Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Author tours

If you're a publisher, what do you do if an author you've invested a lot of money in fails to come up with the goods? At the moment there seem to be three options:
  1. Drop them
  2. Invest more money (rejacket the backlist and advertise)
  3. Make them go on a tour
During the last couple of years the third option seems to have become increasingly popular. Publishers reason that before they go to the time and expense of relaunching an author whose sales are flagging, it makes sense to see whether putting a few signed copies at the front of the shop makes any difference.

I have had several phone calls recently from slightly desperate-sounding publishers who want to bring their author to my shop: 'No, it's not a proper signing session...he'll just turn up and sign a few books for you off the shop floor. Do you have enough stock?' Of course I never do, so I end up having to order at least three copies of each backlist title.

A few weeks later the author arrives. They are always very pleasant and I like to think that there is an unspoken acknowledgement that I have probably never read their books. The author is usually accompanied by a terrifying publicity woman who makes me feel as if I'm a naughty little boy, but not in a nice way.

I hate meeting authors. If I love their books I feel like some dumbstruck teenage fan and just stand grinning at them in a slightly moronic manner. If I haven't read their books I feel guilty. In fact the only authors I like meeting are the ones whose books I can't stand and sometimes I sense that they like meeting someone who is completely indifferent to their work and won't ask them why Throngard seized the Sword of P'toth in Book Seven.

When I'm nervous I make jokes that seem mildly amusing at the time, but usually go down like a lead balloon. For example, when Peter James asked me why we had such a good turnout for his signing session I said 'Oh that's because they thought it was P.D.James.' I thought it was funny, he didn't.

However when an author event goes well I feel on a high. I love standing at the door at the end of the evening and talking to the customers as they leave. I can only listen to so many people thanking me for a lovely evening before my resistance crumbles and I feel like James Stewart at the end of It's a Wonderful Life.


Debi said...

If it's any help, it's pretty hellish being the author too!

And as for scary publicity women ... oooh don't start me ...

Elizabeth Baines said...

And I thought I was paranoid!