Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Have Book--Will Travel? Or..not?

On the Road Again
By Kelli Stanley

I am absolutely tickled pink—wait, maybe that should be red?—to be here as a guest on one of my favorite blogs with some favorite writers!! Huge thank yous to Hank and the gang for having me over!

By the time this post reaches that glorious red ink splash, I’ll be hotfooting it on the road again, heading to Los Angeles, San Diego and Scottsdale by car to promote the launch of CITY OF DRAGONS, which just came out from Thomas Dunne/Minotaur on February 2nd.

Now, even though there are times I feel like a battle-scarred veteran (and I am, at least of the Macmillan/Amazon war, which erupted the week of my release!), this is sort of my debut all over again, as NOX DORMIENDA, my debut novel, was originally published by a small press. To move from virtually no bookstore distribution to national distribution is a dream come true, and to me, there was no question about doing a tour—in fact, if time and money permitted me to, I’d be a vagabond for a good two months, and just make it a cross-country event.

At the same time I’m often asked by authors with even less experience than I have whether or not a book tour is “effective.” I’ve spoken with people who assure me that the tour is a dying form—rather like vaudeville, I think—and that the entire future rests on the even more congested roads of the internet.

OK, so I’m still a neophyte—this is my second book, after all—but here are my thoughts on why authors should tour:

It’s fun.
You meet people.
You visit interesting places.
You learn cool stuff.
You find fun places to eat and shop.

Have I mentioned it’s fun?

Honestly, why wouldn’t you want to meet readers and booksellers and (if you can) local journalists? Traveling out of town could even lead to inspiration for an upcoming book … and I always try to fit in a little time to play tourist if I can.

For example, on my trip to Seattle and Portland last week, we managed to squeeze in twenty minutes at the Brown and Haley factory (makers of Almond Roca) in Tacoma, WA, and visited the very same cool round factory outlet as a child. And I found out something cool—the building was actually built for the Seattle World’s Fair in ’62, and they transported it to Tacoma the year after. I love knowing stuff like that (and of course love Almond Roca and their newest, Macadamia Roca … yum!!) J

My point is that I think travel always enriches you. As a writer, a person, in every way. I’ve heard concerns (again, like vaudeville) that it’s just not “mass” enough to reach consumers. It’s true that George Burns and Gracie Allen sold much more soap via radio than they did on the vaudeville circuit … but books are a personal relationship between author and reader, and that takes time and effort to develop, and I, at least, think in person signings are a wonderful way to do it.

Whether one person or fifty show up to see you, you are still reaping so many rewards from visiting one of our wonderful booksellers and seeing a new city that it’s not just a good investment for your book—it’s a good investment for your life.
Those are my thoughts, anyway … what say you? To tour or not to tour? If you’re a reader, do you like to attend readings and signings and events? If you’re a writer, any stories from the road?

Kelli Stanley’s second novel, City of Dragons, introduces Miranda Corbie—PI and ex-escort in 1940 San Francisco.
City of Dragons (released February 2, 2010) is the first of a series, has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, is an RT Book Reviews Top Pick, and an Indie Next Book for February. “Children’s Day”, a prequel to City of Dragons, will be published in First Thrills: High Octane Stories by the Hottest Thriller Writers, coming June 22nd from Tor/Forge.
Kelli’s debut novel, Nox Dormienda, won the Bruce Alexander Award and was nominated for a Macavity. She lives in San Francisco, and frequents old movie palaces, speakeasies and bookstores. You can find out more about her and her books at her website:


  1. Your book sounds fabulous and your post has me longing to hop a plane! Want to meet for sushi in San Francisco? Sigh. We're stuck in snow again here in Virginia, but I am routing for you on your tour. Good luck!

  2. I wonder how many touring authors are snowbound? If your book comes out in the winter, you can face snowstorms and potential delays.

    What do you all do when that happens?

    I had an event scheduled for tonight at the Roslindale MA library--but we're getting socked with snow any minute now, and that's been postponed.

    Last year, Katherine Hall Page and it (Hi Katherine!)had to be at a booksigning in the middle of a blizzard when the bookstore was reluctant to cancel. WOw--that was a MESS! But we still had a good time.

    I suppose if your book is out in the summer, you're got to be careful about making plane reservations that'll be upset by those late afternon thunderstorms.

  3. Thanks you so much, JB!! :) Wish you could come out to sunny Los Angeles and meet me for sushi here in Culver City! :)

    The weather is one reason why I'm sticking to the West Coast for the tour ... and a really good case maker for a launch in the summer! ;)

    Hope Mother Nature eases up soon, and take care!!


  4. Ouch, Hank, a blizzard signing?? Of course, absolutely nothing could ever keep you--or Charlie--down! :)

    Y' know, if we could just ease the pressure to do all the touring at once, it would be great ... go from quadrant to quadrant depending on the best season for the region ... avoiding hurricanes, tornadoes and snow storms! :)

  5. Having worked in the book industry (from being an editor at a major publisher all the way to the retail end of things) I've always believed in the author signing and the author tour.

    But things seem to have changed over the years, and they're not supported as much. Not by the publisher. And not by the chains.

    My first book (a nonfiction about the sideshow...don't ask) comes out next month, and I found it a challenge setting up any sort of tour. Then...I turned to the indies (support your indies!), and some unconventional routes and venues (again, don't ask) and am so very much looking forward to doing just what you said...having fun and MEETING PEOPLE. That's what it's all about.

    --Tony Gangi

  6. Hi, Kelli... I agree with you about building in a bit of time to play tourist as well as author while book-selling on the road. My Mace Bauer Mysteries are set in So. Fla., where I live ... and my publisher, Midnight Ink, is in Minnesota. So, they're all happy and pleased to tell me I have a SUMMER release, perhaps unaware that everyone leaves Fla for the summer, when it's six zillion degrees, the threat of hurricanes is constant, and you look like you've stepped from a sauna in your fancy author duds. Not the greatest time to tour locally, so I do hit the road. There's nothing like face-to-face time with readers, tho the travel can be exhausting. Hope to see you on the circuit!

  7. Anthony, I know you said don't ask..but hey, I'm a reporter. The sideshow???? Tell us more...

  8. HEy Deb! So terrific to see you--how's Mama?

    And you do have to admit that worrying about author tours is pretty wonderful--what a great problem to have! Like always worrying that you'll be wearing the same thing in all the photos. That crossed my mind--then I burst out laughing. Ggot to love it.

  9. HPR:

    Here goes....

    In addition to a voracious reader I'm also a full time magician....but not a good one. I do kids shows, but could never master the moments of deception that make magic mystifying for adults.

    Then in April 2007 I attended...wait for it...wait for it....Sideshow School in Coney Island, where I learned how to eat fire, hammer nails into my head, swallow swords (still working on that one) and other horrible yet delightful things. No deception here. What you see is what you get.

    I put together a proposal about my experiences attending Sideshow School and it was picked up by (Kensington/Citadel). Fiction writing is my first love, but it didn't stop me from working on this project.

    The book, ultimately titled CARNY SIDESHOWS: WEIRD WONDERS OF THE MIDWAY, explores my experiences at Sideshow School, some of the performers doing this stuff today, as well as the scientific/medical reasons much of the sideshow stuns are possible.



  10. Tony, thanks for commenting and congratulations on your book release!! :) Like Hank, I want to know more!!

    And I so agree--people are inspirational! I never know what's going to happen on tour--part of the excitement--and who I'll meet. And when when you get back home--bada bing, more inspiration for the book! ;)

  11. You too, Deb!! :) Thanks for stopping by, and it's so true--travel (and lack of sleep) is exhausting, but meeting readers and bookstore staff can give us boost enough for anything! :)

    Take care, and hope to see you, too!

  12. Tony, I can't WAIT to get your book! :)

    I've always been fascinated by the carny life--and in fact, Miranda--protagonist of City of Dragons--works the midway (called the Gayway) of Treasure Island during World's Fair season.

    Thanks for telling us about it--it's going on my research shelf!! :)

  13. OH! SO of course, Tony, you'll come back here to JRW when the book comeso ut, right? We want to hear al lthe secrets.

    (Sometimes at work I feel as if I'm breathing fire...Wish I had the trining to really do it. That would be a meeting-stopper for you... )

  14. Hi Kelli,
    Great topic, and I love your enthusiasm. I managed to intertwine a book tour with the paperback, with college tours with my son in Indiana and Michigan.

    I got to meet some terrific bookstore owners, I'd never have known otherwise, and I have memories of driving through Indiana with my son that will be in my heart forever.

    So you are right, it isn't all about the head count at the signing.

    Best of luck with your tour!

  15. Hi Kelli, welcome back and good luck with the new book. You have an amazingly good attitude about touring! I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I've had some adventures I will always remember and treasure. And it's always a good idea to meet booksellers and librarians. On the other hand, it's expensive both financially and in terms of energy and time.

    But I hope you have a blast and sell a ton of books! (And by the way, Hank, I was supposed to be at the signing in the blizzard with you and Katherine, remember? thank God you talked me into staying home in CT!)

  16. Hey there, Kelli. Congrats on all the good buzz on the new book.
    There are times when I mutter and whine about my book tours but overall I love to meet readers and bookstore owners. It's a real high for me to come into a room full of people all waiting to meet me.
    And I love traveling the country too although my booktours rarely give me time to eat at a normal hour.
    I've been almost snowbound before now--great piles of snow all the way up the Hudons when I had to speak in Albany. I'm due in DC in late March. It better have melted by then!

  17. Tony--there is still a sideshow school on Coney Island?
    Coney Island has played a part in two of my Molly books, including the new one that comes out in March about Houdini and has a fire eater/sword swallower in it.
    How cool that I could still go and learn that stuff!

  18. Kelli: I can't wait to read your book! Speaking of book tours I watched, just last night, the movie based on Jacqueline Susann's book marketing triumphs, "Isn't She Great". I'd kept hearing references to how she sold her books, one at a time, until she became a bestseller. Fun movie to watch. Starred Bette Midler. Have a great time on your tour!

  19. Thanks, Jan! :) It's always so hard to determine how best to spend our always limited time, energy and funds in book promotion ... I just sort of try to look at what I *want* to do, what is demanding but also enjoyable, and live a motto of my mom's: make good memories. :)

    I'm really glad you've got such great tour memories with your son!! :) I think that's what it's all about! :)

  20. Thanks a million, Roberta!! :)

    I'm so sorry about your canceled signing with Hank, but am relieved you're not out and about! Makes me doubly appreciate the blue skies in Los Angeles today! :)

    I'm exhausted, but still consider touring a treat--lots of friends to see, people to meet, and new places to experience. Just line me up with a trough full of coffee! ;)

    Take care--hope the blizzard clears up soon!!

  21. Rhys, I'll never forget your tour story about the pig ... I think about it whenever I'm on the road! ;)

    And thanks so much for the good thoughts!! I hope everything clears soon, and DC will warm up for you!!


  22. You're so sweet, Bobbi--thank you!! :)

    I will add this to my Netflix queue when I get back home--Bette Midler, Jacqueline Susann and book tours ... sounds absolutely marvelous!! :)

    Take care, and hope the weather is good wherever you are!!

  23. Thanks Kelli! (If you haven't met her..she's amazing. And some day we'll all get to say we knew her when.) Have a wonderful tour..oxo and bring us Macadamia roca!

    And oh,yes, were supposed to be with Kathy and me. I think I blocked out that memory.Yikes. You got lucky that time...although we still missed you!

    Tomorrow--do you believe in ghosts?
    Oh, yeah. Wait til you hear.

  24. Rhys:

    Sorry...been very busy and just saw your comment.

    Yes....the sideshow does still exist in Coney Island....and the sideshow in Coney Island (The Coney Island Circus Sideshow hosted by Coney Island USA) is the one that hosts Sideshow School.

    I just did an interview with Ripley Radio (of Ripley's Believe It Or Not) and they asked if I'd flunked anything at Sideshow School. The one thing I've been unable to accomplish is sword swallowing. It's just very difficult as it requires you to regularly poke at your gag reflex...and by regularly I mean up to 7 times a day.

    Let me know if you want more info. My websites are:

  25. Does anyone have any experience purchasing copies of their book from the publisher and re-selling themselves? I have some tax-related questions I'd like to ask, and would appreciate it if you could email me at Thanks!