Okay, that headline’s a little misleading. It sounds nifty, though, doesn’t it? It should. I stole it from none other than Tom Hanks, who recently wrote a guest column for Entertainment Weekly (aka My Bible) to explain how he got through a “world-wide promotional tour” for his new film, Larry Crowne, without losing his mind.
I happened to read Hanks’s column as I was returning from my own tour to promote my new book, LONG GONE. This is fantastic, I thought. I can sort of bond with Forrest Gump over a shared experience.
But even the headline was a reminder that we existed in very different worlds. International Press Tour? Here’s Charlie Wilson sipping wine with his Corona typewriter in France.
Here is a picture of me (or at least part of me) being super excited about the extra leg room I scored in an exit row seat!
His column is also filled with references to the Concorde, his Delegation, and VIP green rooms. I have somehow managed to miss all of those on my seven book tours.
But despite the gentle reminders that Robert Langdon lives large, I did find some of his advice helpful.
Like this one: “Prepare the Obvious Answers and Vary All Anecdotes.”
That’s good advice. On my first radio interview after my first novel was published, the venerable Leonard Lopate asked me why I liked crime fiction. I honestly don’t remember the words that came spilling from my mouth, but I do remember leaving the radio studio wishing I could have a do-over on the last thirty minutes of my life. If only I had Larry Crowne’s advice.
On a book tour, you will be expected to talk about the plot of the new book without giving too much away. You will be asked where you get ideas. You will be asked about your writing schedule. Get that stuff down cold.
Here’s another piece of his good advice: “Be a Tourist, But For No More Than 30 Minutes a Day.” Now, Chuck Noland’s* version of 30-minute-tourism means a “saunter through the Rodin Museum.” My version usually means finding the best food stand in town. But still…
Another word of advice from Woody: “Put All Vices on Hold.” Um, I don’t know anything about that. See above note about food stands.
“Survive the Hotel Room.” Good advice here: Don’t spend an hour flipping channels on the hotel TV. They won’t be adding any more stations, and you will wind up watching cable news or Law & Order SVU. Bring your own entertainment: a good book or shows downloaded to your iPad.
I would like to add a few lessons of my own that Paul Edgecomb omitted.
Pack light. Duh, you say. Packing light is rule number one of Book Tour 101. But I don’t mean pack sparingly. I mean pack lightweight. I’ve heard some authors say they wear the same two outfits throughout tour, washing their undergarments in sinks as necessary. That is not how I roll.
In my one little carry-on, I managed to tote no fewer than seven complete outfits, and that’s because I pack “light.” This dress, for example, is basically made out of tissue paper. When rolled into a tight ball, it takes up less room than a cell phone.
Get Yourself Right.
Now, maybe you’re one of those people who can feel fine even if you don’t look fine. Or maybe you’re naturally beautiful and don’t need any help. Or maybe you’re a guy.
But for the rest of us: Get Yourself Right. By this, I mean take care of all your grooming needs before you hit the road. You won’t have time for hair cuts, pedicures, and pore-cleansing masks on tour.
It’s no fun catching a glimpse of the back of your head in those weird three-way hotel mirrors and seeing a bunch of gray roots you missed in the last do-it-yourself job.
That’s just an example, of course. I don’t actually have any gray hair. Cough.
And my best piece of advice: Bring Out Your Friends.
Jimmy Dugan may have a Delegation to keep him company, but authors are basically on their own. That’s where the friends come in. And this one is a three-parter.
A) Plan joint events with fellow authors. Thanks to a joint event with Phillip Margolin, we celebrated afterward with a fantastic dinner. (See ignored advice above about vices.)
And thanks to Barbara Peters at Poisoned Pen, I spent one glorious tour afternoon at the Biltmore Resort with old friends like Michael Koryta, Laurie King, and Jan Burke, plus new ones like Marcia Clark, Sophie Littlefield, and Juliet Blackwell.
B) See your in-town friends
After every book event, I had dinner with people I knew from the local area. It’s a time to be with friends you’ve known for years. To hear about their jobs and their children and their remodeling projects. It’s a chance NOT to be asked about your writing schedule and where you get your ideas. It’s a time to remind yourself that this world is not all about you and your new book.
C) Drum up attendance from reader friends
You’ve probably all heard the nightmare book tour stories about walking into the store to find two people in the audience, one of whom is looking for the bathroom. You never know what the turn-out will be. Even major bestsellers have slow nights.
But turn-out isn’t only about the numbers. Some of my best events have been tiny, but with loyal readers who know the work and enjoy talking about it. Don’t be afraid to know your readers and to let them know you. They will show up. They will support you. They will make your book tour better.
Added bonus: They’ll remember to take pictures of your events.
One reader-friend, Carol Johnsen, even made me this framed “Faux Duffer” to keep me company on the road.
My final piece of advice for book tour is to celebrate the good news and brush off the disappointments.
Thanks to many of you, I’ve had a lot to celebrate this time around. Thank you for showing up at stores and making me feel welcomed and appreciated. Thank you for helping LONG GONE get to a third printing after three weeks. Thank you for giving it enough attention that it got shout-outs from People Magazine and the Today Show. And thank you for all the wonderful reviews you have posted online and shared with your friends.
With all this thankfulness, I am also thankful to be home. The tour is over. I’m with the husband and the Duffer. And I have a sudden, inexplicable urge to watch Bosom Buddies.
For the comments: What is your favorite travel advice – whether tour related or otherwise? Bonus Question: Your favorite Tom Hanks role?
* You have probably figured out by now that all of these names are characters portrayed by Tom Hanks. If you did not realize that, you probably do not call Entertainment Weekly your Bible, and I apologize for the confusion.