Friday, June 05, 2009

Jessica Handler's Notes from the Road



Mary has asked me to guest blog this week, and to talk a little bit about the evolution and execution of my book tour.

Let's start at Gate A 18, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Atlanta; my hometown airport. I'm on my way to New York to participate in an author meet-and-greet to get my book Invisible Sisters: A Memoir considered for a series of book fairs. (Thanks to T. the Terrific Publicist, who got me hooked up with this event.)

My presentation will be timed, like speed dating. I've practiced the presentation with a stopwatch, tested it on friends, driven my patient husband a little crazy. I'm still not happy with my performance. Scrolling through my iPod while I wait to board, I discover that iPods have stopwatches.

I'll bet you already knew that.

This means I can practice on the plane. Quietly.

The playlist for when I wasn't timing and retiming myself?
In flight - Brian Eno 'Ambient.' (I was writing. I need lyrics-free music.)
In the terminal - David Lindley, 'El Rayo Ex.'.

As the April publication date for Invisible Sisters: A Memoir grew closer, I was told that, "The economy being what it is, and me being a new author--"
"Oh," I interrupted. "I understand." No big tour.

Truth is, I hadn't expected one--me being a new author and the economy being what it is...and when I signed the contract with my publisher, my agent advised me to put some money aside for travel. She was right. (She's always right. Seriously.)

T. the Publicist is great at getting my book into the hands of the press, to bookstores, to Websites, and to Book Festivals. But she wanted my suggestions about places where I can read and do author talks.

Places I can drive to.

Last month, M. and I drove to Asheville for an author talk at Malaprop's, about three hours away. We've always traveled well together, and road trips--what my sister Sarah called 'toad rips'-- become our together-time.

Asheville Playlist: Mofro, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sophie Madeleine,
John Lennon, Nichols and May.

Coming up? Winston-Salem. New playlist. New snacks. Call the cat sitter.

Soon? Ohio, Nashville, and more Atlanta events!

Am I tired? You bet. Am I happy? Heck, yeah. Do I know what day it is? Not always.

One of the best things about traveling to promote Invisible Sisters: A Memoir is reconnecting with friends and family all over the country, and making new friends, too. I've discovered how generous people can be. (They want to help you promote your book! They're readers and book lovers! They like to have dinner out!) S. has a big comfy couch and is walking distance to a great coffee shop. E. has a busy, multi-lingual household where I can nap mid-day and stay up late over dinner. J. knows a terrific tiny restaurant in her town that made room for twelve pals.

Friends bring friends to readings. Word of mouth sells books.

So here are my tips for your 'big book tour.'

Get enough sleep. Pack simple clothes. Take photos, draw, keep a journal.
Carry business cards or your book's postcards. Collect receipts for everything. Note your book-related mileage. Eavesdrop for fun. (The best eavesdropping so far? "The food's great at [redacted] but the feng shui is terrible!") Send postcards to your cat or dog at home. Ask friends to tell friends about your book. Buy something at the bookstores where you're reading, even if it's some note cards or a cup of coffee.

Send thank you notes.

Enjoy yourself.

3 comments:

bevjackson said...

Charming! Terrific presence.

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