The book tour dog and pony show, minus the dog and pony

In Salon, Adam Mansbach writes about going on the road to promote his books: Hell is my own book tour.

A lot can go wrong on a book tour. For instance – stop me if I’m getting too technical here – nobody shows up to the reading. [...]

This, however, is not even close to the worst thing than can happen. Far, far worse is when one to four people show up, speckling the 30 folding chairs the bookstore has arranged before the microphone and podium like survivors of some horrible plague.

Now, Adam Mansbach is not only a very funny writer but the author of the No. 1 New York Times bestseller Go the F*** to Sleep. So I don’t feel sorry for him. But I am laughing with recognition. I’ve done book tours in the USA, England, Wales, Scotland, Germany, Singapore, Holland, and Guernsey, which is kinda-sorta part of Britain except it’s rock off the coast of France and ruled by Norman Law. I’ve had amazing experiences on tour, and am immensely grateful that (a) I have publishers, who (b) want me to travel widely, promoting my work.

That said, I have had some… interesting experiences at book tour events.

Two minutes before speaking at one bookstore, the owner alerted me that one of their regulars had seated himself front and center, and that I should be prepared for him to say something “inappropriate.” But not to worry: they had “procedures in place to deal with him.” In any case, he didn’t cross the bookstore’s line. He just interrupted my reading to hold my new novel in the air and tell me: “Not your best.”

At another event, a man asked my husband if I was mentally unstable. He wanted to be a famous novelist but had heard that you had to be crazy, and wanted to know if that was true.

At another, a woman asked if I was sleeping with Stephen King. No, I said — and added that my husband was sitting directly behind her.

In New York City, during one reading a young man in the front row seemed nervous and intense, almost twitchy. He stared at me relentlessly as I spoke. This was around the time I’d received some, let’s call them, unfortunate emails from a reader in New York state, and as I spoke, I started wondering if the front row dude was the emailer. I mentally noted where the men and women from my publisher were sitting, hoping they could help tackle the guy if he approached me asking for money, or sex, or getting aggressive because I’d previously rejected his requests for money and sex. And when I finished talking, the guy did come up to me. Oh no, here we go, I thought. And he said: “I’m so glad I stopped in the store on a whim. I’ve been studying for the bar exam and have been completely stressed out, but sitting here listening to an author talk about books has been just the thing to take my mind off it.” It wasn’t the emailer at all. Just a poor, twitchy, near-crazed law student. Aww.

In Guernsey, at a book festival in February, the festival hotel turned off the heat at 7 a.m. and didn’t turn it back on till 5 p.m. Near freezing, a bunch of us caught a taxi into the center of town and ended up huddling for warmth in one of the few shops that was open: Ann Summers Lingerie.

Never a dull moment, this life.

6 responses to “The book tour dog and pony show, minus the dog and pony

  1. I swear to you Meg, if you came to my state, I promise you I would not say anything inappropriate. I save all that for the contests.

  2. Yeah, I’ve heard you have to watch out for the person who deliberately keeps to the end of the signing line. Because they want to talk to you. Alone.

  3. We would ply you with beer and Chicago hot dogs and Chicago-style pizza! And give you your own tin-foil hat!

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