Kevin Baker’s recent article in the Village Voice about blogs, author tours, and the bleak future for writers saddens me. He talks about his own experiences of showing up at bookstores with one or two people there, or no one at all. He also talks about novelist Darin Strauss’ recent author tour, including appearances at wonderful independent bookstores like The Tattered Cover (where only a few people showed up).
What I detect in this article is a deep, underlying frustration, and a lack of recognition of both publicists and booksellers who work hard to set up events for authors. Literary authors often don’t get the turnout that someone like Stephen King or Janet Evanovich would. I wish it was more the case that midlist, talented literary fiction writers would have hundreds of people show up to all their stops on the tour, eagerly listening to every word they say and buying a copy of their book without hesitation. That just doesn’t happen.
What does happen is that a bunch of independent bookstores around the country work hard to expose their customers to these very authors. Often times it’s very successful. I’ve had a good crowd show up for writers who just don’t have that big name because they want to be exposed to a new writer they haven’t heard of, and because they trust the quality of events we host at the bookstore.
Of course there will be the times when it’s raining or snowing out and a crowd doesn’t show up; or for whatever reason the author’s book just doesn’t grab the attention of locals. More often than not, when this happens the author still gives a talk and makes a great connection with the readers who have given up watching their favorite TV show or skipped dinner after work to come hear them talk about their work. For this, any author, no matter how big of a name they are, should be grateful. Booksellers and readers work hard to foster reading and promote books. Let’s hope the author tour doesn’t disappear. It’s my job to organize author events, and I love nothing more than to host successful readings. Even when only a few people show up, though, it’s those personal connections between author and reader that make it all worth it, for both parties.