When I found out my book would be published, a friend asked me when my book tour would take place. Ha! I thought. Book tour. Hilarious! Book tours are for real writers. Stephen King goes on a book tour. Zadie Smith goes on a book tour. Neil Gaiman goes on a book tour. A David Hicks book tour? Who, pray tell, would show up to that? I pictured myself at a podium in a Chicago bookstore, drolly intoning my literary drivel while my audience of two (the sympathetic staff member assigned the duty of introducing me, along with dear Wren, my former student) nodded off in front of me. Not a chance.
Plus, my book is being published by a small press (called Conundrum) and small presses most certainly cannot afford to send their authors on book tours. So it would be up to me to do all the work a book tour entails: contacting bookstore owners (who are contacted constantly by desperate newbie authors like me and who usually refuse unless we can guarantee an audience of at least fifty—no, I’m not kidding, fifty—book-buying citizens of their community), publicizing ourselves, organizing side visits to book clubs or radio interviews, and shelling out thousands of dollars for all the travel, accommodations, meals, etc.
So, no. No book tour for this guy.
But the next day, when I was grumbling about how many hours of my week are taken up by grading assignments and essays, another friend asked me what my “dream job” was (assuming it wasn’t what I am doing now, which is teaching literature to nice young people), I said, “No, this is my dream job”; but then I thought back to my youthful dream of being a writer. An author. Someone who told stories, beautiful and true, that would affect people. That would change or deepen their reader’s view of themselves and of humanity. Stories readers would find beautiful, or at least mildly entertaining. In those daydreams, I wasn’t preparing to teach a Hawthorne story or doing my best to make my class entertaining or grading essays until midnight, nor was I toiling away at my desk (or coffee shops or airports or my kitchen table), revising one of my stories for the forty-seventh time (which is the average number of times I revise a story before it’s publishable) or anything else associated with my attempts at being a fiction writer as well as a professor.
No, in my youthful daydreams, I was giving readings. At libraries and bookstores.
I love libraries and bookstores, just as you probably do. I love the smell of them, the look of them, the experience of picking that one book off the shelf, opening it tenderly and reading its opening lines. When I was a kid, with a constant craving for literature and very few books in my house, I made regular trips to the Harrison Public Library. As an adult, I make regular trips to my local bookstore, called the BookBar.
I also love readings. In fact, during the period of my life when I was most unhappy, literary readings were my preferred form of escape; and the place where the reading took place (the Strand, or the 92nd Street Y) became my sanctuary.
So I can honestly say that at various key times in my life, libraries and bookstores and literary readings have saved me. I mean, saved me.
Very well, I thought. Maybe I should go on a book tour.
This is the new normal for authors, in case you didn’t know. Even if publishers send their authors on book tours, chances are that it’s a six- or eight-city tour and that’s about it (unless your name is Zadie Smith or Michael Chabon or Brian Cranston or Bruce Springsteen or . . . you get the idea). If you’ve been to a reading at your favorite independent bookstore, chances are the author is local, or she paid for her own travel and is hoping, nay praying, that you’ll buy her book afterwards, to make back about one percent of her travel expenses. (Most authors make only a couple of bucks per book purchase, and next to nothing if you buy it on Amazon.) This is now what authors have to do. It’s no longer enough to work really hard for a long time (ten years, in my case); we are now expected to spend a tremendous amount of time on marketing, time we could be spending on writing our next book. Also, we’re writers. We don’t know squat about marketing.
But we have always loved going to readings, and having stories read to us when we were children. And we know that the best marketing is still, even in this technological age, the human-to-human, face-to-face kind.
Than longen auctours to goon on pilgrimages—for to tellen of hire bookes.
I know. I make it sound so romantic. But for most writers, the very notion of publically reading our (sometimes very personal, sometimes quite courageous in its depiction of the our own vulnerabilities and flaws) original work of art, one that we labored over for years and which may be immediately panned as “a complete waste of time” by your ADHD, give-me-vampire-wars-or-give-me-death readers, is thoroughly unappealing, especially for someone who, on the Myers-Briggs scale, is typically way more I than E.
So . . . how could I plan a book tour that would be not torturously boring but . . . fun?
What if I gave readings not by myself but with writer friends of mine who lived in different parts of the country? That would be fun.
What if I traveled not by myself but with my person I most love to spend time with—my wife Cynthia—and our dog Rosie, the Happiest Travel Companion Ever? That would be fun.
What if I scheduled visits to my friends’ book clubs? Or booked readings in cities where I could meet up with my old high-school and college buddies? Or with friends I used to know in person but keep up with on social media? Or with friends I’ve made through social media but never met in person?
Fun, fun, fun, and fun.
Thus was born the 2017 David Hicks World Tour.*
30 cities. May-July. Here’s where to find me: david-hicks.com/event Or subscribe to my never-too-irritatingly-frequent newsletter, below.
If you come to a reading, please know that I’ll be glad to see you, and of course grateful if you buy the book, but the most important function of your presence will be to make that evening’s reading more fun** for me. So thank you.
Hope to see you soon!
* That’s right, you heard me: “world tour.” Because I’m giving a reading in Ireland.
**Keep in mind that by “fun” I’m not talking about partying-all-night-end-up-dancing-at-the-hip-club-then-go-to-the-diner-at-3-a.m. kind of fun. I’m talking about geeky/literary fun. I’ll be in bed by 9:30.
Wait, why is there a picture of BookBar at the end of this post? Because that’s where my BOOK LAUNCH PARTY will be, Friday May 5, 7:00-9:00 p.m. If you live in Denver, please stop by!