aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

If it's Tuesday, this must be Phoenix

Now I write young adult books, which means trying to visit schools, but in my previous life as a writer of books for adults (adult books? That sounds wrong) I have occasionally been “toured” by my publisher.

Most publishing houses will assign you an in-house publicist, herein after known as Buffy the Teenager Publicist. Buffy is 21, has just graduated from a very expensive private college, and makes so little money that she shares a house with five other girls in Yonkers and takes the train into Manhattan. She also works 60 hours a week, supposedly at an hourly rate, but is “encouraged” to write 40 hours on her time sheet.

Buffy may have only a hazy grasp of terrain west of the Mississippi, so if a bookstore two hours from the Seattle airport describes itself as being “in Seattle,” she doesn’t know not to book you on a flight that leaves one hour after your signing.

Your publicist will hire an escort in each city you visit. These are usually woman who have another job with flexible hours. I have been escorted by real estate agents, stewardesses, and a great guy who made sure companies got to the top of the heap generated by a search engine.

My first experience touring set the gold standard. Gary McAvoy met me at the airport holding up a copy of my book (Circles of Confusion). He had read it and complimented me on something specific in it. Once we got in his car, he asked if I wanted “heat in my seat.” At the time I was driving an econobox that lacked intermittent wipers and a sideview mirror on the passenger side. Instead of a clock, it only had a recessed space on the dash (helpfully labeled “quartz”). I had no idea what “heat in my seat” meant. All I knew was that I wanted it. Badly.

At Gary’s urging, I also decided that I wanted an imported chocolate bar from the basket he kept on the back seat, and a bottle of sparkling water, and a very nice felt pen to sign books with. Later, I decided I wanted Gary to buy me lunch.

At each stop, Gary would pull up to some place close to the entrance (usually at a yellow-painted curb) , and then insist I was not to open the door. He would scurry around, open the door, and lend me his hand so I could alight. Together we would walk into each store. Like some kind of courtier, Gary would walk several feet ahead of me, while I followed in his wake. At the counter, he would inform the clerk, “This is April Henry. The Author.” You could hear the caps in his voice. The clerks would stare at me with something approaching respect, even though they had never heard of me. For these “drive-by signings” he would have arranged for all my books (sometimes only one or two, sometimes a dozen) to be waiting behind the counter for my signature. Then we would repeat the process at the next Borders or Barnes & Noble.

When we finally arrived at Third Place Books in a Seattle suburb for an actual speaking event, I was exhausted. Gary hugged Judith Chandler, who handles author events. Like a child who is learning through imitation, I too took Judith in my arms and pressed her to my bosom. I think I also may have called her Judy. I had never met her before. And she doesn’t answer to Judy.

Luckily, she forgave me.

You would think touring would be glamorous.

Eating a fast food lunch while wearing a garbage bag tied around your neck in a makeshift bib is not glamorous. Being alone in your hotel room is not glamorous. Arriving at the Best Western in Boise, is not glamorous, especially when you overhear the following conversation:

Cleaning lady: You’ll never guess who is in Room 211!
Desk clerk: Who?
CL: The Voodoo Guy!
DC: The Voodoo Guy? I thought we banned him!
(Then they saw me watching them and dropped their voices, although I did make out the words “blood” and “carpet.” Later I was relieved to find that there were six rooms between me and the Voodoo Guy.)

is not glamorous.

The best thing about having an escort drive you around is that they will tell you good gossip. How much a certain thriller author just paid for their new house in Montana. Who has been dropped by their publisher. But the choicest gossip is the kind they swear they shouldn’t say, and do anyway. Like the author who brings suitcases full of dirty clothes and sends it all out to be cleaned by the hotel cleaner, for something like $20 a pop. The author who traveled with her new baby and the baby’s nanny, because she “couldn’t bear to be away from the baby,” but who also traveled without a car seat and shrugged when the escorts freaked out about the whole illegality and insanity of the idea that the nanny could just “hold the baby on her lap.” (I heard this story in Seattle and San Francisco.) The time Deborah Norville said something mean, or Faye Duniway insisted that the escort sit with the limo driver because “I don’t want to have to look at your face anymore.”

If you are ever lucky enough to tour, make sure to make friends with the escort.

Here's a description of my second book tour: http://www.aprilhenrymysteries.com/AHMWLBookTour.htm

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