With the advent of social media, author book tours have more or less gone the way of the stegosaurus. Some authors do them, but mainly only the celebrities, Hilary or David Sedaris. And you might be surprised to know that most authors think their demise is a very good thing. A book tour sounds exotic – at least it always did to me: “An Eleven-City National Book Tour!!!” How good can it get? Well, actually, it can get a lot better…
Let me preface this by saying that right now is an absolutely awful time to be publishing a book, the worst time in recorded history (well, OK, in my recorded history). The only way to sell a book seriously is to get serious media attention. That means TV, radio, and front covers. But at this stage of human evolution, if your name is not Donald, Bernie, or Corona, it just ain’t gonna happen. The media can’t squeeze it all in, and books are at the bottom of the heap. Even if your book is about something everybody in the known universe cares about (like, what happens when we die?).
But I’m putting a good face on it and keeping my humor. And to that end, I want to tell a funny story about book tours. (At the end of this post, I will be giving my schedule for book readings for Heaven and Hell, in case you’re interested in coming to one to meet me and have me sign a book or … just get out for some fresh air….).
To make sense of the story, I should say that I’ve never yet met an author who loves or even likes doing the book tour thing (well, the first one can be exciting, though usually disappointing; the second mainly disappointing; and the third a real drag). You fly to Philadelphia and go to a Barnes and Noble and read from the book to 28 people, stay in a hotel, fly to NYC, read the book to 34 people, stay in a hotel, fly to …. Really? And, well, what’s the point exactly? Sometimes there will be big venues: say, for someone in religion, the National Cathedral; or whatever. But basically, they’re an uninteresting grind.
And so the story.
I have a friend who is a southern novelist who lives in a town that is not exactly a writer’s colony, but there happen to be a lot of writers there, and they get together socially on occasion. One time they had a good laugh about their very worst book tour stories. The one that I thought was best involved a poet from the south
He has published a book of poems and is on a book tour, to bookstores and universities. He and his agent, traveling with him, come to a university not far from here for a reading. It is booked in a small auditorium, but when they arrive at the time for the reading, there are only two students there. The fellow is taken aback, and doesn’t see what the point is. But his agent says, Look we agreed we’d do this. You better just go ahead with it.
So he goes up on the stage and introduces his book and starts reading some of the poems.
After about ten minutes, one of the two students stands up and says, “Hey, could you keep it down? We’re trying to study in here!”
HA!!! OK, so I never had it that bad. But there’s really no point in these things any more, and so the vast majority of us just don’t do them.
For Heaven and Hell, due out March 31, my “live performances” are mainly in NC, with just a couple of (separate) events scheduled for Washington DC. Here’s the schedule, in case you are interested and in the right area (
- Washington D.C. March 14; all day. Smithsonian Associates. A four-lecture seminar on Heaven and Hell. This one is sold out, but they have a waiting list, and people do drop out. So give it a shot. https://smithsonianassociates.org/ticketing/tickets/heaven-and-hell-history-of-afterlife
All these other events are free and open to the public. Just show up.
- Washington D.C., April 1. 7:00 pm. Politics and Prose (bookstore). Live interview with Sally Quinn with the Washington Post, Q&A, book signing. Contact (202) 364-1919;https://www.politics-prose.com/event/book/bart-d-ehrman-heaven-and-hell-history-of-afterlife-in-conversation-sally-quinn
- Chapel Hill, NC. April 2. 7:00 pm. Flyleaf Books. Book reading and signing. (919) 942-7373https://www.flyleafbooks.com/heaven-and-hell
- Pittsboro, NC (Fearrington Village), April 4. 11:00 am. MacIntyre Books. Book reading and signing. (919) 542-3030https://fearrington.com/event/bart-ehrman-heaven-and-hell/
- Durham, NC. April 5. 2:00 pm. Regulator Bookshop. Book reading and signing. (919) 286-2700
- Raleigh NC. April 6. 7:00 pm. Quail Ridge Books. Book reading and signing. (919) 828-1588https://www.quailridgebooks.com/event/ehrman20
- Asheville, NC. April 8. 7:00 pm. Malaprops Bookstore. Book reading and signing. (828) 254-6734https://www.malaprops.com/event/bart-ehrman-presents-heaven-and-hell-history-afterlife
This last one requires tickets ($30) but it involves admission, lunch, and a $10 coupon toward purchase of the book.
- Waynesville, NC. April 9, 12:00 pm. Hart Theatre (at the Bistro), sponsored by Blue Ridge Books. Lunch, book reading, and signing. (828) 456-6000https://www.blueridgebooksnc.com/