This week I’m very pleased to welcome as guest Tuesday Dead Guy author Todd Moss, whose Golden Hour (Putnam) is available at all the usual outlets, plus airports, train stations, Costco, and think tanks everywhere. Todd has been let loose the past few weeks, following publication; but his experiences may have been slightly different from what either he or you might have expected.
I had no idea what to expect from the book tour for my debut thriller THE GOLDEN HOUR, released September 4th. I’d written several nonfiction books and had spoken in front of groups about foreign policy hundreds of times, but this was my first foray into fiction and certainly my first book tour. It’s been strange, nerve-wracking, and pretty cool all at the same time. Here’s what I think I’ve learned so far.
It’s okay to be excited. After all the hours alone in the office and alone in my head, the novel is now, finally, out there. And people who’ve heard about it, want to meet the author. I’ve been really struck at the number of friends (some I haven’t seen since high school!) who are both giddy and gracious about my first novel. Most haven’t even read it yet, yet it’s been tremendously gratifying and humbling to receive the flood of emails, Facebook messages, and even knocks on my front door. I’m a guy who normally shirks away from being the center of attention, so I’ve had to force myself to soak it all in, to take a few moments to just enjoy it. And even at 44 years old, it feels good to make your parents proud.
Yeah, no one knows you… yet. While friends and family have been pouring it on thick, no debut author has a fan base. This means any “book tour” sounds like a grand affair… but it’s not. I’d assumed that book signings would be at big box bookshops in cities like New York, Los Angeles, perhaps Atlanta and Chicago. Nope. After two launch events in my hometown of Washington DC, my publisher sent me to independent shops in Arizona and Texas. At first, I didn’t quite get it either. Then it was patiently explained what should have been obvious: “No one knows you yet. No one will show up, especially in the big crowded markets.” So instead, my stops have been specialty crime and thriller bookshops. Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale organized an intimate discussion about my book and, in an age of ISIS and Ebola, the role of America around the world. Murder by the Book in Houston hosted a reading and Q&A with around forty thriller fans. Just as importantly as these in-person events, both shops provided a marvelous platform for tapping into their enthusiastic reader networks. Even if you aren’t generating lines around the block, it’s still exhilarating to sign a tall stack of your own books! (Note from JG--This was the best photo we had--it was after Todd had already signed the tall stack, and folks were carrying their own copies to him by then. Because even better than signing the tall stack is SELLING OUT the tall stack...)
A modern tour is much more than bookshops. I keep hearing that the halcyon days oflarge crowds to meet authors are largely over for all but the most famous writers. So, in addition to a handful of select bookshop appearances, I’m talking about THE GOLDEN HOUR at lots of other venues that can draw interested crowds. Since my thriller revolves around a professor who works inside the U.S. Government, I’m speaking at colleges (Columbia, Pomona, Texas A&M, Tufts, Harvard) and related professional associations (World Affairs Councils, think tanks). I’m also promoting the book through radio, newspaper opeds, social media, and even a few TV shows. Each of these hits relatively small audiences, but they accumulate. These efforts, I hope, will build fan momentum for the next book… and maybe even a more ambitious second tour?
In the end, that’s the point: lots of small steps toward a fan base who will love your book, tell their friends, and (fingers crossed!) buy the sequel.
Todd Moss, senior fellow and COO at the Center for Global Development in Washington DC and the former top US diplomat for West Africa, is author of THE GOLDEN HOUR, the first in the Judd Ryker series from Penguin’s Putnam Books. Todd is represented by Josh Getzler.