Drawing upon painful experience, Edward Docx presents an author’s survival guide to book toursby Edward Docx / May 24, 2012 / Leave a comment
“Christ if it carries on like this I’ll need decoy limos and VIP tables for the entourage”: when the book tour is going well, beware hubris
London. 2003. My first novel, The Calligrapher, has just come out in Britain. And it is about to be published in America. I’m at the launch party of a senior British novelist. I’m pretending to smoke so that I can hang out with him. He asks how it’s all going. I say that it’s going pretty well. And then add—with an effort to conceal my pride—that I’m doing a book tour.
He sucks his teeth. “How many dates?”
“About ten,” I say, doubling the true number.
He winces sympathetically. His reaction is disconcerting. To me the reality of an American book tour seems like a profound spiritual breakthrough of an order unmatched in at least 2000 years of human history. The guy is pretty famous though. So I assume ennui. I figure he must be down on the whole book tour thing—the endless airports, the needy crowds, the anonymous hotels.
I try to act cool: “Just the coasts,” I say.
“Just the coasts.” He shakes his head. “Good luck with that.”
New York. A month later. And still I don’t get it. Instead, I’m thinking: this is what it must have been like for the Beatles. OK, so the number of people here to see me is closer to 70 than 70,000. But still, for my first ever night on tour, it feels impressive. I gaze out with a much-rehearsed expression calculated to suggest that sunlit vantage where intellectual distance meets soulful intensity. Christ, if it carries on like this, by the time I get to LA, I’ll need decoy limos and VIP tables for the entourage.
It doesn’t carry on like that.
In Oakland, California, there are… four. Four people. This is not as big a number as it at first sounds. Two of the “audience” are staff, another is a man whom they warn me is “crazy as a cut snake” and the fourth, so I’m told with escalating animation, “comes to everything, comes to everything, everything, everything, everything.”
I’m wearing a Savile Row suit. I am feeling ridiculous even by my own stringently maintained standards. And all that I’m thinking is that maybe I can convince these people that this is how England likes to dress after six. That this is…