Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Reds Storm the Barricades: It's Book Tour Time

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: If you've been reading along the past week or so, you know it's a crazy time for the Reds. In what we think is a record-breaking publishing event, three of us have books out this month - Hallie (CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR) and Rhys (LOVE AND DEATH AMONG THE CHEETAHS) dropped Tuesday, and Hank (THE MURDER LIST) is releasing in less than two weeks, on the 20th.

What does this mean? Well, in addition to making sure you all have some great reads in time for your August vacations,  it means these ladies are on the move. Yes, it's book tour time! (Pro tip: if you are going on vacation, check your favorite authors' websites for their events. You may find someone appearing near your resort or Air BnB.)

 Every few years, one article or another declares the book tour to be a dying vestige of an earlier, outdated era of publishing. (Recently, the gloom and doom has spread to the blog tour, which has been proclaimed dead as well - although we all still seem to go around begging friends and acquaintances to appear on their blogs, so take that with a grain of salt.) By 2020, we were told, authors would be meeting exclusively with readers in streamed events, chatting screen-to-screen and signing books remotely with Margaret Atwood's remarkable LongPen. Like the glorious revolution in ebooks, which would see authors unshackled from publishers, uploading our art directly to the masses online, this is a case where the technology is willing, but the consumer isn't. 

It turns out, readers like meeting authors face-to-face, taking pictures together and getting books personalized. And so all across this land, authors rise up early and head to the airport, clutching their signing pens and bookmarks, ready to fly cross country in confusing and geographically illogical patterns to appear, first in Arizona, then in Portland, OR, then back down to Houston, then to Detroit, then back west to LA. "Why do the writers fly to and fro? Do not ask. You cannot know." ( An excerpt from the children's story about book tours I've just this moment decided to write.)

I believe I speak for all authors when I say we honestly love meeting and interacting with readers. It is, bar none, the best part of book tour. Other highlights include: time to read books during the plane rides, watching "Say Yes to the Dress" while eating room service Chicken Caesar Salad, getting surprising recommendations from local booksellers (I was introduced to Joshilyn Jackson's work while signing at a now-defunct Montgomery, AL store) and relaxing in the rocking chairs in the Charlotte airport. 

Less entertaining aspects of book tour: going to last night's hotel room number and having to explain why you're trying to open a stranger's door, getting up at 5am every morning for a week or two (every flight is a morning flight so the author can be on a local midmorning radio or TV show, sign stock at bookstores all over town, appear at a library at noon or at tea-time, and then check into the hotel before the evening's performance.) Not to mention dealing with airport security and car rental agencies.

Still, we do it, and readers, when we smile and thank you for coming out to the library or bookstore to meet us, we mean it - we're doing it for you. No one in publishing knows exactly what drives sales, and no one will ever say, "Personal appearances boost a book onto the bestseller list," or, "This writer is a success because she does so many events." But we all know the connection between readers and writers is a special one. 

So we hope you'll come and bring a friend or two. Get a bite to eat or a drink; make an evening of it. "Where?" I hear you ask? Well, I just happen to have the schedules right here:

Hallie Ephron's events

Rhys Bowen's appearances

Hank Phillippi Ryan's events

Dear readers, these three are criss-crossing so much of the country, you'll have to go out of your way to miss seeing a Red in person. Tell us about some of the memorable author visits you've been part of - and the writer's you'd love to see come to your home town!

76 comments:

  1. Have fun, and safe flights! My local indy bookstore has already had Hank and Debs for gigs - Hallie, you and Lucy should come up to Jabberwocky one of these times, and Julia, it's only an hour south for you (have you been there in the past and I missed you?). Rhys and Jenn, we'd love to have you, and I have an in with the owner, Sue Little.

    Also, can't believe I beat Joan for first commenter. ;^) Do I get a gold star?

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  2. Julia, today's post is somewhat timely.

    I'll be attending Hank's event on August 22nd at An Unlikely Story. Sadly, I won't be able to make it to any of Hallie's events. As for Rhys, those dates are all out west so that's even less possible than Hallie's.

    But you are definitely right about readers liking the in-person signing. Getting to meet the author, a few moments of chat and a signed/personalized book is always the best way to go. Hank's event is the first of four book signings that I'm hoping to attend over the next couple of months. The other authors are Brad Meltzer, William Kent Krueger and Kyle Mills.

    Speaking of author events, I thought I'd take the opportunity to promote an event taking place tonight at the Wareham Free Library. It's my local library and tonight's meeting of the Mystery Book Club features a discussion of Ingrid Thoft's first Fina Ludlow thriller "Loyalty". But making it even more of a draw in my opinion is the fact that Ingrid will be joining the meeting via Skype during the course of the meeting! So any JRW readers in the general vicinity of Wareham and the surrounding area, you are welcome to come to the library and join in. It starts at 6pm and the address is 59 Marion Road, Wareham MA.

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    1. How wonderful of you to invite Ingrid, Jay! that is fabulous!

      And those are some of my favorite authors, too… Where will they be?

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    2. We miss Ingrid! Sounds like it will be a lively discussion.

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    3. We miss Ingrid! That sounds like a great event!

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    4. Hank, I actually didn't invite Ingrid. I don't like to tap what little resources I have in this book community and trade on that little friendship that develops. But when I contacted her to let her know we'd be reading her book, she got back to me and OFFERED to Skype in.

      Brad Meltzer will be at An Unlikely Story on September 11th at 6pm (but it is for his kid books not his thrillers)

      William Kent Krueger will be at the Savoy Bookshop in Westerly, RI on September 23rd at 7pm.

      Kyle Mills will be at Barrington Books in Cranston, RI on October 2nd at 7pm.

      Hallie and Deborah, I'm hoping that it will be a well attended meeting (we are still just starting out with the book club) and I'm sure it will be a lively chat!

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  3. I've taken my two youngest daughters to several book signings, beginning with Ann M. Martin about 25 years ago. My middle child was such a huge fan of Martin's, reading everything she could find of hers, and she begged me to go to the signing. We got there late, and were the very last in a line we stood in for an hour. When we finally got to the table, Robin handed her book over and was struck dumb with awe. Could not speak a word.

    The youngest, now a scientist, was a huge fan of Homer Hickam, who wrote Rockets Boys (which became the movie October Sky, which is also an anagram of the original title, by the way). We got to see him when he was here in Cincinnati, at Joseph Beth. This daughter has never had a shy day in her life, and I had to drag her away from the table!

    By the way, if any authors have a say in where you go for book signings, Joseph Beth has a very active schedule of author visits, and they promote them heavily. I've seen Diane Mott Davidson, Lori Rader Day, and a lot of non-mystery writers there. In fact, I'm going to a signing this evening at the Kentucky store, for a local author who just published her second book. There are two very nice stores here; the Cincinnati one has a fabulous restaurant called Bronte Cafe. Come visit!

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    1. Hmmmm! We will definitely look into that! That would be so much fun…

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    2. I love Ohio bookstores... wish I were doing one this time out.

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    3. Karen, you know I've been to Joseph Beth, as that's where I met you! We had such a nice visit that day, and I certainly appreciated you coming out to meet me.

      And like your youngest, I am a huge fan of Homer Hickam and October Sky is a favorite book.

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  4. Well, I’d love seeing any of the Jungle Red ladies . . . I’m a big fan of book signing even though we seldom have any book events such as that near me. I do have fond memories of a long-ago book signing with Ray Bradbury . . . .

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    1. RAY BRADBURY?!? Squeeee. That would be thrilling. Authors can be underwhelming, too. I remember going to a signing for a very popular (to be unnamed) mystery writer and claimed her publisher was so desperate for her books that if she turned in the telephone book with her name on it, she'd publish it. I did buy her book, because I am that well behaved. But I didn't read it. And, come to think of it, she hasn't published a book since.

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  5. Well, I'm tired just reading the schedules of the Reds. You are very courageous but it is true that I like meeting with my favourite authors.
    Being out of the way here, I can't attend your individual appearances but I'll see you all at Bouchercon Dallas.
    In the meantime, I'll have the privilege to attend Louise Penny's prelaunch in Knowlton, Quebec.

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  6. What schedules, congratulations to all you hard working authors. I wish more authors came to Maine, though the ones we have up here are pretty darned good. Flying to and fro like you do is crazy, perhaps your publishers offices need a large map of the USA like the atlas I used when I worked at IBM UK. My job, from London, was to coordinate customer visits to IBM locations in the USA. My opposite number in NYC sent me a large USA atlas as a gift and I was set. I now realize I must have saved travel money too for the customers and for IBM too.

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    1. Oh, Celia, it is certainly not done with an eye to logic, that’s for sure! But that’s part of the fun maybe! Xx

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    2. I'm not sure flying was ever fun. Now I'm so grateful for relatively short flights (2-3 HOURS)... and when they're coast to coast, direct, please.

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    3. NO changing plans. NO no no never ever ever.

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    4. SO funny! Plans, every day. Planes, no. oxxooo .

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  7. Absolutely, Julia! I often wish there was a way to let Reds readers know when we are going to be in their neighborhood… There is nothing more gratifying than to have someone say oh I read jungle red! We always talk here about having a jungle red excursion of some kind, and book tour is the closest we get so far. So come say hi!
    Rhys taught me a trick I use every time, and that is to take a photo with my cell phone of my room number! Otherwise there is no way to remember…
    And I can’t believe you watch say yes to the dress, too! Always! It is always on, and always entertaining. Chopped, too!

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    1. I wouldn't watch that show on a dare, but in a way I am still putting up with that wedding dress stuff. A couple of my former players are getting married and both women's mothers have posted those "She said Yes To The Dress!" photos on their Facebook pages.

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    2. It's entered the culture, Jay. My youngest daughter announced she wants to shop for a dress at Kleinfeld (the store in the show) when the time comes. I'm thinking over my dead body are we traveling to New York to a place where the "cheap" dresses start at $5,000. But it is GREAT fun to watch.

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    3. Julia, it's another good reason why I'm glad I don't have children!

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  8. When I lived in LA and San Francisco, I was usually working too long and too hard to ever get to book signings although the opportunity was certainly there. The only one I remember going to was sponsored by the Junior League, a club that wouldn't have me as a member by the way. There were three speakers, and all read from their books. I can't remember the first one. But the other two were Sue Grafton and Barbara Kingsolver. How I wish now I had skipped meals for a few weeks and bought copies of their books for them to sign. Opportunities missed and all that.

    Fast forward a few decades, and Debs friended me on Facebook, introduced me to this blog, and suggested we get together on my next Dallas trip. (I must have really given her current book a fabulous review!) We drank wine and talked and walked around McKinney on a lovely spring afternoon. But did I have one of her books in hand to be signed? Naw.

    She did suggest I'd enjoy Left Coast Crime, and so it began. I've now met all of you except Julia and Jen, but we'll take care of that in October. This is my first stop every morning, except when Julia sleeps in, and my favorite blog.

    Thank you for writing all those books for me. xox

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    1. Hank, do you really have more readers in Little Chute, WI, and Deadwood SD than in Rochester, NY? Pftt

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    2. Well, it's the South Dakota festival of the Book and a big vent in WI with Jennifer Hillier! SO--yay! But yeah, hey, Rochester, let's plan! oxooox

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    3. Ann, I miss you coming to McKinney! But will see you at B'con, and you are in for a treat with Julia and Jenn!

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  9. I've met Rhys several times in Ann Arbor, MI. She is always so gracious and funny! Julia, I met you there, too, when Aunt Agatha's was still a physical store. Seeing you both (at different times, of course) was such a treat.

    I go to conferences when I can because it's so much fun to meet authors. I hardly ever miss Magna cum Murder in Indianapolis, Indiana each October. I'm already looking forward to seeing my friends there. I hope some of you Reds can make it some year!

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    1. Cathy, I've only ever been to Magna Cum Murder once, and I would love to come back. And how we're all going to miss stopping over at Aunt Agatha's! It was always such a special place - I have great memories of dinner out with readers, sleeping over at the Agnew's house, and using it as a home base for lots of visits to Michigan and northern Ohio bookstores and libraries.

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  10. I hope to catch up to you ladies at Bouchercon this fall!

    I love book events and meeting the author (or meeting readers, when I'm lucky enough to be on the other side of the table). I recently completed a survey about establishing a book festival here in Pittsburgh. I hope it happens and they can make it successful.

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    1. Liz, I don't know if you were around then, but back in the '90s and early '00s the Mystery Lover's Bookshop in Oakland did a one day speaking and signing event the day after Malice that drew literal busloads of mystery authors. I know it ended when the store changed hands, but I think it shows the right event at a convenient time - like before/after the Ohioan Book Festival or the National Book Festival - could bring writers out in droves.

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    2. The Festival of Mystery. I volunteered one year (this was after I joined Sisters in Crime, so probably at least 2012).

      We were all so sad when the Festival ended, but it was a major time investment and money - all those books to buy and stock (then return if they weren't purchased). The store has changed hands a third time and the current owners seem interested in the concept of bringing it back, but they've only owned the store about a year. If they do it, they want to do it right.

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  11. Wishing you all hassle-free travels, short lines wherever you need to wait, and quiet hotel rooms in which to relax! We have a coffeehouse in Sandusky which does poetry readings and brings in regional poets/authors (largely through our local Bottom Dog Press). But no other bookstores besides a BAM--so no author signings around here. :-(

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    1. Fora, it's a bit of a drive, but Wood County District Library in Bowling Green gets quite a few authors, and they do great events (from the author perspective, certainly.)

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    2. Julia, thanks for the information--I have a nephew who lives in BG--might have to make a day of it sometime!

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  12. There is nothing like a book event and I certainly pack them in to my social schedule each year. I agree that looking at the events of local bookstores when you are traveling can uncover some unexpected gems. Or like me, you can plan a trip to Boston around a JRW event (which I did last year!)

    Since most everyone here knows of my blog, BOLO Books, I will say a brief comment on blog tours. They are indeed on their way out, but blog appearances are not. The difference is that blog tours are often regimented and tightly-scheduled and typically feature less than fresh content. Also, "companies" are popping up all over the place offering services to run blog tours for authors. I implore all authors to investigate carefully. If you are thinking of hiring someone for that, track what they have done for previous authors. BOLO Books does not participate in any organized blog tours, but I get solicitations from those companies every day. I suspect they return to their clients a list of places they solicited to justify the cost, when if fact, there was no shot a pitch to me for a blog tour would generate results - and I am not the only blog that has those same feelings. Authors that approach me directly or go through a publicist are more likely to get a positive result and that costs *no* extra money. Just my 2 cents worth.

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    1. Thanks for the heads-up, Kristopher. I've been getting a lot of those emails lately, and I didn't think they were very legit.

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    2. There are legit folks out there, but you just have to be careful. But honestly, unless someone is so extremely busy, most of what they are offering can be done without the extra expense.

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  13. I love author events. I had a wonderful time meeting Rhys a few years ago at Tattered Cover in Denver, Jacqueline Winspear in Ft Collins, CO, and Lauren Willig in Denver at a conference. It would be so great to attend any of the Reds' signing events, but unfortunately none of them are near my home of Cheyenne, WY. I would also love to travel to some of these events, but I am caring for my husband who is suffering from dementia, so I'm kind of tied to home for the time being. Therefore I just participate vicariously through this and other author blogs. Best of luck to all of you on tour!

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    1. And best of luck to you, Beverly. Caretaking is a hard, hard job even if (especially if?) it's for a love one.

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    2. Thank you, Julia. I am sure you understand more than most people. And you're so right that it's more difficult to care for a loved one. Every downhill trend or loss of function is heartbreaking. He was a writer and a musician, so creative, and that is all gone.

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  14. Safe and smooth travel wishes to all of you. Or as a relative of mine likes to say, "Happy trails." It does sound both fun and exhausting. And it makes me wish I lived in New England which seems to be a hot bed of author/reader activities. See you all at Bouchercon.
    Only Hank has a NY date, duly noted.

    Kristopher, thanks very much for the inside info on blog tours. New book out in Dec, after 2 years, and I need to start thinking about what to do.

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    1. My most memorable author event was Toni Morrison, just a few years ago, right in my neighborhood at a packed auditorium. So very glad I went, just to hear her speak in person.

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    2. Triss, how wonderful that you got to hear her speak in person.

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    3. Agreed, Triss, that's a moment to treasure. I was so sad to hear she had passed away, but what an amazing life and legacy.

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  15. Wonderful post! That's news to me about streaming in 2020. It is always wonderful to meet authors. I try to make an effort to go out to author events. Last author event I went to was at the Ferry Building Book Passage when Ellie Alexander was there and I took the ferry to the City from the East Bay. It helped that it was in the daytime. And I love going to conferences where I can meet many authors and get their books signed! I remember meeting Rhys Bowen a long time ago when she was on a mystery panel with Penny Warner. I used to live within walking distance from the bookstore and I could walk over to the event! I met up with a relative at Mrs. Dalloway's Bookstore last year for Jacqueline Winspear's event. Years ago, when a friend's brother was running for re-election as Mayor, the event was upstairs and there was an author event for Vince Flynn. He was a new to me author and I met him before the event started upstairs. I used to go to many author events. Now it is more challenging, though I do try to go! I remember going to Rhys Bowen's event at Book Passage when I could get Uber to drive me over there because I did not want to drive at night.

    Great idea to check out author events when travelling.

    Diana

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    1. Diana, I always think of it because when I do events here in Maine during the summer, there are always loads of folks from other states, here on vacation.

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    2. Diana, I am a little envious that you got to meet Vince Flynn! I never got the opportunity to do so before he died. However, in October I am going to be meeting Kyle Mills who took over Vince's Mitch Rapp series and has done great things with it!

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    3. Jay, it was a shock when Vince Flynn died! Too young! How fun it will be for you to meet Kyle Mills!

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    4. Julia, thanks! I think that I have met all of the Jungle Reds except you! If I go to Malice Domestic, then I will meet you! :-)

      Diana

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    5. Diana, yes it will be great to meet Kyle Mills because I hope to get the chance to tell him how much I loved his Mark Beamon series as well.

      Oh, and as for meeting all of the JRWs, I haven't met Deborah or Jenn yet.

      I'm telling you, the Jungle Red Con needs to happen. :D

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  16. I was at Copperfields last night and I stayed to have my book sign this year. Thank you for remembering my name, Rhys. (We had a nice little conversation about the pronunciation of my name verses the spelling, which happens often.) I enjoyed Rhys' talk and she did take pictures. I'm it it, hard to see me but I'm next to the card racks about four rows back.

    Copperfields has also had Louise Penny visit. Those events were in larger settings than the intimate store location. I did stay and have my book, which could have been purchased as part of the ticket, or not, signed after.

    So, which do you like better? Large, ticketed events or small, intimate events? Personally, both were nice but as much as I like anonymity, the smaller crowd as less intimidating and I was actually more comfortable waiting to meet Rhys and have my book signed. Anyone else coming to northern California? Orange and San Diego, California are a bit too far away for a weeknight. Safe travels ladies.

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    1. I grew up in Santa Rosa, so every year when Rhys is doing a signing at Copperfields, I smile and wish I were visiting my family during that time.

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    2. Deana, I've put in a request to go to Book Passage and Copperfields. Fingers crossed.

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    3. Just let me know when, Deborah, I'll be there.

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  17. I've been to lots of book signings over the years, although without any dedicated mystery bookstores in LA any more, they are harder to find. I've also found many favorite authors thanks to book signings, so they do make a difference, at least to me.

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    1. Mark, you may have better luck with some of the mystery conferences or book festivals that take place in the LA area. There's the Sisters in Crime Orange county events, Men of Mystery, California Crime Writer's conference and of course, the LA Times Book Festival.

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    2. I hit the LA Times Festival of Books every year. Orange County is a bit of a drive for me, but I'm thinking about driving down there for Hank.

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    3. Awww.....Love to see you, dear Mark!

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  18. I am thrilled for all three of you. But as to having to go out of our way to miss seeing a Red in person....well, unless you live in flyover country. Looking over those lists of appearances, there are plenty in New England, there's Florida, New Orleans, some stops in Texas, then up the West Coast. And of course, a few in the greater Chicago area. But there are a good 15 to 20 states there in the middle of the country that aren't within driving distance of any of these. I know you don't pick your itineraries, but I couldn't help mentioning it. I also know that with fewer and fewer dedicated mystery bookstores or even independent bookstores in general, there are less and less reasons for authors to come to this part of the country. But it still makes me sad.

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    1. Susan, I think I will be in St. Louis? Does that help?

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  19. I'm missing Rhys by hours. We're flying out of Houston this Sunday for a week. I did go to Ann Charles' annual fan party in Deadwood this June. Always fun. Hank, if you haven't visited Deadwood before I think you'll really enjoy it. Really laid back. I met the Charles Todd duo at a signing several years ago. Also Gail Carriger, Amanda Stevens, and the three W's: Willig, Williams, and White. All at Murder by the Book. I haven't gone to many signings there solely because parking is such an issue. I'm hoping to meet all the Reds at Bouchercon this year.

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    1. I think we're all going to be there, Pat! And yes, LOVE Murder By the Book. Houston is one of the places I think of when I think "typical book tour" - I've been there three times, and never seen anything other than my hotel, Murder by the Book, and a few outlying libraries. I don't think I've ever even eaten anything other than hotel food in Houston!

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  20. Something I've noticed about book tours is that in general terms, a lot of authors stick to the geographic region where either they live, their books are set or a combination of them both.

    You don't see Ace Atkins promoting his Quinn Colson series in Boston. And you rarely if ever see C.J. Box come east either. Of course there are exceptions but for the most part, this seems to be the way things work.

    That's why I was so glad when Rhys came to Boston last summer. I despise driving in Boston but for the chance to meet THE RHYS BOWEN, author of the Molly Murphy series was enough to get me off my lazy butt and take the treacherous drive.

    And when Craig Johnson came to Weymouth and was interviewed by Hank, I had to be there. The only rare author appearance that I had to miss that I would've loved to gone to was when Brookline Booksmith hosted Michael Connelly a couple years back. His event was on the same day as the Iron Maiden concert that I had a very expensive ticket for.

    Of course, the opportunity to meet numerous authors at conventions is probably everyone's best bet but affording that is the biggest issue. So until the lottery ticket pays off, I do my best to get to the store signings that I can.

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    1. This is very true, Jay, and I wish our publishers would send us in more adventurous places. I've been asking for years to tour the south - I have lots of southern readers, I have southern connections (my father was an Alabamian and I spent my early childhood in that state) and the area is still populated with many great independent bookstores. But the only times I've been south of the Mason Dixon line have been when a bookstore or library has arranged an individual visit. It's frustrating.

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    2. That's why if I got the chance, I'd want to do a mystery bookshop tour. I think there are enough across the country (even if they are a vanishing breed) that I could hit a number of geographic areas.

      Not that I would ever expect to be in a position to do that or have a say in where I went.

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  21. I can't begin to imagine a time when readers will stop wanting to meet authors at book signings, a chance to be up close and personal with the person who wrote a story that captivated you. As evidenced by all the readers at Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, Malice Domestic, Crime Bake, and so many other book gatherings, we readers and fans can not get enough of you amazing authors. And, the book signing or individual event is especially enjoyed, as the focus narrows down to one or a couple of authors whom the reader can get to know more intimately. I do wish I lived closer to one of the popular touring sites. I keep wanting to get to Anderson's in Naperville, and with Rhys and Hank and Louise Penny coming up on deck there, I envy John Bychowski and others living near there. My niece lives in Naperville, but it's just getting there. And, now our air conditioner has quit, and we have to replace it, so I'm trying to save my money for Bouchercon.

    I'm too horribly far from Cincinnati, and sometimes a favorite author lands at Joseph-Beth's Booksellers there. Nashville is even closer, but it seems fewer of my favorites visit there, which surprises me a little, since author Ann Patchett has her Parnassus Bookstore there. Maybe, your publisher would consider Nashville not too far south, Julia? others?

    I tend to agree with Kristopher about the blog book tours. I used to try to do some, but I would rather just have an author on my Reading Room blog in an interview or an essay. Catriona McPherson did a favorite piece a few years ago, a Christmas story from her childhood. I'll be looking for some of those this year, too.

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