The Glamorous Life

Hot on the heels of Kathleen Kent’s perspective on reading for an audience, I wanted to add my two cents about touring. I spent the last week on the road with an author, let’s call him Ted, who was out promoting his latest title—we hit Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Las Vegas before returning to New York on Friday. If you’re reading this blog, then either you have some connection to books and publishing, or you have the last name Arthur, Bittner, Murphy, or Walker. Let’s rule out those last four, although I do hear really lovely things about Sarah’s family. It is likely no surprise to you, those in the know, that we rarely tour authors these days. I don’t just mean Little, Brown – I mean all of publishing. In the decade that I’ve been working in publicity, tours have become almost as rare as book parties, or walking out of a CVS this month without having heard Jingle Bell Rock. Tours are costly, tours are time-consuming, and tours, more often than not, don’t pull in the audiences that you’d hope for. If there is a third group reading this called “optimistic new authors who can’t wait to go on their fabulous tour,” I’m sorry to be such a downer.

Ted is one of the lucky ones who gets to take off and travel the country for a few weeks, all in the name of his book. And I, occasionally, get to grab hold of his coattails and fly around with him. A week ago today, I was eating a delightful lunch at The Grove in LA after a morning of interviews and stock signings. This morning, I had two meetings and 457 emails to answer before I got to dive into my thermos of parsnip soup. On deck tonight: a trip to Target, to buy toilet paper and shoe insoles. My week on tour was wonderful and my companion was an absolute delight. He had three events in three days in three cities, and at each event there were large crowds waiting to see him, to meet him, to talk to him. Crowds that didn’t seem to dissipate after hours. And hours. Crowds that stayed until 2 or 3am, when we would drive back to the hotel to get a few hours of sleep, before taking off to the new city the next day to do it all over again. And here’s where the reality of touring sinks in, whether you’re greeting a crowd of 3 or 300. It’s not coal mining, but it’s hard work all the same. Ted is a pro. He lives for the crowds and he never once would complain about staying in a bookstore when he could be sleeping. He knows that he’s lucky and he truly appreciates his career. He was up every morning, eyes bright, ID in hand, ready to get on the next flight. He lives like this for weeks, sometimes months, at a time. I lived like this for 4 nights and today I look like I’ve been run over. I have a head cold from the air travel and my skin is so dry I’m pretty sure my nose is going to start peeling before the day is over (addition to the Target list: heavy moisturizer). I don’t know how he has the resources to live like this day in and day out. It was a nice place to visit, but I’ll stick with the 8 hours of sleep, ID-free commute, and meetings, thankyouverymuch. But parsnip soup? It’s sort of gross, guys.

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