17 June 2009


Here's what I'm going to do on my summer vacation:

DRIVE. More than 8,500 miles.


You might be asking yourself, "Is he out of his mind?"

The answer to that is a resounding YES, but I have my reasons.

I like driving. I don't much care for sitting in traffic, but driving on the open highways; music, a book on tape or even foaming-at-the-mouth moronic right-wing talk-radio blasting at me from the speakers, and sometimes just my own thoughts, well, that's something else entirely. I like looking into the cars I pass or the ones that pass me. I like finding local, non-chain places to eat. (I've been known to drive an extra hundred miles when I was already hungry, just to avoid eating at Burger King or its ilk.) I love roadside attractions. Prairie Dog Town in Oakley, Kansas is one of my favorite places. There is little better than veering off Mississippi Highway 1 and onto the dirt roadway on top of the levees, looking out over the cotton fields to the east and the river to the west.

It's my job. Sure, when I'm writing my books I'm sitting at my desk and I'm Dostoevsky, or Mark Twain or Chester Himes or Arthur Miller. But once a book is sold and in stores, I am magically transformed into Willy Loman, the trunk of my car optimistically stocked with extra books and hitting the road.

The point, though, isn't the books I sell on the road. (On this upcoming tour I've got 21 scheduled signings. If I sell 100 books at every single signing - which I won't, not even close, that's still only slightly more than a quarter of a book per mile.)

The point is relationships, friendships really, getting to know people and letting them get to know me and my books so that they'll sell my books long after I'm gone, and they'll help promote my books to other readers, buyers, reviewers, bloggers, media, etc.

Is a big road trip book tour cost effective?

Hell, no.

Are there better, more efficient ways to spend my time and money promoting my books?

Of course there are. (And I do those, too.)

Is it worth it?

YES! For me. It's part of what I love about being a published author. I learn a lot from my book tours. I gain a much better perspective on readers, on booksellers, on my country even, than I ever could by sticking close to home and doing only the more efficient and effective things to promote my books.

And it also clears a lot of the cobwebs out of my head that tend to accumulate when I spend so much of my year by myself, at my desk, staring into a computer screen. And that's something that helps my writing.

Most importantly, I do it because it's fun.

The book launch party for SHANGHAIED is this coming Saturday, here in L.A. I hit the road to San Mateo, CA next Tuesday, come home for a little less than a week, then hit the road for the big drive on Tuesday June 30. You can see the whole schedule here.

I promise to keep this blog up with a great deal more frequency while I'm on the road. Why don't you drop by and see me when I'm in, or near, your town.


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I would LOVE a book tour like this, but alas my day job would frown upon it. Wish I could go with you. Meanwhile, I'll see you for your launch on Saturday and the Quakes on Friday.

Dianne Emley said...

It is fun to get out on the road and to meet booksellers and fans. I did a West Coast and Hawaii tour in Feb and March. Before I started, I looked at my schedule and thought, OMG. But once I was on the road, I felt energized through the whole thing. After it was over, I collapsed and had a hell of a time picking up my WIP.

Marie Pinschmidt said...

I love your spirit. I'm a painter as well as a writer and a secret dream has been to fill a van with art supplies and take off across country and live on the proceeds of my sales, painting as I go. The open road gives a sense of freedom like no other. Thanks.

Eric said...


It certainly does. I think I inherited this love from my mom. She was a painter and on several occasions did exactly what you describe. In her case it was road trips through the Southwest in which she painted a lot of cows (she had a thing about cows) in red rock landscapes.