Choose Your Own Adventure Book Tour
Here’s a thought experiment:
Before you leave, you’ll want to make sure to do laundry. You’re traveling on a book tour and you don’t have that many clean socks and underwear with you and everything is all folded and jumbled and you’ve got to iron your dress. So do the laundry while you’re working that day, and around 3pm stop working and take a shower, iron the dress, and get ready to go.
Since you’re leaving at 4pm, there won’t be as much traffic yet, so you’re ironically going to find yourself at your own event at 4:30 with 2 1/2 hours to spare. When you park (Where’s the e-brake on this car? Should you set the e-brake? Does your friend set the e-brake, it’s his car after all…Is parking free after 5pm in this city? Where’s your change for the meter….wait, they don’t have meters here, they have box thingies. How much are box thingies per hour?) you’ll be in a dress and heels and that’s not normal for you. You’ll find a nearby coffee shop and even though you don’t need more coffee, you’ll drink it anyway. Save the receipt, it’s a book tour write it off. Tip the barista well. Always tip well.
During your book tour, you’ll casually walk into the bookstore at about 6:40pm, as though you have just walked in off the street through a crowd of imaginary adoring fans. Inside, there will hardly be a soul, but you can always count on a middle-aged woman. Every bookstore in America right now has a middle-aged woman in it. Bless the middle-aged women. At the counter next to the cash register, you will find a stack of your books and a flyer with your name and your event announcement on it. If you are lucky, your name will be spelled correctly. If you’re me, there is a 70% chance someone will spell your name wrong. Don’t ask me why because I have been trying to think of an empathetic reason for all the booksellers (who I love, I truly do) who have spelled my name wrong (typing it KATIE or SHULZ, to name only two, right next to the cover image of my book–which has the name, of course, properly spelled since it’s the cover of the book) and I can’t think of one goodgoddamnreason why.
You’ll smile and greet and this is the best part: You’re in bookstore surrounded by titles written by amazing, inspiring, famous people who you someday hope to know or emulate (or at least earn a similar paycheck to). You will make small talk with the bookstore owner and that is always great: real people who love real books and dedicate their lives to…books. The only other people you’ll ever meet in your life who dedicate their lives to books are other writers, and we all know that other writers are often awkward (they’re writers, they’re allowed). So soak this moment up. Enjoy it. Talk to the book-loving bookstore owner who is not awkward and find out why she does what she does. Ask her about her cat names. Her children. Her fave authors. Find out how many years her store has been open and thank her and thank her again.
Now, here’s your Choose Your Own Adventure Book Tour: CHOICE 1 involves a well-attended, highly publicized event. CHOICE 2 involves a typical event.
CHOICE 1: Ok, here goes: 10-25 people arrive. Some have already read you book and have questions. Others bring their book club friends and buy multiple copies of your book because they just know they’re going to love it and they are going to give a copy to their uncle who served in Vietnam. You will sell 3-15 books and you will sign several more at the request of the bookstore owner. You will say thank you many, many times and honestly–HONESTLY–you will mean every syllable of it. These are the moments that keep you going. People who care. People who take the time to sit, to listen, to engage. Love every second of it.
CHOICE 2: 1 person comes and that is the 1 person who you know in Seattle (or whatever city) and they came because you asked them to. Twenty minutes into your reading (because you read to the bookstore owner and staff, too), another person arrives. That person will talk to you for the next hour and twenty minutes and you will have no escape. The bookstore owner will not rescue you. She is busy loving the other books at that time and she has left you to your own devices. You will look at that person who won’t stop talking…you will look at him or her so kindly and you will want to love that person and you will feel that you should love that person but in your heart of coal you will know that, deep down, you really would rather be wearing your pajamas and drinking tea and reading Olive Kitteridge.
In either case, you leave the bookstore between 8 and 8:30pm and you’ll get home around 9pm…six hours after you started getting ready for your hour-long book tour event. You will get to your friend’s house and tell your friend all about it. They will be happy for you and a little confused. “You only make $1 per book?” Yes, you will tell them, yes this is true. “Only 1 person came? Didn’t the bookstore publicize?” Yes, you will tell them, this is also true. (Or: “20 people? 15 books? That’s sweet!”) You will be ready for bed around 10. Why are you so tired? You stopped working at 3 today and all you did was read from your book in front of a few people. But oh, you will be tired. You worked all day, then you got ready and you didn’t even know it, but getting ready was work, too. Getting to the bookstore was work. Thinking about what read was work. Reading out loud was work. Oh, it was all good, good work that you love, but maybe you should have let yourself sleep in that morning and taken a half day, because you forgot your hour-long book tour event would involve 6 hours.
Very shortly, you’ll find that you are too wired and anxious to fall asleep. Tomorrow you have to pick up the rental car and leave Seattle (or whatever city) and drive to the next book tour stop. And you’ll want to thank your friend for hosting you and find a meal on your way out of town and pack up everything and make sure your iPod and phone and GPS are charged and that you’ve got directions to the next place. So you can’t go to bed yet, because you’ve got to plan tomorrow. But it’s ok. It’s only an hour-long event at a bookstore.
Lest any readers thing some of these laugh-out-loud details aren’t true…they all are, in all incarnations. Now is the right time to start planning your book tour. When you sign up for the Complete Literary Stewardship E-Course you’ll be able to download sample letters for setting up interviews and reading. You’ll also have the opportunity to correspond with me via email on key book tour concepts. In the Premium course level we can work together to create your personalized Stewardship plan and book tour. Or spring for the DIY version and get the basics down for just $15.