Notes From the (Virtual) Highway

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If you want to see a picture of Liam Neeson in drag, you’ll just have to follow my book tour.

MRS. JOHN DOE: The Collage

MRS. JOHN DOE: The Collage (Click for larger view)

How’s that for an opening sentence? In the publishing industry, we call it a “hook.” I could have said “a picture of me with my family when I was eleven years old” or “the original theatrical trailer of the movie they made from my novel, Valentine” or “Tom’s formula for writing a novel.” But I went with the most outrageous detail of my interview on a book blog called BooksChatter, which you can find HERE. Of course, the Liam Neeson/Julianne Moore mishmash is a crude fake, but that’s why we call it “virtual reality.”

My new publisher, Penguin Random House/Alibi, arranged a 13-stop virtual book tour for my new thriller, Mrs. John Doe, with an outfit called Enchanted Book Promotions, and BooksChatter is the 11th stop. At each site, the host offers readers all the info about the book including a synopsis and purchase links, sometimes with an excerpt from the novel and sometimes with an author interview. I’ve been on this particular tour for a month now. Two more stops and I’m done. This is my second “virtual”¬†tour–as opposed to a “physical” one–and I’m finding it very interesting.

airport_sign_1In ancient times, publishers sent authors all over the place to publicize their work in bookstores, libraries, or anywhere else that was interested. The author got an itinerary with plane and train tickets, hotel reservations, and hired assistants at each stop who drove authors everywhere in whichever city they were in. “Welcome to Boston (or Pittsburgh or Seattle)! Here’s your hotel, and I’ll meet you here in an hour to take you to the signing/lecture/dinner/whatever. Tomorrow at 6am, I’ll throw you on a flight to Pittsburgh (or Seattle or Boston).” The author would meet readers in (usually fairly empty) bookstores and libraries, then take a train/boat/plane to the next event, with lots of solo dinners in hotel dining rooms, charged to the publisher. I was sent on these tours a couple of times back in the 1990s.

In today’s financial climate, only Very Important Authors (“VIAs”) still receive this treatment. If you see an author on the road now, you can bet he/she has made the NY Times bestseller list at least once, probably twice or more. The rest of us get the virtual treatment–a worldwide tour that we can take in the comfort of our homes, in our bathrobes.

11949978091193310702xedit.svg.medBook bloggers all over America and the world are eager to host authors. Some are more eager than others, which explains why some are so much better than others (BooksChatter, my current stop, is one of the best). They’re an eclectic group with various levels of interest, ranging from perfunctory, pre-printed, one-size-fits-all questionnaires (sample question: “Does Author use his or her own experiences in his or her work?”) to obsessed fandom (sample question: “Did you use your recent skiing accident or your three failed marriages as inspiration for the character of the evil twin brother who appeared in books 5, 7, and 8, but not book 6 when he was in prison?”). But good, bad, or indifferent, I have a confession to make: I love these virtual tours!

I’m a bit of a hermit, a bit of a recluse, and a bit of a non-flier. Okay, I don’t like flying at all. And I really don’t like looong train rides and surly hired escorts (mine were invariably surly) and strange cars and empty hotel dining rooms and even emptier bookstores in cities where I don’t know a single soul. So this virtual tour idea is a good fit for me. I’m having fun–in the comfort of my home, in my bathrobe.

If you’re interested, you can find my full itinerary for my current tour HERE. Maybe I’ll see you somewhere along the (virtual) highway. You’ll recognize me easily: I’ll be the one in the bathrobe.

Mystery Scene Horizontal Ad MRS. JD 3