This summer, I will be appearing at bookstores throughout New England and New York in order to promote my second book, UNEXPECTEDLY, MILO. Last year I appeared in about two dozen locations throughout New England, and at each stop, there were people waiting to hear me speak.
Sometimes the audiences were large. At a couple of joint-author appearances, we had close to a hundred people in attendance. There were a number of library stops where I had fifty or more people sitting in the audience. At other locations, a small group of six or eight readers were awaiting my arrival. While it’s not terribly productive or profitable to drive an hour or two in order to meet half a dozen readers, I was thankful to have never been greeted by a room of empty chairs, and I appreciated every reader who was willing to come out and listen to me blather on about the book. To arrive at a location only to discover that no one had come out to listen to me speak would have been quite awful.
This is a fear that many authors have when touring.
A friend of mine recently went on a national book tour, something that has become a rarity in the publishing industry unless your book is on the bestseller list or you have won a prestigious award of some kind. Her tour lasted three months, and when I asked her how it went, she said it was “horrendous.”
Like me, she was fortunate enough to have audiences waiting for her wherever she spoke, but like me, those audiences sometimes numbered a handful of readers. It’s one thing to drive an hour to speak to half a dozen people. It’s another thing to fly across the country, sleeping in hotels every night for ninety days to do the same. She told me that she’d never do another national tour again, and I could hardly blame her.
With one book under my belt and a newfound band of loyal readers, I’m hoping for even larger audiences this summer. Unlike many authors I know, I actually love speaking to people about my books, and the larger the crowd, the more excited I am. But regardless of my past success, there will always be a small pit inside my belly as I pull into bookstores and libraries this summer as I wonder if anyone has bothered to show up.
Mystery writer Parnell Hall recently wrote a song and filmed a video that captures these emotions well. He has been struggling on his book tour, though it appears from the video that rather than speaking, Hall is simply appearing to sign books.
If this is the case, I think he’s doing himself a disservice. An author is far more likely to garner an audience if he or she is planning to speak and take questions. People like Mary Higgins Clark (who appears in Hall’s video) may be able to draw enormous crowds to a book signing, but until he (or I) has reached the lofty heights of a Mary Higgins Clark, we must put on a show and dance in order to convince readers that it’s worth their time to come out and listen to us speak.
Thankfully, I enjoy putting on a show and dance very much, and even when my books land on the bestseller list, I think I’ll still be dancing for my readers.