Do book tours sell books? Maybe not, but that shouldn’t stop you from having a good time The book tour ain't dead yet
What she had to say struck a nerve. So true and so funny. Timely, too, because one of the Reds is invariably “on tour.” (Rhys is out with MALICE AT THE PALACE; in October Hank will be launching WHAT YOU SEE and Susan will be launching MRS. ROOSEVELT'S CONFIDANTE)
And on tour, the one… make that TWO things we invariably ask ourselves:
- Are we having fun yet?
- Is anything that I’m doing making a difference?
Along comes Mary Louise Kelly’s hilarious essay with a few answers of her own. She’s just coming down from launching THE BULLET, her tour taking her from Atlanta to Seattle to Damariscotta, Maine, and she shares her insights and 7 stellar tips.
I especially love this quote she got from David Baldacci, whose books will hit the best seller lists whether he goes on tour or not: “It’s far better to go out on book tour than it is to sit and tweet.”
Mary Louise, Now that you’re back from book tour, do you agree?
MARY LOUISE KELLY: Most definitely. There's always a moment at a reading where I have to stop and pinch myself, because it hits me all over again: these people are here to talk about a book that I WROTE! And look, there it is, my book! Sitting there all perky on the shelf in an actual bookstore!
I don't know how many bestsellers you have to write before you stop being struck by that sense of wonder, but I'm not there yet. Speaking of bestsellers, my favorite quote from Baldacci was that he once flew to Nebraska for a pot roast dinner, served at a book club with all of three members. Now, THAT is book tour dedication.
HALLIE: You advise us NOT to read from our books, unless we pick a really provocative passage. Just wondering, can a passage be too provocative?
MARY LOUISE: Yes, it does make you wonder how E.L. James (of Fifty Shades of Grey fame) fares on book tour, doesn't it? I did a book event in Atlanta recently, and the venue was a lovely big hall inside an Episcopal church. My books aren't especially racy, but the passage I'd chosen to read contained some, ahem, shall we say salty language. I got halfway through it and thought -- I can't read this out loud to all these nice church ladies! I toned down a couple of words and just let roll with the rest. The crowd appeared to enjoy themselves, they bought lots of books, and I'm happy to report I was not struck down by lightning.
HALLIE: I laughed when I saw your advice #6 Don’t say yes to every invitation followed by #7 Say yes to every invitation. That nailed it.
MARY LOUISE: It's like Whitman says: "Do I contradict myself? Very well I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes." Walt Whitman must have been a force to be reckoned with on book tour, by the way.
HALLIE: And I love your advice, “Don’t wear stilettos.” I only wish I still could. Any advice about sharing the stage with other writers?
MARY LOUISE: One reader complained to me about that stiletto comment, harrumphing that I was being sexist and setting different rules for male and female writers. I assured him that I would advise male writers to stay away from stilettos too...
As for sharing the stage with other writers, I love it. I always learn something. I did an event this spring with Julia Dahl (author of the clever Brooklyn-based thrillers Invisible City and Run You Down). We hadn't met until five minutes before we climbed onto stage, but we hit it off and had each other doubled over in giggles. I can only hope the audience had half as much fun as we did. Afterwards we sneaked off to a French bistro, polished off a bottle of good wine and swapped book tour stories until she had to run for the train.
HALLIE: SO jealous! I'm a huge Julia Dahl fan. We hosted her in this very space not that long ago.
I’m betting that your Washington Post article sold a lot of books, more than an appearance for sure. But you’d never have been able to publish the article if you hadn’t done the appearances. Another Catch-22 of book promotion.
What feedback have you gotten?
MARY LOUISE: The thing is that it's impossible to measure, right? I hope the Post article sold a lot of books, but other than furtively checking my Amazon rankings -- a bad habit I fight valiantly to suppress -- there's no way to know.
I do believe, though, that book publicity is a cumulative affair. Meaning: maybe no one buys my book because I wrote an essay in the Washington Post. But maybe they read that essay, and then they find your way to this Q&A on Jungle Red (which only happened because of the Post article), or they come hear me talk at a big mid-Atlantic book festival (an invitation which arrived because of the Post article)... And all of it adds up to convince people that they want to read my book. And if not, well -- as an author I can only say that I feel extraordinarily lucky to have the chance to do all those things, and that I'm having a heck of a good time.
HALLIE: What a fantastic attitude. For me, events and book groups are the silver lining of a writing career, and boy aren't we lucky!?
Today's question: Do you think tours are worthwhile or would authors be better off to just sit and Tweet?
ABOUT The Bullet by Mary Louise Kelly
Two words: The bullet.
That’s all it takes to shatter her life.
Caroline Cashion is beautiful, intelligent, a professor of French literature. But in a split second, everything she’s known is proved to be a lie.
A single bullet, gracefully tapered at one end, is found lodged at the base of her skull. Caroline is stunned. It makes no sense: she has never been shot. She has no entry wound. No scar. Then, over the course of one awful evening, she learns the truth: that she was adopted when she was three years old, after her real parents were murdered. Caroline was there the night they were attacked. She was wounded too, a gunshot to the neck. Surgeons had stitched up the traumatized little girl, with the bullet still there, nestled deep among vital nerves and blood vessels.
That was thirty-four years ago.
Now, Caroline has to find the truth of her past. Why were her parents killed? Why is she still alive? She returns to her hometown where she meets a cop who lets slip that the bullet in her neck is the same bullet that killed her mother. Full-metal jacket, .38 Special. It hit Caroline’s mother and kept going, hurtling through the mother’s chest and into the child hiding behind her.
She is horrified—and in danger. When a gun is fired it leaves markings on the bullet. Tiny grooves, almost as unique as a fingerprint. The bullet in her neck could finger a murderer. A frantic race is set in motion: Can Caroline unravel the clues to her past, before the killer tracks her down?