When an author publishes a book, the question that friends invariably ask is, “Are you going to have a book tour?”
It always sounds terribly exciting. But my experience is that most authors find these tours to be very draining–even those whose celebrity ensures that they will attract big crowds. It can be very depressing to show up for a book signing at a bookstore…and hope that someone will actually show up and want to buy a copy.
I just returned from a week-long trip to Michigan, with a new recipe for improving the experience. Thanks to some early networking with some key women in that state, I was privileged to make four appearances: at the annual Women’s Equality Day luncheon of MichiganERA, at a Women’s Equality Day event, sponsored by the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, and another Women’s Equality Day gathering at the Michigan Women’s History Museum and Hall of Fame in Lansing. With the help of the marketing department at University of Michigan Press, I got some good coverage in newspapers, websites, and radio and television stations across the state. Better yet, my sister tagged along with me, and we turned into a fun road trip, visiting a number of places that we had lived or visited when we were children. If we happened by a bookstore that had my book on its shelves, I’d stop to sign their copies.
We ended our trip at the Eaton County Courthouse Museum in Charlotte, Michigan. There it was very special to be able to meet two of the children of one of Elly Peterson’s best friends, Gert Powers, who had served as manager of her campaign for vice chair of the Michigan Republican Party in 1961 and when she ran for U.S. Senate in 1964. Likewise, at the other stops along the way, persons turned out who had known Peterson personally, or whose mothers had worked in her campaigns. I was further touched that several old friends surprised me by driving an hour or more to be in the audience.
Authors, of course, are rarely satisfied by the attention their books attract. There is always one more review, one more appearance, one more media mention that one could get. The trip was long, and tiring, and not helped by the fact that I came down with a cold on Day 2. But, by the standards of the typical author tour, it was very satisfying indeed.