21 August 2007


I wonder what a book tour is like in Africa? Take a look at this picture. It's from the current issue of The Economist. It's a satellite view of Europe and Africa at night. The Africans are certainly doing more than their fair share of the work to combat global warming.

I don't know how many inches of glacier I've melted with all the emails I've already sent out to lay the groundwork for my upcoming book launch. I am driving for most of the upcoming tour. That's not good, but it's not as bad as if I was flying to the 20 or so cities where I have events planned. At least my office isn't air-conditioned. (Which is something I've regretted during the past week.)

The problem with book promotion these days is that you never know what's going to work. Lately I've heard that the only guaranteed book sellers these days are appearances on Oprah, The Daily Show and on the display ladders at the front of Barnes & Noble and Borders. (B&N and Borders sell 85% of the books they sell, from within the first 20 feet of the front door.) Supposedly, even The Today Show and Good Morning America can't guarantee book sales anymore.

Everyone's talking about viral marketing and every new book seems to come complete with a "book trailer." Click here to see mine. If your book trailer hits on YouTube, you'll supposedly sell a lot of books.

But, there's no way to guarantee a hit on YouTube, or anywhere else. Not long ago a publisher spent, by its own admission, $60,000 on two one minute short films to get a buzz going online about a new book. It didn't help. So far as I know the book hasn't earned back its advance, much less that extra sixty thousand bucks.

I suppose getting arrested could help, a little. Getting arrested in a compromising position with Paris Hilton might help even more. But maybe people are getting sick of Paris. I know I am.

So what can a writer do? What sells books?

I'm opting for the machine gun approach. Jam as big a clip as I can into the thing, set it on full auto, hold down the trigger and blast away in as many different directions as I possibly can. Surely I'll hit something. If I was a big name author like Stephen King or somebody, my publisher could afford the hydrogen bomb approach, laying waste to readers all across America - and the world. But they can't afford that, and neither can I.

So, here I am again, a blind man with a gun. (Oh wait, there's a Chester Himes novel called something like that - Blind Man With a Pistol.) Only this time, having been through this a couple of times in the past with previous books, I've got a bigger magazine of bullets and I might be able to conserve some by shooting in controlled bursts.

And I've got some booksellers on my side. They're good allies.

So if in the next few months you get more emails than you want from me, you see my name more than seems seemly on websites and bulletin boards (and maybe some restroom walls), and I show up in your town and pester you to come see me in person and buy multiple copies of my books and it all seems like too much shameless self-promotion... Tough! A writer's gotta do, what a writer's gotta do