I am often asked what it is like to head off about the world promoting one of my newly-published books. I think most people assume they’re enormous fun and that authors look forward to them with bated breath and massive enthusiasm.
I used to think that, too …
Meeting readers is always a great deal of fun, and generally very rewarding.
But author promotional trips are generally not always the best means for either reader or author to make acquaintance.
The trip is paid for completely by the publisher. That means they want to get value out of the author; they want to sell books, after all. So days are generally packed with events and with people to meet (not readers, but people connected with the publishing industry, or booksellers, or agents … not readers as such).
What does ‘packed’ mean?
Well … imagine being in a different city every day. You rise at 4 am so that you can fly to whichever city you’re meant to be in that day. You arrive at a hotel completely exhausted (because you’ve been up late the previous night), if you can get to your room then you might have time for a shower and change, and then by early afternoon it is off to the events for the day.
Usually this will include book signings and bookstore promotional events. I enjoy these the best of anything connected with touring. Your get to sit down, signing books and chatting to readers generally isn’t very stressful (and usually very interesting), and people bring you things to eat and drink.
I like book signings. *grin* They can be strange, though, because just occasionally someone can line up for hours just to tell you how much they dislike my books. the fact that they might dislike them doesn’t’ fuss me, but I am amazed they felt the need to take an afternoon out of their life to make a point.
And bookstore events are great because sometimes parents bring in babies that have been named after your characters – I love that!
Okay, so we’ve established that I like book signings. the down side to them is that generally they are very rushed, and that the publicist is intent on dragging me off somewhere else.
That ‘somewhere else’ will almost always have to do with publicity, which means either a television studio or a radio station, or perhaps a sit down in a hotel lobby with a journalist.
I don’t mind radio interviews, but I loathe television interviews. That’s mainly because in a television studio, very particularly for a live show, guests are herded like cattle, you don’t get to meet the host until ten seconds before the interview commences, and you have no idea on earth what they’re going to ask. That means there you are on a live show and almost always the host throws you The Most Unanswerable Question in existence.
Then, once they’re done with the interview, the host turns away, you’re hustled off and the next guest hustled on … and it is just the most dehumanizing experience.
Radio interviews can sometimes be like that as well, but generally radio interviewers spend some time with you before hand, perhaps establish what they’d like to talk about, establish a rapport … and some of the live radio interviews I’ve done in studio have just been absolutely fabulous.
Of course, I could be sent back to my hotel room where I can be sat at a desk for six hours and do phone interview after phone interview after phone interview.
That can be absolutely horrendous. No matter how enthusiastic you may have been about your book at one point, by the time you’ve done all the writing and editing and proofing you never want to see it again, and having to do a publicity tour when you’re enthusiasm for a book is at its lowest ebb isn’t such a good idea!
Also, you may be promoting different books in different countries. It hasn’t been unknown for me to get off a plane, get in a car with the publicist, ask her desperately which book it is I am supposed to be talking about here, and does she have a copy on her – and if she does, then I desperately read the blurb on the back cover to remind me what the book is about!
So imagine between three to six weeks of this, living out of a suitcase, days running from 4 am to midnight, seeing only the inside of television or radio studios and hotel rooms and bookstores, and nothing of the city or country you’re actually in, and by the time I have finished I am literally ill with exhaustion and stress.
So the next time an author doesn’t appear particularly friendly at a book signing, just remember that they’re probably totally exhausted and thinking only of home.
Non-American authors tend to regard the American tour with complete horror – it is known as the most difficult place to tour in because of the nightmarish scheduling .I actually now have it stipulated in my contracts that I do not have to tour. I have become so ill and so exhausted, I just can’t do them any more.
It is better to go to a conference to meet and chat to authors – everyone has more time, no one is rushing off somewhere, and there is usually a bar close handy.
©2006 Sara Douglass Enterprises