It's a wrap! My last book tour post
In my most recent post, I described some of the downsides of trying to do a book tour on my own with no help from my publisher except for a supply of tchotchkes and a “go get-em, girl.”
As my author and agent friends tell me, being “on your own” for marketing isn’t unusual these days, so I accepted the challenge and headed out for bookstores across the Midwest. I grew up (to the extent that has actually happened) in the middle of the country, and despite my political differences with some areas, I feel comfortable there. There, as anywhere, people can be distant and cold, but rarely are they rude, and usually they are welcoming and generous.
When people ask me how the trip went, I sense a desire for a one-word answer. But it isn’t possible. It was discouraging and enheartening. Depressing and uplifting. Lonely and freeing. Fun and tedious. Long and not long enough. Expected and surprising. Thirty-two days, nine states, 6,000 road miles, and 120 hours behind the wheel are bound to be a mixed bag, and they certainly were.
I promised to write about the upsides of the trip—what I called First World advantages of being an author in almost-post-pandemic America. For one thing, there are few places in the world, other than the Outback of Australia, perhaps, where one can drive that far and not encounter border guards and immigration control. As much as some old friends in Montana begrudge the fact that Californians can move to their state, freedom of movement and settlement is one of the things that’s great about this country. And while I complained occasionally about some of the scenery along the way, I was also rewarded with unexpected beauty at times. (Above, skies above Minneapolis on a late September afternoon.)
Another thing: I had little money for this trip, and most of the bills ended up on a credit card that will take me five years to pay off. But I could do it. What we consider to be limited financial resources in the U.S., people in other countries would think of as a fortune. And, relatively speaking, it is.
I’ve written about the bad food I encountered on the road. On the other hand, I had great meals in St. George, UT; two good meals in Denver, CO (some bad ones there, too); good Mexican food in Manitou Springs, CO; a surprisingly wonderful meal at YaYa’s in downtown Salina, KS; one great meal in Decorah, IA (and one terrible one); and a great lunch in Wayzata, MN. And I had many great meals at houses of friends.
I’ve also written about the tedium of interstate highway motels, and their cookie-cutter architecture, indifference to service, horrid décor, and, frequently, bugs. But I never had trouble finding a place to stay. There are plenty of them out there—a consequence of the afore-mentioned freedom of movement.
But the best part of the trip was the businesspeople willing to take on the challenge of running an independent bookstore. Their financial perseverance, long hours, and generosity were the most enheartening part of my journey. The ones who take a chance on books from small publishers like mine, who believe not only in independent stores but also independent publishers, are a godsend to authors and readers across this country. I hope that before buying a book from Amazon because it’s convenient, my friends and family always think first about making a trip to the local bookstore—even if it’s Barnes & Noble!—and support them instead.
Finally, I’ll wrap up with this thought. Will I do this again? Probably not. Not unless I find more marketing support, a nice Sprinter van to travel in, and someone to help me drive and lug books. And, certainly not unless I find a publisher for my next book!
Next: My new publishing challenge