In a bit over a week Scott is going on his very first proper book tour. Hooray! I am going along in my wifely capacity. Largely because everyone we know who’s done a book tour solo says it can be total misery. “Don’t do it alone!” they all cried.
The whole book tour thing is deeply weird. Most writers never get sent on one and are desperate for it to happen to them:
FOR the publication in July  of her first book, “The Late Bloomer’s Revolution,” Amy Cohen imagined a promotional tour of bookstores in Sydney, Australia. And Paris. And a few places closer to home, New York City, would work, too.
Then her publicist at Hyperion told her, as Ms. Cohen recalled somewhat tongue in cheek, “You aren’t going to Scarsdale.”
Yet many writers who do get sent on tour really dislike it and start wondering what the point of the whole thing is:
Why, I sometimes wonder, does anybody want a book signed? I have a whole wall of books by friends, and it never occurs to me to ask them to sign them.
My wife, who has an abiding passion for hagiography—we have a surprising number of editions of Lives of the Saints, not one of them signed—has her own theory. As she explains it, a book signed by its author is a second-degree relic, not as precious as a finger bone, but on a par with a pair of cast-off sandals.
I like the explanation, but how long before the bastards start wanting the damned books signed in blood?
Writers who get to tour are aware that whingeing about it is unseemly:
I was stuck in traffic yesterday, thinking about how awful book tours were because I had to get up early and not get enough sleep and deal with lots of different people and never get any down time to just relax and I remembered what it reminded me of: working for a living. Not that writing isn’t working for a living, but I used to have to put on pantyhose and go out to teach at 7:30 every morning and I was always on the run and there was never any quiet time and I almost lost my mind. Which is what most people do every damn day. Meanwhile on the tour, I was sacking out in the Hotel Metro eating amazing room service and bemoaning my fate. Tell me again why nobody here threw things at me? Note to self: STOP WHINING, YOU INGRATE.
The folks I know who’ve enjoyed their book tour did it with someone else. Holly Black and Cassandra Clare had a fabulous time on their book tour earlier this year. The way a whole bunch of us did going to DragonCon together.
There are lots of claims that book tours don’t work: That for most authors they don’t increase sales; or contribute to that writer being better known; and that more money is lost than gained from doing them. Others claim that you have to look beyond immediate money returns for the value of book tours.
Although I’ve never been on an official book tour, I’ve done appearances back home and in the US of A, mostly I really enjoy them. I love meeting the people who sell and lend and buy and borrow my books. I love hanging out with folks who are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about books—YA books in particular—and gossiping and arguing with them. I find signing and talking to folks fun. I enjoy the Q & A sessions. And I love going to places I’ve never been before.
There’s less than fabulous stuff too. I’m not wild about staying in hotels where the windows don’t open, having to eat truly horrendous food cause it’s that or faint, air travel and all the related hassles, but compared to the cool stuff all of that is minor. Also I’m lucky: I’ve never had to do any of it alone. I’ve barely done any events alone. We usually put on the Justine-and-Scott show which we both enjoy heaps and seems to go over better with audiences then when we do appearances on our own.
For the authors who’ve toured—do you like touring? Consider it a necessary evil? And for those—like me—who haven’t do you want to? What are your expectations if you do tour?
I’m also curious to hear from the publishing pros: what’s your take? Does it entirely depend on who’s touring? Do you think blog tours are more useful? Are there authors who, no matter how great they’re books are doing, you would never send on tour?
And the booksellers and librarians who host authors on tour—what do you make of the whole thing?
And those who’ve seen authors on tour doing appearances what do you reckon?