Touring Truths

Yesterday GalleyCat posted this video from author ReShonda Tate Billingsley about the "Not-So Glamorous Life of a Touring Author" and it got me thinking about the mini Hint Fiction tour back in November. How I think from the outside book tours seem like the coolest things in the world, but in reality they're a big pain the ass. At least for the majority of writers. The minority of writers are lucky enough to get huge support from their publisher who will fly them all over the country and put them up in hotels and pay for their meals. That is, of course, the book tour dream. But the reality is much different. For the anthology, I wanted to do a mini book tour because, quite honestly, I didn't know if I would ever get an opportunity like this again. And the publisher was happy to set up readings for me, but they weren't going to pay for anything. Not one cent. And in reality that's understandable, as they didn't pay much for the anthology in the first place -- not compared to other books they've no doubt bought -- and so they didn't have to put as much back into their investment. Like, if a publisher pays six figures for a book, you better believe they're sending an author on some kind of tour, even if it's just five or six cities. They want to get that author out there to meet the readers and booksellers so they can earn back on their investment.

But for the majority of writers, it's sort of like throwing ten darts at once at a dartboard and hoping one gets close to the bulls eye. The publisher puts little money in hoping for that at least one of them strikes it big and earns back the money they lost on the other projects.

The bulk of the promotion, ultimately, falls on the writer's shoulders.

This is why I eventually decided to start self-publishing some of my older novels; I had finally made it to the inside and saw the cold reality and knew that, in the long run, doing it myself was the smarter move.

For the Hint Fiction tour, I probably spent a couple thousand dollars of my own money after everything was said and done. For the reading in Los Angeles, Gay Degani was kind enough to let me stay at her place, so that helped save on hotel. But airfare came out of my own pocket. In fact, getting rides to and from the airport is another hassle altogether. To originally fly out to LA, my friend Noah Stoner drove me down to Philly; after I'd arrived in LA, Ben Loory picked me up and drove me to Gay's house; to then fly out of LA, Gay drove me to the airport; after I'd arrived in Philly, my mom picked me up at the airport and drove me home because my wife had to work very early the next morning.

So in that instance, not only was I spending a lot of money, I was putting others out. Of course, they're all family and friends, so it wasn't like they minded, but still.

For the reading in New York City, my wife and I stayed at a hotel for a few nights, and while the hotel wasn't the nicest -- but clearly not the crappiest -- it was still pretty expensive. As was parking and our meals and everything else.

Look, it's not like I'm complaining -- it had been my choice to put those readings together in the first place -- but just explaining the, well, not-so glamorous life of a touring author. And quite honestly, I wasn't even really touring that much.

Then, in December, I was scheduled to speak at the Morgantown Poets meeting in Morgantown, Virginia, which was a several hours drive. Not that I don't mind driving, but this was in December, and of course that day it decided to really snow, and as it turned out the snow got worse and worse the farther west we got, and so by the time my wife and I made it to Morgantown basically nobody had shown up for the meeting. And then, of course, hotel and meals came out of my pocket.

Again, not complaining but just giving another example.

Just like, this past Sunday, I went down to Philadelphia for the Chestnut Hill Book Festival. It was a nice little town with tables and booths set up along the sidewalk for a block or two. The Hint Fiction reading was on the second floor of a restaurant. Contributors Bruce Harris and Minter Krotzer were in attendance with about maybe a dozen other people (Patricia Anderson, whose story was one I picked for SmokeLong's 30-word contest, had also stopped by since she was visiting family, and I asked her to read her story, so that was nice). I had brought maybe twenty books to sell; the majority of those in attendance already had books, so you know how many I sold? One.

Again, I don't want to make it sound like I'm complaining. This is just how it is. I could have easily decided not to go to any of these events (I should also mention AWP, which is quite expensive and ultimately, I don't think, worth the cost), but I don't mind driving a few hours and talking about Hint Fiction. Actually, the main reason I'd originally agreed to speak at the Chestnut Hill Book Festival was because it wasn't that far away, not like many of the other locations. Not so long ago, I had pretty much come to the decision that I'm not going to drive more than an hour or two for something like this again unless I'm being compensated. That's just the simple reality of it; I don't have the extra money, and my time can be better spent on writing.

Which then, of course, makes me come back to the picture I posted the other day. Yes, The Serial Killer's Wife will soon be available as a trade paperback. I hope to make The Dishonored Dead and The Calling available as paperbacks soon, too. Not that I expect to sell that many, but it's nice for readers to have the option between electronic and paper. In fact, when I had initially been sent the proof for TSKW (that's what I'm holding in the picture), I thought that it was nice to hold the book, sure, but if it wasn't for e-books, I wouldn't even have considered self-publishing. Because I remembered the reason that self-publishing never made any sense before: the lack of distribution. Sure, TSKW will be available via Amazon and other online retailers, but it's not like you'll be able to find it in any bookstores. In the past, bookstores were where the readers were. Now e-readers are making it possible for readers to find books practically anywhere.

This past Sunday, I saw a writer standing behind a table set up on the sidewalk. On the table were several print-on-demand books. You could tell by the cover art that they were self-published (and if they weren't self-published, then that publisher should have spent the extra couple of dollars on quality art). And I remember thinking, Thank God for technology, because if it wasn't for e-books, that could be me standing behind the table, smiling at those who walk past avoiding me.

Except, again, I would never have even considered self-publishing if it wasn't for e-books.


Because this past Sunday at the book fair, I sold one physical copy of the anthology after having driven a couple of hours and speaking for an hour. That same day I sold between 30 and 40 e-books without lifting a finger.

Welcome to the future.