Friday, September 21, 2012

Book Tour Reality: Where's the restroom?

             I’m on a book tour, helping to showcase the two new authors I mentioned in my last column. There’s nothing as exciting as having your first book published. Like giving birth, you’ve put in the labor, the baby had been delivered, and now it’s time to send out announcements and show off the newest addition to the family.
We’ve already had some great events at local bookstores and libraries, and there are more to come. We’ve brought along wine, bookmarks, and chocolate as bribes. Rodney Worth from the Prickly Pear even donated some yummy “amuse bouches” for an event.
            I’m hoping the tour continues to go smoothly. My first book tours weren’t quite as good as these latest ones. In fact, the very first time I did an event, no one came, and I ended up buying four books and losing money. But I didn’t have the heart to tell these new authors what my experience has been. It would only scare them off.
            Here are some examples of my first book event, which was held in an unnamed chain bookstore that has since gone out of business (I don’t think I had anything to do with that but you never know). After setting up a table and displaying my brand new book, this is what I encountered:
            Possible Customer Number 1: “Where’s the travel/cookbook/self-help section?” (I don’t know. I don’t work here.)
            Possible Customer Number 2: “Does your book have anything to do with Alaska/wine-making/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder?” (No, that would be the travel section, the cookbook section, or the self-help section.)
            Possible Customer Number 3: “Do you know Sue Grafton/James Patterson/Carolyn Keene? I’ve read all their books!” (No, Sue doesn’t return my calls, James has other people writing his books, and Carolyn Keene doesn’t exist.)
            Possible Customer Number 4: “Have I ever heard of you?” (Apparently not.)
            Possible Customer Number 5: “My sister’s best friend’s aunt has a copy of your book so I don’t need to buy it.” (Great.)
            Possible Customer Number 6: “How did you get published?” (I hounded an agent, editor, and publisher until they gave in.)
            Possible Customer Number 7: “Is this a mystery? Because I don’t read mysteries.” (No, it’s a literary novel featuring a heroic detective, a flawed victim, and a sensitive killer.)
            Possible Customer Number 8: “My teacher said I had to go to a book signing for extra credit. Will you sign this form to prove I was here?” (For five bucks.)
            Possible Customer Number 9: “Can I find your books on e-Bay?” (Sure. And one day you’ll find me on Craig’s List, under “Will write for food.”)
            Possible Customer Number 10: “Is this free?” (Yes, the glossy bookmarks, glasses of wine, little toys, personalized pens, cute luggage tags, embossed notepads, and gourmet chocolates are free…if you buy the book.)
            Possible Customer Number 11: “Will you read my manuscript?” (Will you read my book?)
            Possible Customer Number 12: “Do you validate parking?” (Will you validate my life’s work?)
            Luckily, those days are over. No more questions about travel books, Sue Grafton, or parking validation. However, I’m still losing money, since I can’t get out of a bookstore without buying my weight in books.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

7 Steps to Self-Discipline for Writers

    Anne Lamott said the best thing you can do to write a book is put your butt in the chair. Sounds easy, but what about all those distractions that seem to levitate us from those seats? Here are some ways to keep your butt in the chair without the use of Super Glue.
Cellphone1.    Turn off the phone. Aside from a call from your agent or editor, you really don’t need to talk to anyone during your “writing time.” That’s what “Leave a message” means. And while you're at it, turn off Facebook, Spider Solitaire, Pinterest, YouTube, and that Gangnam Style video...
Houseclean2.    Overlook the dust bunnies. As long as you haven’t been featured on that Hoarders show, your house is probably clean enough. Remove the stack of writers’ magazines from your chair, clear the cat off the computer, and get to work.
Tennis3.    Skip the tennis game. You have a choice—write or play tennis. If you play tennis, or do any other kind of distraction, what will you have to show at the end of the day? A sore rotator cuff. But writers have plenty to show, like hundreds and hundreds of words, all leading to a finished book. (And maybe a touch of carpal tunnel.)
Tv4.    Unplug the TV. I know you’re tempted to find out who’s on Jerry Springer today, thinking his bizarre guest may be grist for the mill. But how many times can you write about paternity tests? Give your characters some fresh drama—like a murder to solve.
Kids bus5.    Farm out the kids. If you’ve got young children and spend your time making cookies, playing with playdough, and combing out hair snarls, drop them off at a “play date” or get a babysitter for an hour or two each day. Surely you deserve a parenting break so you can write that children’s mystery.
Waiting6.    Spend “quality time” with your book when you can’t be in the chair. Think up character names while in line at the post office, figure out a plot point while you’re showering, and brainstorm some compelling titles while doing the downward dog.
Car woman7.    Set a quota. Promise yourself you won’t leave the chair until you’ve completed a set number of words, pages, or chapters. Then reward yourself for your productivity, with a carton of ice cream, a designer outfit, or a new car. You deserve it!

Now get to work...or something distracting you?

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