Thursday, June 20, 2019

Book Tours For Beginners

If I were rich and untethered, could eat whatever I want, had low blood pressure, owned a German Shepherd, had already spent some time in England, was able to afford Hulu, wrote a bestseller that was also artistically stunning, and knew a few great friends in the area, I would live in the state of Oregon. Or San Francisco. This is the first thing I'd like to tell you.

We have returned from our book tour, my book tour--which secretly fronted for a family vacation. Yes, my kids and husband were present.

If you've read my book, And So We Die, Having First Slept (link here), you've undoubtedly thought this: "Hey, I wouldn't let MY kids hear that." I didn't let them, either. That's one good part about having your event at a bookstore or library. Places to read books. This is the second thing I would like to tell you.

I won't bore you. Rather, I'll offer some advice and some secrets. A secret: someone truly crapped their pants and rushed to a park toilet outside of Portland and had to have his or her underwear cut off with a pocket knife because the park toilet was so disgusting that taking off the pants and shoes was tougher than cutting off the underwear and spending the rest of the day without them  (I will not entertain further questions about this.) Following this event, we spent the day at the Oregon Zoo and Powell's. One of us was not wearing underwear. Is this the third thing I would like to tell you?

Enough with the numbering . . .

I should tell you other UTTERLY COMPELLING things.

I truly believed (believe) in this book. I have a highfalutin, egomaniacal sense that it's a good book. It's had a sad publishing history. I have felt the artistic doom and the professional woes of its history. So, I put everything I personally could into it. Which was limited. I feel like I really went for quality. I had a few great people on board. I seriously spent money on weird things because I (with my freakin' degrees in creative writing) tried to be a business woman. I bought Facebook ad space. I tried a Book Riot ad campaign. My guess: I sold a copy or two from this. I tried to sell my book to small publishers to re-publish it. But EVERY SINGLE ONE OF MY FRIENDS HAS ALREADY PURCHASED IT, SO, WELL, WHO ELSE IS GOING TO BUY IT? I'm just sayin' -- writers, know what's up.

As a final book-push (it is slightly final), I went on a book tour. I'm doing some big things this summer, because--again--I believed (believe) in its value. But the June tour was a big deal. My attempt to move outside of my circle of friends. We hit the coast.

Another UTTERLY compelling thing is that my husband must get some attention, like a huge amount. Even though he has been my Sugar Daddy from the get-go (Do Not Marry A Writer), he supported my financially-draining efforts. I'm not even completely sure that HE believed (believes) in this book like I do--but I know that he loves me, he knows this was important to me, and he supported me 100%.

packing books
Despite ending up in an Urgent Care the day before departure for an as-yet inexplicable pain that seems to be nerve- or back- or shoulder-related. Yes, Tim was in Urgent Care before we left.

In our family, we assume it's cancer. (He has an MRI on Friday.) But he was in EXCRUCIATING pain for our whole vacation/book tour. We had his bike in the Honda the whole time (he's a crazy mountain-biker), and he was in too much pain to do it. But, God Bless Him, he took the kids to the beach every single time he could.

That's not all. About two or three days before we left, Tim's company--which we both have strong feelings for (I'll explain in a sec), went on furlough--due to funding. We hope it's temporary. Despite the fact that we will essentially be without his income, we decided to go on the tour. We did think about canceling it. We really did. Because our middle class status just got middler--and we were heading for broke.

Tim works for a cancer research kind of place.

Like noble and good work, like the kind of work you don't have to hate yourself for doing.

Not all of us are so lucky, if you know what I mean. For that reason and others, Tim is committed to them. For my part, I have to assert this: when I was going through my breast cancer debacle, they really were there for us. Tim went to every chemo with me, missing work to be with me on Wednesdays. We got these fabulous meals from his coworkers that I'd never be able to make even if I were cancer-free. I will remember this!

Also, I'm pro-meaningful work.

But here we were (are). With this baggage and more in the Honda, we left on my book tour!

I had a great time at the Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse in La Canada, CA!

This is a bit of BOOK TOUR ADVICE: team up with someone. Megan  Austin Oberle was a pro. An actress, a writer, an artist, A PERSON WITH FRIENDS (HINT, HINT), married to one of my greatest friends ever, Megan was so good. I seriously found her line of questioning unique, complex, and relevant . . . GET OTHERS ON BOARD.

This was crazy fun. Rachel Moriello Fulginati--who seems so hip and L.A. to me--is the voice actress who narrated the audiobook for my novel, Love Slave. Her voice is like buttah. Rachel, I owe you an email or text about what we were discussing that night. 
So, yeah, this was a good one. I loved working with her. And an awesome bookstore!

Another example of TEAMING UP and a new bit of BOOK TOUR ADVICE: go to bookstores rather than coffeehouses. I wanted to believe that coffeehouses worked, but they didn't. This was Rob Davidson, who will forever have a special place in my heart due to an intertwined and accidental history, at The Bookstore in Chico. Check out both. I have stuff to disclose about Rob's newest book. I had it, and I rushed to read it before we actually TEAMED UP: I adored it. I felt so at home within his aesthetic--the candor, the Gen X angst, the references to the Cold War and Nirvana. Also, he has a surprising ability to capture the psyche of a woman, despite being a hetero-dad- guy. (That's okay to say, Rob?)

This is my favorite book tour promo photo: Rob's book and mine . . . It looks pretty good. 
The world's largest Yo-Yo is in Chico, California. 

Do you see my book? 
The only Little Library I found on the whole trip was in Eugene, OR. You were right, Heidi. NO Little Libraries to be seen. 

You must go to VooDoo. That's all. 
Another great Bookstore: TSUNAMI BOOKS IN EUGENE.
Best Oxymoron in a Used Bookstore Ever. Tsunami.
We walked through many, many enchanted forests--especially in Oregon--and Tim humored me. Over and  Over. 
So I was originally going to do this amazing integrative performance, in which I read and Jackie and Jason Cowsill performed their music--but it fell through. Jackie and I are great friends, and she's also been instrumental in
everything--from the design of the cover to the audiobook, to conducting outreach and promo. So, of course, we stopped by their home in Eugene. And I love them to pieces.
We stopped here.

This is a restaurant in Newport, Oregon.
We didn't eat here, but it has a great name. 

We did eat a few free breakfasts, though. BOOK TOUR ADVICE:
Stay in hotels with free breakfasts. Do not go too low-budget on hotels, lest you get suicidal. 

So this is Niki Price who runs the Lincoln City Cultural Center in Oregon. Niki and I went to college at U. of AZ. together! We ran in mostly different circles, but shared a number of great friends--and my memories of her aren't corrupted by the heebie-jeebies I sometimes I associate with things in my past. (Do you know what I mean?) Niki was always cool. She's still cool. I totally remember that she seemed to marry young. She's still married, reader. To him. The reading was a bit of a bust, but Niki did me a favor and seriously tried. Niki, I thank you for that.

This was at our hotel in Lincoln City. It was my favorite hotel, the Coho. Man, what a view!

This is Bob's Beach Books in Lincoln City! They bought my book to put on their shelves! BOOK TOUR ADVICE: Stop in at all the good bookstores and talk to people. That's where the readers are, and people will get you. I liked this one a lot. 

So then we went to Portland (Powell's). We had lunch at the food trucks, and this might've actually been the best meal I ate on the whole trip. A group of guys in what seemed to be a gay cafe that we were walking by told us to go to the food trucks for lunch. It was so good that I tried to return to the guys to give them a free book or two--but they were gone. (Is this all okay to say like this? I'm notoriously inappropriate.) BUT this guy, whose name I don't know, runs this food truck--and he was a Washington Post correspondent in Baghdad for six years. I gave him my book, and he honestly told me that he doesn't read much in English but he'd give my book to his son. 

The biggest book tour bust was very sad for me because I had high hopes. Seattle. There, I read to Tim and two friends in a crowded cafe, at which one guy paid attention. Total bust. BOOK TOUR ADVICE: If you're doing Seattle, fly in Megan and offer to pay Jonathan Evison to join you, or prove that you're really something special by resurrecting Kurt Cobain. This is me at the Museum of Pop Culture, which is great, but overpriced. 
In Seattle, I have super dear friends who are like family. We would go there with or without book stuff. They had this sign in their home, and it's a quote from my eldest daughter who said this when she was three and pirouetting throughout the bedroom after taking her "tubby" (bath). And it explains everything. BOOK TOUR ADVICE: you see why this is great, right?

Our friends' dog. We met a lot of good dogs. 

San Francisco Hotspot!
So we actually saw this, I think, at Left Bank Books in Seattle, but . . . 

Then, we saw it on a car in the Redwoods . . . 
So I gave them a book. 

See below
Pretty crazy. This is for those of you who read my book. Do you remember the prologue, in which Cash eats catfish at a fish n' chips dive in California? Well, THAT SCENE WAS INSPIRED BY THIS PLACE! Tim and I were here, fifteen years earlier, unmarried but on the verge of marriage. I don't know when I actually wrote it, but I know it all began here. REALLY. This is The Fisherman's Restaurant in Crescent City, CA! 
That's David Sedaris (TRUTH) with my book, but I'm not going to explain. I will say that I bet he's asked to pose with books so much--and, because of that, he covers his face so that writers like me don't abuse the photo. He can always say it's not him. BUT THIS IS HIM.

Thank you, Tim. I'll get a job now.

Last day at Pismo Beach. I'm reading this, and it's very good. BOOK TOUR ADVICE: read good books.


  1. Great, fun, educational read, Jen. Thanks!

  2. What an adventure -- sorry to host a bust, but happy to be cool. Thanks for including Lincoln City on your tour. Many smilley faces. And you got to meet David Sedaris. Many exclamation points.

  3. Thanks for sharing! David Sedaris?!

  4. Jen, what a lovely summary of your tour and some great advice if I were ever brave enough to write, let alone, promote a book!

    You and your crew are epic, and I applaud your endeavor wholeheartedly! ��