Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Book Tour That Never Takes Off

The Book Tour That Never Takes Off

by Saralee Rosenberg

“Are you the actual author?” A teenage girl asked me, her eyes open wide.

“Yes I am.” I smiled, all ready to autograph one of my novels.

“That is so cool.”

“It sure is.” Awwww. We’re bonding!

“Do you know Tori Spelling?”

“Tori Spelling? No. Should I?”

“Well yeah. She’s an author too... sure wish I could meet her.”

“Oh me too.”

And so it goes in the book tour trenches. Authors can spend years writing a book, get wonderful reviews, have book clubs all over the country discussing their work, but we learn fast. If we’re not a mother of eight named Kate, an heiress named Paris, a bitchie named Ritchie or a TV mogul’s daughter who thinks it’s adorable to insert her name into every book title (sTori Telling), we are just another writer.

And yet I feel lucky. This year marks my twentieth anniversary as an author and what a ride it’s been. Four non-fiction books. Four novels. And now I am at work on my first novel for tween girls, which has been a blast to write.

The publicity side has been good to me too. I’ve done hundreds of radio interviews, TV appearances, book store signings and book group discussions and was lucky enough to reach the holy grail on the author train- a stop at the Oprah Show. Still gives me goosebumps! Oprah was a doll and as a bonus offer, Stedman was there too (he smelled so good!) Unfortunately my favorite blue suit is long gone, but then so is my size eight waist.

Now all these years later, I’m still getting great opportunities to meet and greet readers. Currently I am participating in a new kind of publicity tour- one that never leaves the ground. It takes place at major airports and it’s being tested by the Paradies Shops. They wanted to see what happened to book sales when writers and readers got up close and personal in a busy terminal.

Try it they said. It’ll be amazing. Thousands of travelers will pass by your table. Think of how many will want a great read for the plane. You’ll chat, you’ll sign books. Win win!

So two weeks ago I showed up at 7AM at the Jet Blue Terminal at JFK International, not just on any day, but on the day that Hurricane Earl was threatening to strand passengers. Ca ching ca ching, I thought. Until I sat behind a table and waited for the throngs of new readers to greet me. And they did.

“Miss, where is the ladies room?”

“Hey. Where did you get the Dunkin’ Donuts coffee? I can only find Starbucks.”

“Have you heard the weather? We’re on our honeymoon and we’ll be so upset if New York gets hit bad… and by the way, are there still a lot of muggings?”

In between I passed out Tootsie rolls, held a crying baby and selected a soft neck pillow for an elderly woman who couldn’t reach. I sold a few books as well, but you wouldn’t believe how many people were pissed when I said, "Sorry, they’re not free. Have a tootsie roll."

Would I do it again? Absolutely. The management and staff were great, I signed a ton of books they were excited to display in the shops, and it was a rush to have signs posted everywhere promoting my book.

In fact, tomorrow I’ll be appearing at Long Island’s MacArthur airport for round two of the book tour that never takes off. This time I’m thinking of reading from my latest novel, DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD (Avon Books) to see if that attracts a crowd. There is a funny airport scene that would get a lot of laughs. On second thought, it does involve a possible crash landing. Scratch that. Maybe I should just marry a guy named Dean and change my name to Tori and say things like come fly with me!

All I know is this. Every time I hear from someone who discovered my novels and takes the time to tell me that I made them laugh or cry or think, I know that I am exactly in the right place. Book writing is a great gig and my hope is to keep connecting with readers for years to come, even if it’s just to point them in the direction of the ladies room... and suggest something fun to read!

GIVE ME A SHOUT OUT. Authors, tell me your craziest book tour stories. Readers, tell me who were your favorite authors to meet in person? Why was it such a great experience?


  1. I love book signings and talking to authors so I don't have a really awesome or funny story.... I enjoyed reading yours though and as I have read about author author book signing stories (books not showing up to be signed, book stores not advertising that the author will be there, or even forgetting the author was coming....

    I love the fact that is seems every time I have read something like this, the author says I would do it again.

    Someday I hope to meet you Saralee!

  2. What a great blog post, Saralee! But then, I expect nothing less from the smartest, funniest author I know. :)

    I guess my weirdest moment at a book signing was when a woman asked me if I "do children's parties."

    Moi? Children's parties? Do I look like I make balloon animals? I'm a serious author!

    Maybe next time I should leave the clown nose at home ...

  3. Ha. So true. Next time I'll post a sign pointing to the restrooms so I don't have to answer. Never let them set you in front of the customer service desk. That was a nightmare. Candy lures them over, but doesn't guarantee a sale. Plus is I get to eat the leftovers.
    A cool moment was when an African American teen male approached me, shook my hand and said he'd never met an author before. Made my day. He can officially check that off his bucket list. ;)

  4. Once I spoke at Cocoa Florida library and the crowd was sparse and composed primarily of elderly retirees. The librarian apologized for the small turnout. A retiree who was listening in said, “You should have been here last week. There was an author who had a long line out the door.”

    “Who was the author?” I asked wearily.

    “I don’t remember,” said the retiree. “I just remember the name of his book. It was called Overcoming Incontinence.”

    So I was upstaged by incontinence. Quite humbling.

  5. Karin, Imagine the crowds if the book title included the words incontinence AND early bird special. We're talking best seller!

    And Ellen, I never heard that story about doing childrens birthday parties. I spit out my coffee laughing. Maybe you could learn to juggle books!

  6. Saralee, great post! That is so HILARIOUS that people thought the books were free. I love it when I tell people I'm a writer and they say, "Oh, can I have a book?" (Um, yes, you can. Just go to and click on 'buy.')

    I was at Barnes and Noble one time signing books and putting bookmarks into them. A customer came up to me and said, "Are you the author?" I proudly said, "Yes! Would you like me to sign a book for you?" And she said, "Are the bookmarks free?"

    I said yes and smiled as I gave her one, even though I was really defeated that she hadn't bought a book. Before leaving, she then said, "Could you sign the bookmark for me?"

  7. Ha! Loved your post.

    The craziest signing I had was at an independent book store where a group of women paraded in the door wearing old prom dresses and tiaras in honor of one of my characters. I laughed myself sick. It was great fun.

  8. Ah, I love hearing crazy signing stories! So thanks for yours, Saralee! I think my least fun signing was when I had to fly down to my old stomping grounds in Dallas for a weekend of gigs, and I hadn't gotten over the stomach flu. So I took a gallon-sized Ziploc bag on the flight just in case (thank gawd, I didn't need it). My first stop was Maxwell Books, which had gathered quite a crowd of store regulars. Driven by adrenaline, I stood and yakked for awhile...started feeling very shaky...and sweat began to bead on my upper lip. "Um, excuse me a moment, would you?" I murmured and dashed off to the loo, where I promptly puked. After I'd rinsed my mouth and splashed my face, I went back out to sign books. I'm surprised anyone wanted to come within 10 feet of me, but I don't think I've ever been hugged so much in my life.

  9. I love this concept. If I saw an another author at an airport signing books I'd FOR SURE buy the book and chat with the author. I was traveling a lot when my first book came out. I brought along extra copies and snuck them into airport bookstore windows. It's the opposite of shoplifting but gave me an equal thrill. I wonder if anyone ever brought it up to the counter to purchase, and what the person at the cash register said. "Hmmm, that's not in our computer?!?"

  10. I'm a book tour virgin (release date March, 2011) and you all are scaring me to death! But I loved every word!

  11. Book signings are such a hoot. My weirdest moment was when I was asked what authors I like to read and one of the writers I mentioned was John Irving. Someone else asked if I'd read his latest. I hadn't and said so. She then began badgering me about why I hadn't and when was I going to. She wouldn't drop it no matter what I said. Finally, the store manager came over and gave my Irving's book.

  12. Loved the post, Saralee! I'm fairly new to this business, but I know I'll always remember the book signing I did at the B&N in my hometown of Melbourne, Fl.

    My mother invited all her friends and they swarmed the lobby of the Barnes and Noble, probably about 60 Cuban American ladies in their sixties and seventies. Not only did I sell out of books, no one left till hours later. They stayed in the front of the store basically having a party. The B&N liasion said it the "funnest book signing" she'd ever been involved with. I call it "My big fat Cuban book signing."

  13. Terrific post, Saralee! (And, Maria G., I want to come to one of these Cuban signings sometime. :)

    My book signings have been tame so far compared to some stories I've heard although, before I was published, I went to one of Janet Evanovich's signings near Chicago and it was a PARTY! There were hundreds of people there. We were given numbers and organized into sections. She had helpers passing out slices of various kinds of cheesecake. She'd hired a local band to play live (in the middle of the B&N!) and they were good. It was such a celebratory atmosphere, we almost didn't realize how many hours we had to wait...

  14. That's what I'm waiting for! To one day have the budget to hire a band and hand out cheesecake! I mean with the name Saralee, shouldn't that be MY claim to fame?

  15. People are funny. I had a woman ask me if my story was autobiographical. I said no, that while my character and I had some things in common, her story was not my story. Then the woman ARGUED with me that I was wrong! Yes, she knew more about my life than I did!

  16. Gotta love that they're thinking outside the box for sales. I'll be interested to hear follow ups.