Monday, August 2, 2010

Matthew Dicks on the Book Tour (Pt.1)

Matthew Dicks, author of the novels Something Missing and Unexpectedly Milo (Random House), writes in this guest post about the unique experience that is the book tour. This is the first of a 3 part series.

My book tour begins this week. Since this is my second book, I have a much better sense of what to expect while touring libraries and bookstores throughout New England and New York, which is to say that I have no idea what to expect.

When I first sold SOMETHING MISSING, my friends and family asked if my publisher would be sending me on a book tour. I said yes, feeling like a big shot and assuming they would, and while this was true, it was tangentially true. Book tours mean many different things to many different authors. As a first time author, it didn’t mean a lot.

Unless your books debut on the bestseller lists, it’s unlikely that your publisher is going to be sending you around the country on your book tour in today’s economic climate. The days of national book tours and high class book release parties hosted by publishers in New York City are a thing of the past. And according to authors who I have gotten to know over the past year, this shift in the way that the book industry does business turned out to be a good thing. One author I know whose publisher sent her on a three month, nationwide tour told me that her audiences averaged about ten people per visit. This proved to be quite depressing when she found herself three thousand miles from home, away from her family for weeks on end, only to be greeted by a handful of readers at each event. She estimated that the whole tour sold an additional five hundred books and was ultimately a waste of time and money.

The first stop on my tour was an indie bookstore about an hour from my home. My wife, my infant daughter and I headed down the road, not sure what to expect. While I had visions of dozens, if not hundreds of people crowding the bookstore in order to hear me speak, the number ended up being closer to a dozen, and had two of my students and their families not been kind enough to make the trip, I would have been able to count the attendees on one hand. Still, it was a good start for me. We sat in plush chairs in a rough semi-circle and ate cookies while I discussed my book and answered questions.

The one thing I have going for me is I enjoy speaking in public, which it not the case for many authors. I can also speak with relatively little preparation, so you never know what I might say while on tour. Three days before my current tour is set to launch, I have yet to even think about what I will be saying at this week’s appearances and have not found a passage to read from the book yet.

Feeling humbled by my debut, I headed to my next stop hoping that someone, anyone would be there to listen and maybe purchase a book. In between tour stops, I had listened to an author talk about how the only person to attend his first ten appearances was his brother. My brother disappeared three years ago (as he is wont to do from time to time), so I had no safety net.

Thankfully, there were more than two dozen people at my next appearance, and I say two dozen because it sounds significantly more impressive than the twenty-five people who actually showed up. And once again, things went well. I managed to make my audience laugh quite a bit and became a little more confident with this book touring business.

Hoping for somewhere between two and twenty-five people for my next stop, I was shocked to arrive at a library on the Connecticut shore and find almost two hundred people waiting for me. One thing I learned rather quickly: libraries draw large audiences almost every time.

The book tour continued for almost a year, and even though there were times when I would drive two hours to speak to six people, there was never a visit that I regretted. I spoke at bookstores, libraries, churches, high schools and even a nursing home. I attended more than half a dozen book clubs throughout the year, and oftentimes these living room events drew larger audiences than some of my bookstore appearances. I had the pleasure of appearing with other authors on several occasions, and in January I had the honor of appearing in Misty Valley Books New Voices series with four other authors, all of whom I am proud to call my friends today. Two of them wrote blurbs for the back cover of UNEXPECTEDLY, MILO.

During my year of touring, I encountered some memorable people and experienced some odd and amusing situations. I met former teachers and friends, many of whom I had not seen in twenty or more years, and I managed to reconnect with my father, who I had not seen or spoken to for nearly as long. I met some bizarre individuals, was asked some strange questions and was introduced by the wrong name at least twice.

I’ll be contributing a post a week for the next two weeks, prior to my visit to Water Street Books, and in the subsequent posts, I’ll share a few of these more memorable stories with you.

I hope to see you all on Saturday, August 21 at 6:00! I look forward to meeting you all, bizarre and otherwise, and perhaps creating a few new memorable moments in the process!

Matthew Dicks Read about my writing career and life at Become a fan on Facebook at Follow me on Twitter at

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