Post Tour Thoughts, etc
Posted on August 30, 2015 Posted by John Scalzi 30 Comments
Quick thoughts on touring and etc.
* First, here’s a video of me and Tad Williams doing our thing at the stop at Kepler’s, in Menlo Park. This was two days after the Hugos, and if you’re curious to hear my thoughts on that event, they start at at 28:42. But most of it is about writing and kids and not being a goth in high school, and other such things. It’s atypical of most of my tour stops, because I don’t do a reading, but it was a lot of fun, and I think you’ll enjoy it. It was recorded by Deborah Beale, Tad’s wife. The first two minutes are a little blurry but then it focuses up (visually, I mean. I and Tad are all over the place).
Also, if you get a chance to have a conversation with Tad Williams, do it. He’s a lovely guy and a great conversationalist.
* I technically have two stops left in my tour — Dayton and Columbus — but inasmuch as they’re drivable and I’ll be back at home when I’m done with them, my brain thinks of them as “one-offs” and that the tour ended on Thursday, when Krissy picked me up from the airport. I’ve spent most of the last several days sleeping (although I did record an audiobook, but that was easy and fun and I did each chapter in a single take in any event).
This was my sixth book tour and by now it’s not surprising to me how wiped out I am at the end of it. Tours are draining experiences — you travel in the morning, arrive in the early afternoon, do interviews or other work until the event, do an event which lasts three hours from the arrival to the bookstore until the last book is signed, go to your hotel, order room service, go to sleep and repeat another sixteen or seventeen times. It’s (mostly) fun and it’s great to see fans and friends on the road. But it’s a lot of work, and it’s also performance; I have to be “up” whenever I see people. So: Draining. Enjoyable and worth doing, but draining.
* I used to say I wasn’t sure how musicians do it because they’re constantly touring, but then it occurred to me that at this point in my career I’m on the road almost as much as a touring musician. This last tour was three weeks long, but I also did another three week stint last April, when I was in Australia for two weeks followed by a week in Los Angeles, doing business meetings, interviews and the LA Times Festival of Books. This October I’m doing events three weekends out of the month (The Iowa Book Festival, Nerdcon:Stories, and a workshop event in Tacoma). So, at this point, I think I get it just a little bit.
The one difference between tour as a writer and touring as a musician, I suspect, is that musicians always understood touring and appearances are part of the gig. For writers, I don’t know if it’s always in their worldview. And true enough, not every writer does as much of this stuff as I do (and not every writer should; super-introverts, for example, are not the people to put on tour). But at this point I make sure that when I speak to writers coming up, I let them know that touring and appearances are part of the gig, and that the should be prepared for it — or if the idea fills them with horror, that they should find a publicity/marketing angle that works for them and do that instead.
* One of the things I do like about touring is that it gives me a chance to “workshop” new material — in the case of this last tour, I read from “The Dispatcher,” which is the upcoming novella I wrote for Audible. Reading the first chapter was useful for a few reasons. One, it got people excited for upcoming work, which is never a bad thing. Two, I got to sense from an audience what was working about it and what wasn’t, which is important because this is meant to be an audiobook, and the listening experience is key.
Third, in the particular chapter I read, I made a few errors of fact and people in the audience would come up to me or email and say “Uh, the reading was great, but there’s this one thing…” And then I would fix it before the next stop. So, yes! Reading new stuff is useful.
* Whilst on tour I spent two days at Sasquan, this year’s Worldcon, and aside from the fires in Washington turning the sky a pale hickory-smoked gray, it was a very nice time. My panels went very well, my reading was very nicely attended, and I got to see a bunch of friends and members of my tribe who I don’t always get to see anywhere else but the Worldcon.
I also went to the Hugo ceremony, which I thought was generally very well done considering the potential for a lot of drama. And, well. There was a lot of drama, but it didn’t come from the ceremony itself. The ceremony was upbeat and inclusive, thanks to the work done by David Gerrold and Tananarive Due as the cohosts. I’ll note that David told me I’d be the punchline to a number of jokes at the ceremony, and I told him I would be delighted to be so. It’s always fun to get namechecked at the Hugos.
Finally, I had the good fortune to attend George RR Martin’s post-Hugo party, which was doubtless one of the best parties I have been to in my life. George gave away “Alfie” awards to certain people he thought deserved them in the wake of the Puppy nonsense, including to Annie Bellet and Marko Kloos, who had removed themselves from the ballot this year for their own reasons. It was a big-hearted gesture on the part of George, who continues to show himself to be a person of class and kindness. I genuinely admire him.
* So what will I do now? Well, first I will do the final two events of the tour (Dayton on Tuesday and Columbus on Thursday), make some edits to “The Dispatcher” and do some work on the new novel — the first on the new contract — which will be a big ol’ space opera-y thing that I think you’ll enjoy. But mostly, continue to catch up on sleep. Yes, sleep. Sweet, sweet sleep.
Tours must be exhausting. I can’t find it on-line, but I remember reading that Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, started chartering planes for the team because he went on a long road trip with them at one point and found that then end he was exhausted from all the getting on the plane getting off the plane, packing, unpacking, etc. Mind you this is without all the playing in NBA games/book readings in between. Maybe you could take this issue up with your publisher.
So get some rest and hire the neighbour kid to mow the lawn.
In fact we hired Athena’s boyfriend to mow the lawn, just yesterday!
Do you prepare for what you will talk about before the tour? Never been to a book signing but from what I see on youtube, its usually Q&A for about 30 minutes, then maybe reading, then long line to sign books right?
Yes, you play the ukulele badly, but you play the ukulele badly so well!
Enzo is mowing your lawn? Is he any good at it?
Here’s a rather mundane question but do you have trouble with heartburn when you’re on the road that long? Something about non-homecooked food turns on the acid fountain in my stomach. The few times my band toured by about the fifth day I was miserable. There was nothing I could order that would ease the symptoms. (If I had to do it today I’d have plenty of prilosec on hand.)
As a semi-high functioning introvert (I can act like an extrovert quite convincingly for limited periods of time), the prospect of having to be UP and ON and CHEERFUL and INTERACTIVE and all those other things for three solid weeks exhausts me just to think about it. I truly do not know how you and your fellow writers do it without losing your sanity.
I wish you much peace and quiet, loads of time with the people you love, ample amounts of fur therapy, and most of all, the sense of calm, fulfillment and reassurance that only comes from being in your own space. Thanks for what you do.
This was my third time attending your book signing at the Beaverton Powells. As a fan I greatly appreciate the effort you put in to your appearances. In fact each of the signings I have attended have coincided with difficult times in my own life, so the positive energy from you and the crowds at the first two were a powerful elixir.
This last time though, instead of being in the middle of the store, you were all the way in the back. I arrived 20min early and it was already full to capacity so I, and good three dozen or more others, found ourselves huddled by the gap struggling to see and hear you. Indeed, every question at the information desk opposite us completely drowned out everything you were saying, and a couple times the only thing that carried through was the laughter of the crowd who had secured seats.
I don’t know how many people were in the seating section, more than enough I’m sure, but at least 2-3 dozen came to the fringes of the room and then left when the crowd situation became clear. In all honesty if I had had a car there, instead of waiting for a ride, I would have left too. It was a bit like trying to watch a scratched DVD where you never know what parts you’re going to miss, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
I have been mulling it over ever since and trying to figure out if my criticism of Powells and their choice of location in their store is fair, or if it is just colored by my own disappointment in light of their previous efforts. I understand you have no control over Powells’ setup, or any other bookstore for that matter, so I know they are the proper place to address this, I just decided after seeing your tour debrief note that I should at least let you know.
I greatly appreciate the energy and efforts you put into on tour and however my communications with Powells turn out, I will come out to see you anytime you’re in town.
All the best,
Scalzi, I’ve gone part of the way on tour with Tammy a couple times – it gave me a lot of sympathy for why she wasn’t good for anything for at least a week afterwards!
Glad the Hugos went so well – sounds like everybody managed to, basically, piss on the Puppies’ heads as a gesture of how irrelevant they are to, well, anything. (All, poor Widdle Swalling Babies! They can’t even have their way in SF and Games anymore, all because of those mean Girls and Gays doing it better than they do!)
Next year, Tammy will be one of the GoHs at WorldCon – so we’ll finally get to attend our first since Noreascon Four in Boston, over a decade ago! :)
PS: Now that you’re rich – you can afford to have your daughter’s boyfriend mow the lawn! :D
Will there be a print version of The Dispatcher? I’m not much for audiobooks, but I want to read it.
John, I am visiting in your neck of the woods, and am pleased to report to you that you have a BIG fan at the Dayton Daily News. Her article about you can be condensed to “Squee!”
There will be an edition via Subterranean Press, yes.
Might there be an e-book version at some point too? I’m severely deaf so don’t do audio books at all, and the Sub Press books, though gorgeous, are rather expensive.
SubPress will probably do an eBook version as well, yes.
This was delightful – I lived in Palo Alto in the late 70s early 80s and Keplers was then a funky bookstore – shelves were not pre-fab but a random mix of randomly built shelves. Lots of paperbacks and they had that nostalgic smell of old bookstores. Before Borders was a gleam in someone’s eye they had random comfy chairs and you could just read.
Sometime in the late 80s or early 90s it (as with all that part of the bay area) went upscale as that part of Menlo Park did – heard they went out of business in the 2000’s but didn’t know they re-formed as a community funded bookstore.
I’m curious about what you & the Whatever commentariat might suggest for super-introvert authors, what “publicity/marketing angle” might be a replacement for touring.
Without suggesting she’s super-introverted, I will note that Kameron Hurley extensively “blog tours,” i.e., has guest posts on numerous blogs, which seems to work very well for her. That would be something that I think the super-introverted could do.
I was noticing your blog posts about your tour, and thought to myself, I really need to get that book and read it, note to self.
But I had not been paying close attention and had forgotten that the new book was not “The Human Division” but “The End of All Things.”
I had read all the other books in the “Old Man’s War” universe, and thought I was up to speed. So earlier this week I bought “The Human Division” and read it, and thoroughly enjoyed it, but started literaly wailing out loud at the cliffhanger ending. Oh, no, I thought to myself! That can’t be the end. So I had to rush back to the Kindle store and slap myself on the forehead when I saw that there was indeed one more book to read. So I read it too.
So that’s part of what I did with my break last week.
Really enjoyed both books; thank you so much, and I even almost sort of forgive you for killing off my second-favorite character!!!
Thank you for all the yummy words! My favorite book of yours so far is “Lock In” and I was delighted to learn there will be a sequel.
Have fun decompressing from your tour. All the best.
(Also there is now another “Dana” who posts here. I may have to change my name! Yikes!)
Hold up. You’re coming for the Iowa City Book Festival? I may actually have to brave a trip to the ol’ Socialist Republic (Hawkeye Country isn’t friendly to us Cyclones that time of year).
I thoroughly enjoyed the “writing about controversy” panel at WorldCon. What are you going to be doing in Tacoma, and is it open to the public?
Blog tours are a thing I do as well–seems to be more common in romance than those that involve getting on a plane and everything. Which is good, because otherwise I’m putting tranquilizers on an expense account and that sort of thing raises eyebrows. ;)
As someone who likes your style but doesn’t really read much without what my RPG crowd called “mystic noonah”, I am seriously looking forward to Dispatch as ebook.
Picturing Scalzi as an introvert… The Mind Boggles!! And that set with the DoubleClicks would never have happened, thus depriving the audience of a precious memory. Did you exhibit your ukelele prowess at any other stops on the tour?
~The guy in the redshirt.
My favorite song about touring is W.W.J.B.D by Jared Mees & the Grown Children.
“Because this is what you wanted though it isn’t what you planned / You’re not dying your soul just can’t keep up with the van”
A REALLY super-introverted author could just use ESP…
It was a great pleasure meeting you – for the second time – at Quail Ridge in Raleigh. I tore through The End of All Things and I’m looking forward to whatever’s next in the OMW universe. Thanks for touring and taking the time to answer our questions.
I’m glad you were able to make it to Eastern Washington. It’s a different state over here from the Seattle area which most people think all of Washington is like. Naturally we had the worst fire year in my memory, so rest assured if you somehow manage to make it back out here, it probably won’t be quite as smokey.
I’m glad I was able to catch up with you at Sasquan even though I missed you in Portland. Honestly, when I approached my friend Annie Bellet to ask her a question, I had no idea that was you standing with her. And even when I was flummoxed by the surprise introduction and my question for Annie flew right out of my head (I still can’t remember what it was, only that it was related to gaming), you were gracious and kind and greeted me as a friend. That was true class. Thank you for that.
> I made a few errors of fact and people in the audience would come up to me or email and say “Uh, the reading was great, but there’s this one thing…” And then I would fix it before the next stop.
If it isn’t too embarrassing or inviting litigation, I’d be interested in hearing more. Not sure why; it just piqued my interest and you seem to be responding to this post more actively than others.
Thanks for posting the Kepler’s video. I was actually at the event, but I arrived very very late, so now I can see what I missed.