a struggle that I resent. I’m learning and I’m very happy to be freelancing, mentoring, and lecturing. But there are some days when the math won’t add up. For instance, a book event that takes 3 1/2 hours and sells 10 books will earn me $10 in royalties, issued once a year in a check from my publisher. That’s par for the course and not going to change. But it does put more pressure on me to work additional hours at my freelance rate to “even out” what I suppose you could call my “average hourly wage.” And it also means that some mornings, the idea of yoga and the novel will simply be too idealistic.

Let’s look at this more closely: If I’m putting in a 8-10 hour day and some of that is at $2 an hour for a book event and some of that is at $30 an hour for freelancing…and I’m staying in a hotel for $60 per night and paying $20 per day for my rental car and spending perhaps just as much on food each day…well…that means I’m bringing in maybe $100 in a day and spending $110. Pretty good, until you add in bills (phone, insurance, student loans). Other days, of course, will involve a single 2-hour event that covers me for the week. In the end, I’m betting that with smart spending, good friends to host me along the way, and a little luck, I’ll be able to break even.

My friend’s question about how life feels now was a good one. Maybe by the end of 2013, I’ll have a clearer response for her. For now, the math of this transition and the miles I have yet to travel weigh on my mind each day. It’s a challenge I’ve wanted. Here’s hoping my foundation feels even stronger by the time it’s all said and done!

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