Touring from My Keyboard

Since the release of my new novel Undiscovered Gyrl, various facebook friends have asked whether I will be visiting their hometowns during my upcoming book tour. It’s hard not to reply with a hearty LMAO, because, let’s face it, the notion of a national book tour is very 2000.

Undiscovered GyrlThese days most novelists attend a single event, and it’s usually within twenty miles of their homes, and they are relieved, if not overjoyed, to leave it at that. The reason is simple: Nobody shows up to books signings.

I once dragged my girlfriend and our six-month-old son all the way to San Francisco for an event. Of the seven people who attended, one was a fan whom I had met on line, two were friends of hers, and another was an old high school friend whom I had not seen in thirty years. (I almost didn’t recognize him. He’s a priest now and his collar threw me.) That left three actual members of the reading public, or, as I like to call them, “Kindled spirits.”

Let’s face it, unless the author has won the Pulitzer Prize, was once President of the United States, or once shared a cigar with him, no one bothers with book events except the novelist’s friends, and the friends of his friends. This is not to say, however, that we no longer tour. We do, only its all done in an entirely new way that saves thousands of gallons of jet fuel and spares the author myriad humiliations.

In fact, you’re attending a book event right now. I know what you’re thinking: “How is it possible? I’m not breaking my ass on a folding chair, there’s no sour wine in my hand, no cheese cubes sweating in the corner, no frizzy-haired bookshop owner standing in back with a wolfish grin and shining eyes, laughing and clapping at everything Allison says.” Welcome to the brave new world of the virtual book tour.

When my publicist first asked me if I was interested in blog touring, like any self-respecting media whore I said: “Of course I am. When do I start?” I wanted to add “What the hell’s a blog tour?” but I was too embarrassed, so I asked a novelist friend instead. She said that during a set period, starting with the launch of my book, I would be invited to write something for various bookish blogs, with interesting names like dantescolon.blogspot.com or readuntilithrowup.net.

Most often the bloggers (primarily young females) would send me a list of questions to answer at my leisure, but sometimes I would be given an assignment, such as “List your five favorite movies and why,” or “If you were force to choose between Shakespeare’s work being obliterated from human memory or a Chinese village being swept into a raging river, killing roughly one million people, which would it be and why?”

My friend said that she preferred the interviews, although it always makes her smile when they make it sound as though they’re sitting in the same room with you. The first question will begin, “Thanks for joining me, Allison. You look terrific. Is that chair comfortable? Would you like a bottle of water?” She said she is always tempted to type the reply: “Thanks for having me, but what’s up with your hair? Is that a reverse mullet?”

Well, it turns out that my book tour was much better than what she described. I have enjoyed every minute of it, in fact. How could I not? I was answering friendly, insightful questions from serious readers, all the while keeping my carbon footprint down to a meager size 8.5. So far I have made appearances at the following sites:

Pop Culture Junkie (8/4 to 9/5)

Tales of a Ravenous Reader (8/6)

Shooting Stars (8/7)

Ticket to Anywhere (8/10)

Bermuda Onion (8/11)

Okay, now that we’ve established that it was good for me, was it good for the blogmasters? I would love to hear from you all. Did traffic at your site increase or were there suddenly tumbleweeds blowing down the information superhighway? What was the feedback from your readers? Did they promise to rush out and buy the book? Please, let’s keep the dialogue going! It’s lonely here at my desk.

Oh, and, by the way, since no one asked, I would save the Chinese village.

*Allison Burnett  is the author of UNDISCOVERED GYRL and Christopher, a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award, and The House Beautiful. Allison also wrote the upcoming movie Fame.