Paul Doiron here with a brief note from the road:
I am writing this post in a balcony suite at the Hotel ZaZa in Houston, Texas. My room overlooks verdant Hermann Park and the city skyline. In a few hours I will be reading and signing copies of my new novel, Bad Little Falls, at one of America’s premier mystery bookstores, Murder by the Book.
When I used to imagine actually becoming an author, this experience was what I hoped would happen. I dreamed of glamor. What the past few years have taught me, however, is that the publisher-sponsored book tour is now a rarity, and I am one of the lucky ones (and luck, as we all know, is fleeting). More and more writers are using blog tours and even Skype visits to get the word out about their new titles. In a few years we may look back on touring the way we do Borders: as an idea whose time has gone.
Consider this: A good friend of mine also has a new book out, and it’s doing very, very well. She just returned from a transcontinental tour that she financed out of her own pocket because her otherwise supportive publisher couldn’t make the numbers add up. To them, the cost of sending their feted author on the road wasn’t offset by the potential books she might sell. And maybe they were right.
These days, fewer and fewer publishers are bankrolling traditional book tours, and when they do it’s only for the New York Times bestsellers, of which I am not yet one. Instead they are pushing blog tours, social media campaigns, and other virtual initiatives. Or they are expecting authors to schedule events on their own dimes. (I do all these things, too, as do the other authors on this blog, I expect.) It’s easy, as a writer, to feel resentful of the new reality. None of us got into this line of work to become self-marketers. We wanted to write. And those tales of lavish, multi-city author tours—well, those were just dreamy incentives. But sooner or later, every adult learns that it is naive to expect that the future will resemble the past. All aspects of publishing are changing, and as writers, we need to accept the bad with the good.
Technically, my own book tour ends in Houston, but I have many more readings and signings ahead that I am doing myself. Traveling to remote libraries and doing interviews on little-heard community radio stations is just a part of this job now. I prefer to have my expenses covered by someone else, of course (who doesn’t?). But I also recognize that I must take responsibility for the direction of my career, and so I will be paying for many gallons of gas over the coming months in order to build a readership for my Mike Bowditch novels.
And if you’re feeling envious of me (hell, I am feeling envious of me), it might come as a consolation to learn that my previous lodging on this tour included some Motel 6s where they did not leave the light on for me, shall we say. Touring—no matter who pays for it or where you stay—is hard and exhausting work. For the past two weeks, since my book was published, I have been driving myself up and down the highways of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts (closing in on a thousand miles now), speaking to many packed rooms, but also to audiences I could count on my fingers.
My night at the ZaZa is my reward. Is it worth the bags under my eyes? At the moment, yes, but ask me again after my long flight home. In the meantime I am treating my glamorous evening in Houston like it might be my last because, ultimately, who knows?