Here’s a dirty little secret: as much as we love books, and as much as we’re fascinated by the people that wrote them, sometimes author readings are really boring. Especially if you’ve already read the book. Especially if the author isn’t a good reader. Especially if you can’t really see and they won’t take questions and you have to stand the whole time. Well, it seems that we’re not alone in our shameful feelings, because in recent years, authors have been embarking on more creative book tours in an attempt to spice up their events and get their ideas out there. Inspired by Emma Straub’s recent book tour news, which we can’t wait for and you can read about below, we thought we’d catalog a few of our favorites. Click through to see some tales of great book tours, and let us know about your own favorites in the comments.
Emma Straub Visits 12 Locations from 12 Stories in 12 Months
If you love Emma Straub’s new collection Other People We Married (and you should, because it is wonderful), you had better hope you live in one of the cities she writes about – or maybe if you’re lucky, in an Enchanted Forest roadside attraction on the way to New York City (in which case, email us, we want to be friends). Straub writes, “There are twelve stories in Other People We Married, and each story takes place in a different location. Every month for the next year, I will read a story in its location, or as close as I can get. This blog will follow my travels, my snacks, my impulse-buys, and more. For bonus points, send me a photo of OPWM in an exotic locale, and I will post it here, and send you a postcard in return.” Documenting by blog is nothing new, but we can’t wait to hear about the super-meta task of trying to pin each story to its physical space in the world, and how the people that occupy that space react.
James Kaelan’s Zero Emissions Tour
Last summer, James Kaelan undertook a West Coast tour of his plantable book entirely by bike, hitting 22 towns and travelling 1900 miles in 40 days, travelling with a filmmaker to document the journey. He slept in tents and eschewed technology, though he did read in book stores where there was, you know, electricity and stuff. When we talked to Kaelan before his tour last summer, he told us, “[we’re] staying at friends’ houses up the coast but we’re also staying at all these organic farms. When I started contacting farms about us sleeping on their facilities and having them give us a little bit of food, they were so cool. Everybody I asked said yes. We’re getting support from them all the way up the coast and we’re going to be meeting with all these local growers and eating their food, and I expect it’s going to be sort of a purifying experience. My hope is that when I’m done I’m kind of sad that the tour’s over, rather than wanting to get back on Facebook or something.” We hope so, too. Check his blog out here to follow the tour from the beginning.
Vickie Stringer’s Underground Trunk-dealing
This one is a bit of an outlier, a ‘book tour’ that was unusual by necessity, by an author whose creativity changed everything. In 2001, Vickie Stringer self-published a novel, Let That Be the Reason , which she’d written while in jail for drug trafficking. “I was rejected by 26 publishers,” she writes, “so I decided to self-publish. I begged family and friends to lend me $100 apiece and raised enough to print 2,500 copies. I went out and started hustling product again, one book at a time. I was tenacious. I would get up at dawn and start going door-to-door like it was my real job. If you were this guy over here smoking a cigarette, I would walk right up and say, ‘I wrote a book; would you like to buy it for 10 bucks? My kid needs a haircut.'” She sold the novel out of her car at her “former drug-dealing haunts,” talking it up to everyone she met, and did so well that UpStream publications offered her $50,000 to publish the book. Now she’s the CEO of Triple Crown Publications. Talk about a successful book tour.
Margaret Atwood’s Theatrical Eco-tour
Literary giant Margaret Atwood’s tour to support her 2009 novel The Year of the Flood involved local amateur thespians, bird conservation groups, and a filmmaker. She called on local talent in the cities she visited to act out scenes from the novel, Atwood narrating, a choir singing – and she also took the opportunity to discuss eco-consciousness and bird habitats with her listeners, even extolling the virtues of shade-grown coffee. Plus, the admission fees and fundraising from every stop on the trip went to a different green charity.
Chris Guillebeau’s “Unconventional Book Tour”
Yes, that’s actually what he called it. Which makes sense, since he was promoting a book entitled The Art of Non-Conformity. From September 2010 to January 2011, Chris Guillebeau visited all 50 states, all 10 provinces and a few other places, clocking in at 63 cities total. He pledged not to talk about his book for more that 15 minutes at each stop, instead chatting with his readers about, um, “whatever [they] want.” He also pledged to commit 100% of his royalties of books sold on the tour to building wells in two Ethiopian communities. Pretty ambitious, but we like it, despite this goofy picture.