At Book Expo America 2010 from left to right: Leslie Sari, Kay Hodges, Helen Simonson, and Marsha Toy Engstrom, The Book Club Cheerleader
photo courtesy of Marsha Toy Engstrom
I’m just back from my first book tour! I published my debut novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, in early March and while not all debut authors are sent on the road, my book did well enough that my publishers, Random House, sent me on five weeks of touring. You are probably wondering what is so blog-worthy about a writer going on book tour? After all, isn’t that what writers do? But this is my very first novel and my very first tour, so I felt like a small child in a pink tutu on her first trip to the big candy store downtown. In security lines at regional airports, I slipped in and out of my ruby slippers. Arriving in new cities, I was as starry-eyed s if my media escort were meeting me with a glass coach rather than a Honda Civic.
I loved the hotels. They looked just like regular hotels, with lobbies and cute little bottles of shampoo and room service, but I didn’t have to pay for them, so they all seem more shiny, and I didn’t have to wait for my husband to leave the room to dive into the minibar (my husband believes minibars do not offer good travel value).
I loved being escorted. I made an immediate pledge to myself not to take unfair advantage of this service and act like some diva. However, I did allow many of my wonderful escorts to drive me around the nicest homes in each city and of course I always asked to lunch in some obscure spot, beloved of locals – but only if it wasn’t any trouble.
I had intended to treat my tour like a spa trip and eat nothing but salad and fish. But some of the obscure local spots had things like biscuits or maple pancakes and it would have been rude not to try them. I also tried to avoid wine, except wherever I was being toasted. I would not have eaten the chocolate-covered coffee beans, given to me by a nice bookstore owner, had I not been desperate for more room in my cute carry-on bag.
I may be making it sound fun, but many authors complain about book tours being very exhausting. I do have to agree. Some days I had to be chauffeured to two appearances, not one, and reading all those pages and signing books until my wrist ached was not easy; even though I am a trained professional. I had to chat with my readers, maintain my best behavior at power lunches with industry folks – and then there was all that flying, with the associated task of buying magazines in airport newsstands. Some days I really could have used an afternoon nap.
I can’t tell you what a relief it was to get home and back to being a stay-at-home mom with laundry and grocery runs and car pools. I welcomed a little relaxed vacuuming and washing the dog after all the hard work.
However, in retrospect it was such good fun that I believe most writers must live in constant danger of wanting to be on book tour instead of buckling down to write novels. Why face the blank page and writers’ block when you can instead face the impossible decision between room service and the hotel brasserie!