Jun. 19, 2022

The Book Tour from Hell

When you're writing The Great American Novel (or The Great American Collection of Cheese Dip Recipes for that matter), one of the things you dream about is getting out on the road once the book is in print and traveling to exciting cities for book signings. And once you're finally on the road, you realize that this is actually a nightmare.

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating. A lot of it really IS nice. If you're fortunate, you get to visit some pretty cool cities, like Nashville, Orlando, and Minneapolis. You get to meet fans and hear them talk lovingly about YOUR book. And, hopefully, you sell a few.

Sometimes, however, there are inconveniences. Which occasionally become problems. Which hopefully never reach the out-of-control-bobsled-ride-into-hell stage. For instance, one time, I traveled to Orlando for a signing, taking with me a large suitcase filled with books, into whose scant, unfilled nooks a couple of clean shirts, underwear and socks had also been crammed. It was a three day event, and I expected to sell more books than I was carrying, so I had shipped three boxes of books to the hotel at which I was staying. The hotel was aware of this, and the books were slated to arrive the day before I did. However, I learned upon check-in that the books had not arrived yet.

This was NOT a reason to panic. I had brought along a sufficient number in my suitcase, just in case the shipped books arrived a day or two late. Because I'm a worrier and I EXPECT Fate to throw a monkeywrench into the machine at some point, I try to prepare for possible disasters. Like when I was a teenager, and I would anticipate the possibility of a flat tire preventing me from showing up for a date on time, and so I would leave a half hour before any reasonable human being would have ever chosen to leave for the date, and would then have to drive around the block for half an hour when I reached my date's house. As superhero costume designer Edna Mode stated in "The Incredibles," fortune favors the prepared. And in Orlando, I was sure that fortune would favor me. The rest of the books would definitely arrive tomorrow.

The first day of book signing came off without further issues.

But the following day, the books had still not arrived, and I watched with mixed emotions as my stock dwindled. Yay, I was selling lots of books. Horrors, I might have an empty table on day three. However, I calmed myself with the knowledge that it was unlikely my book shipment would be more than three days late. When I returned to my hotel at the end of the day, the three eagerly-anticipated boxes would be there.

Only, they weren't.

This WAS a reason to panic. On the third day, I took orders for any titles I had run out of (promising free shipping). And I suppose my panic was unnecessary, for sales were still pretty brisk. However, I know they would have been better if the books had been right there in front of customers. It's easier to sell actual steak to a hungry customer than it is to sell the promise of steak.

I returned to Wisconsin without ever seeing my packages. The hotel contacted me a month later when the books finally arrived. I won't go into the tawdry details of how I handled things with the shipper or how I got the books back.

However, remembering that event makes me appreciate how nice it is to have been able to conduct my most recent book signing in the community library of the town in which I live. Easy to get all the books I needed to the venue. On time.

But the important thing to remember is that, even though things seemed desperate in Orlando, it all turned out okay. So if I could go back in time and give my teen-aged self a bit of advice, I'd tell him not to worry. I'd tell him he's young, it's the 1970s. Ten or twenty years from now, your dates won't care whether you showed up half an hour early or not.

They'll care whether you invested in Apple and made millions.