The Dog and Pony Show (Guest Blogger: Lisa Lutz)

Lutz_lisa_250 It seems that a few people are curious about what a book tour involves, so I figured I'd take a stab at describing the experience in a kind of diary form.

Let me preface everything by saying that a book tour nowadays is a rare opportunity to promote your book. They cost publishers a lot of money, and no one is entirely sure how effective they are as a marketing tool. That said, if you're sent on a book tour, it's a good sign. Authors (especially new ones like me) need to be grateful for the vote of confidence it represents. That means they have to suck it up and be pleasant. At all times. Here's just a sampling of my most recent book tour experience:

Day 1. I wake up at 4:30 a.m. for a 7:00 a.m. flight to Philadelphia. I've slept only two hours because of my anxiety about the alarm clock not going off--a theme that marks much of the tour. My flight is almost on time, but my luggage is an hour late. When I arrive at the hotel, I have only an hour to clean myself up for the event. My media escort picks me up from the hotel and we drive about an hour to the event. I've been suffering motion sickness all day and the car ride is no different. I do the event with another author, Nancy Martin, who has brought in most of the crowd, which saves me the embarrassment of arriving at a bookstore with only one or two people in attendance. The evening ends well, however. Someone has made me a cake fashioned after my book jacket.

Day 2. Happens to be my birthday, but I keep that on the down-low. This is the day I've been dreading. I have a television interview on a local morning show. The whole idea of my nervous face being broadcast into thousands of homes makes me want to wretch. What gets me through is that it's local television and I know that neither I nor anyone I know is likely to ever see the interview. In this particular instance, I went to great pains to keep my friends in Philadelphia from discovering what I was up to that morning. I complete the interview and go back to my hotel room.

In the evening I'm interviewed by a local celebrity reporter at an event that sold tickets for $15 a head. I heard they sold six tickets in advance, but only two people show up. My friends had big plans to heckle me, but couldn't work up the nerve in a crowd that small. I wouldn't pay $15 to see me either, so I wasn't offended by the paltry crowd.

Day 3. I didn't get enough sleep the night before. Maybe four hours. I catch a 9 a.m. flight to Fort Myers, Florida, for a reading festival. There's a reception in which I can't drink my allotted booze because the shuttle driver took off before the last departure time, so I had to drive a number of authors (who were also not early) to the event.

Day 4. I'm 10 minutes late for my panel because I thought I understood the map and I didn't. I arrive apologetic and harried and hugely embarrassed. I also have no idea what's going on. I say a few things, but not much. I sign some books and then I go to my next panel. I am what I like to call a panel slacker. I don't feel comfortable fighting for attention, so I often end up saying very little and drinking more soda than I planned. That afternoon, I went back to the hotel and did laundry because they had coin operated machines and I didn't know when I'd have that opportunity again.

(My publisher would probably pay for hotel laundry services, but they're outrageously expensive and I simply can't justify using them. I ranted about this in the acknowledgments section of my latest book, which will presumably not go unnoticed by the hotel industry. Stay tuned.)

Day 5. There's something wrong with the hotel coffee, but I can't put my finger on it. It's only when I'm in the middle of my two-hour drive to Tampa that I realize I've been given decaf instead of regular. My head is pounding.

I'm exhausted and when I finally get to the city of my next event, I use the GPS to find a local Starbucks. I begin to wonder how anyone ever survived without those things. It is a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Tampa and the store is lovely and the owner reminds me that on a day like today, I shouldn't expect much of a crowd. The two people who do show up are a delight, and one of them is actually named Spellman. We sit and chat for about an hour; the store gives me a free book and I head off to the airport with time to spare. I'm told that the airport is about 20 minutes from the store. The process of finding a gas station and returning the rental car takes me about two hours total. I don't want to say anything bad about Tampa, but it's so flat you can't see the exits even when your GPS is telling you to exit. I fly to NY that night.

Day 6. St. Patrick's Day. I'm allowed to sleep in, so I'm ecstatic. That afternoon, one of my publicists and I take a car service around the city, where I sign stock at variety of bookstores. We give up early because the street traffic on that day is unbelievable. I have drinks that evening with my editor and dinner with a friend.

Days when I'm not required to stand up in front of people and talk always seem kind of perfect.

Day 7. Also an easy day. I have the whole morning to write. I can't say I got much done, but I tried. I arrive at my agent's office in the afternoon. They serve me cake and strong coffee and we head off to my event. There are a few places, namely NY and LA, where I know enough people that I can usually rely on something resembling a crowd.

However, a handful of complete strangers have shown up just for the event, which is always a pleasant surprise.

141653241201_mzzzzzzz__3 Day 8. I fly to Houston. As I arrive at the airport, I realize I've caught a cold and I buy massive amounts of tissue. The flight is four hours and I'm in the very back row, feeling quite sorry for myself and cranky. The cab ride from the Houston airport to the hotel takes almost an hour. We have to stop at an ATM so I can get more money out. I have just enough time to shower and change before my escort arrives to take me to the event. I am convinced for a variety of reasons that no one--or maybe one person--will be at the bookstore. I am pleasantly mistaken.

"There are people here!" I shout at no one particular. It's moments like this that make the long travel days feel worth it.

Day 9. No sleep again. Early morning. I'm flying to Denver today. I have a middle seat and my cold is in full bloom. I blow my nose constantly, stuffing tissues into my pocket, trying not to disgust the passengers on either side of me. I feel miserable. I want to crawl into bed and stay there for a week.

My escort meets me in baggage claim. She's about 90 pounds, but she manages to lift my 50-pound piece of luggage into the trunk of her car, which is a good thing because I've discovered I can barely lift it. We drive to Boulder; I'm interviewed for an hour for a radio show; we drive back to the hotel. I clean myself up and go to a bookstore for a reading that night. I'm in desperate need of sleep. Before I go to bed, I try to decide whether a sleeping pill or nighttime cold medicine is my best bet. I go for the sleeping pill and manage some rest.

Day 10. I have a phone interview in the morning, but I'm so turned around by the time difference, the cold and maybe that sleeping pill, I completely forget to call into the radio station. I phone my publicist and apologize. I spend the day in bed, trying to get over my cold.

That night I go to another bookstore event and I get another cake.

Day 11-12. I fly to Phoenix. Because it's Easter weekend, I have the rest of the weekend free. I catch up on sleep; my cold finally goes away. I regroup for 10 more days of the same.

When I think back on the tour, it's a blur of memories that mostly involve going through security, packing luggage, meeting a variety of wonderful people whose names I'm ashamed to have forgotten, and receiving more baked goods than I ever thought possible. When all is said and done, the tour seems like it might have been good for my character. But still, I will always find it ironic that the people who get sent on book tours are typically the ones who are more comfortable being alone, in a room, writing. --Lisa Lutz

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Comments (7)

That's an amazing trip Lisa! I am inspired to travel again.

Posted by: Karen | Thursday June 13, 2013 at 11:04 PM

Avenger--you can capitalize what you like or not, as ee cummings would confirm. But retch and wretch ain't the same, upper case, lower cast, or aramaic. I like your name by the way--it's appropriately pompous.

Posted by: Michael colacino | Tuesday February 17, 2009 at 7:27 PM

More hinterland, please!

Posted by: David Hinske, Taos, NM | Thursday July 10, 2008 at 11:25 PM

That's a capital "M" with Michael, Mr. Colacino. I know it is just your sign-in name, but when being snooty about the typos of others, you should proofread your own writing.

And do you have a definition of "author" that does not include the person who has written a couple of internationally best-selling books? If not, the your use of quotation marks is simple affectation.

Happy belated birthday, Ms. Lutz. Hope you are getting some rest. I like your books.

Posted by: Avenger | Wednesday April 23, 2008 at 1:56 PM

Amusingly told horror story. I still dream of having to endure something like this because a publisher is willing to put me through it. Congratulations.

Posted by: Joan | Friday April 18, 2008 at 4:38 PM

Wow ... that's a lot of traveling. Seems like it would be more efficient to stick with appearances in the larger literary markets (NY, LA) and not spend so much time in the hinterlands. I'm sure that sounds unfair to fans in those areas, but your tour sounded pretty grueling.

Posted by: John | Wednesday April 16, 2008 at 9:31 AM

I am saddened to see that an "author" thinks that, when nervous, one feels like "wretching". I know it's just a blog, but it's your job, ms. lutz.

Posted by: michael Colacino | Tuesday April 15, 2008 at 7:11 PM

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