13 Things About Book Tour for Kidlit Authors

Well, sure, if they all looked like this.
  1. Book tour is when a writer (me) who works alone because, a) he hears voices in his head, and regularly engages with said voices; b) he can’t stand schedules or prescribed work places; and c) he’s a maladjusted, hostile, loner who could serve as the illustration for the Wikipedia article on Antisocial Personality Disorder; suddenly emerges into the wider world to pimp his (or her or their, I don’t give a damn,) book. (Front Lines, on sale now. Buy it!)
  2. Book tour begins for me with the Creation Of The Presentation. (This is me doing an actual presentation.) In my case I use Apple’s Keynote to show video and pictures and make dumb jokes involving sound effects, but first all of that has to be written and assembled. And when I say that I use Apple’s Keynote, I mean that I pay my son, Jake, to work with Apple Keynote while I sit beside him saying useful things like, “Jesus Christ, Jake, I don’t care what font we use!”
  3. Once I have a presentation ready I engage with the schedule. The schedule is made up by Ro, my publicist at Harper, and by Vanessa, my new, long-distance assistant. I go through the schedule color-coding things and Google mapping and street-viewing. I search the neighborhood around the hotel for, 1) liquor stores, b) coffee shops and c) cigar bars. My first stop on this particular tour is the Doubletree Hotel in Bethesda, MD, which, you will be greatly relieved to hear, is just a few blocks from all three. That’s bingo!
  4. I once told Chris Colfer (Yes, the kid from Glee), that the essence of book tour was finding decent public restrooms. This is wisdom, my friends, so absorb it. Men of a certain age understand that the six or eight hours a day you spend in the bathroom playing solitaire on your phone and pretending not to hear your family searching for you, is sacred time. How sacred is it if you’re in a single seat bathroom in a busy Starbucks with people banging on the door? Not sacred at all. The best public restrooms are found in malls — Nordstrom is usually best, Macy’s is meh, Costco is industrial but clean, Target at a pinch. The creme de la creme are hotels, even their public facilities. If you ever get a chance to drop a dookie at a Ritz or a Four Seasons, it’s a ‘don’t miss.’
  5. Book tour is like a party you don’t actually want to attend, but you’ll be pissed if you’re not invited. Newbie writers are always like, “Yay, book tour!” while more experienced writers are more, “I’m gonna need alcohol.” This is not because we’re all alcoholics, I doubt more than 80, maybe 90% of writers are drunks. (The rest are in recovery. For now.) It’s just that we are scared, mouse-like creatures easily startled by, you know, humans. If we know there’s an empty, depressing Hilton bar waiting at the end of the day we know we’ll be safe there.
  6. Things I pack: 6 identical black t-shirts. Underwear. Socks. Extra jeans. A sweater. A grown-up shirt with an actual collar, just in case I have to meet the Queen or the President. Emergency hotel food (sugary snack). Emergency booze (pint of Johnny Walker black). Roughly three thousand wires and chargers and dongles. Laptop. iPad as back-up. Enough meds and grooming supplies to outfit a CVS. Cigars (to counteract all those meds.)
  7. Rituals upon arriving at hotel room: a) Check for mildew smell. b) Make half-hearted search for bed bugs then figure, screw it. c) Check the room service menu which is always: Club sandwich, Caesar salad, burger, chicken, salmon, pasta and disappointing desserts, usually an apple pie that isn’t so much a pie as it is a dish of warm goo wearing a pastry hat. d) Discover that the hotel TV is showing the same crap as your TV at home. e) Sign onto WiFi that moves with the blistering speed of an AOL dial-up. f) Angrily denounce whatever idiot decided you only needed two electrical outlets, both in impossible-to-reach locations. g) Minibar! Wait, what? The minibar is two bottles of Evian? Bastards! Now I’ll have to drink my emergency Scotch.
  8. Rituals upon arriving at the school: a) Ask bored student where the office is. b) Patiently explain to office receptionist that your drivers license doesn’t say “Grant” because that’s a pseudonym. c) Brush rudely past lovely, helpful people in order to make sure the tech is going to work. Where’s the VGA cable? Where’s the power? Can we bring the lights down? d) Designate an official adult who will give you a sign when time’s up. e) Ask official adult about coffee. When they tell you they have no coffee, just tap water, denounce them as a bunch of communists and threaten to burn the place down around their ears.
  9. The good part: the kids. I actually enjoy doing the presentation, I have zero stage fright. And I love doing Q&A. I’ll do Q&A all day long. I even answer the deliberately provocative questions like, “How much do you make?” and, “If you’re so great, how come you don’t write for adults?” Because I was an impertinent little smart-ass once. Impertinent smart-asses are my people. In fact, most of the time I wish we could cut the presentation altogether and just hang out, talk about writing or life or whatever. I could teach the children about avoiding beer and how they should man or woman up and drink the brown and nasty stuff that burns their throats. Or, I could teach them how to properly cut a cigar. Now, see, that would be useful. Do you want 14 year-olds running around with badly-cut cigars? Of course not.
  10. Steel yourself for the book store visit. The store owners like to tell you how Lemony Snicket had lines around the block, or how fan girls camped out for a week to get in to see Veronica Roth. This is so when only three people show up to see you, you can feel extra bad. Lame excuses must be made: Maybe the kids are all staying home to watch the soccer game between Burkina Faso and Vanuatu. Maybe it’s the bad weather. Or the good weather. Or maybe, Mr. Grant, you’re just not as cool as Lemony and Veronica. Yeah, it’s your fault, Grant, so just sit there at the sad folding table of shame with your pathetic stack of books and try not to meet anyone’s eye.
  11. End of day and back to the hotel room. You put on a bad movie, order a club sandwich and the “special dessert” that came straight from Costco, and you order a double Scotch. And you repeat: double, neat. Wait. . . can you make a triple? Can you just install a hose that runs directly from the bar to my room so I can drink away the crushing sense that I’ve disappointed or insulted or annoyed various nice people? Then jet-lagged, hoarse, tipsy and exhausted you check the schedule for the next day and realize you have to be up in four hours.
  12. Two weeks later: the end of the tour. You hate everything in your suitcase. You hate hotels. You have a physical aversion to airports. You’ve gained seven pounds. Most of all you hate yourself. You hate that you fall back on the same tired jokes and tell the same tired stories. You hate that you feel down at a bad event but also hate that you feel good about the great events because you are in the slough of despond and you just want to hate everything. You hate, hate, hate, the sound of your own voice. Shut up, Michael. Shut the hell up, Michael. Shut up, shut up, shut up about your stupid book and your stupid career, just for the love of God, shut up.
  13. Finally, the reason why you left your car at the airport for two weeks when you should have taken Uber: for that magical moment when you are off the plane, back at SFO, and there’s your car! It’s your car. It belongs to you. No one can talk to you when you’re doing 75 up the 280 to the 101 to the GG Bridge to the 131, hell yeah, and better yet: you can’t open your mouth and deliver the same goddamned joke for the 200th time. If it’s not raining you put the top down, you fire up a fat stogie, you plug in your iPhone and use the speakers to blast Rancid singing, Fuck You.
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