Reed Coleman writes in the October issue of Crimespree that he’s "burnt, seriously burnt, toasty, toasted, fried, and spent" from the grind of book promotion. He was in the midst of the BEA in New York when he finally had enough:
It was also the accumulation of the petty indignities: the tour dates when no one came, my name misspelled on book covers, press releases, and promotional posters. It was the blank stares from people who’d ask me if they’d ever heard of me […]It was all the dumb questions about when I’d be on Oprah, the dreadful panels, bad moderators, all the same old jokes. […]It was the thousands of dollars spent on rented cars, motels, bad meals, cab fare, air fare, and poured into the abyss of PR.
It’s a very honest article, one I am sure that a lot of authors can relate to. I certainly can. When I first started out, I scheduled as many signing as I could get up-and-down the West Coast and in key bookstores nationwide. I attended Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime every year and accepted just about every invitation to speak that came along. That has changed, not because I have become a bestselling author (I haven’t, not by a long shot), or because I have been traveling a lot for work lately, but because it’s not a productive use of my time or money.
I have books coming out so often, that it hardly makes sense to do more than two or three local signings for each of them – and even then, I don’t think it has any real impact on sales. Most of my novels now are tie-ins, and as much as I like to believe I have a following, I am realistic enough to know that the sales are driven by the success and promotion of the beloved TV shows they are based on. It’s the actor’s face on the cover, not my name, that is selling most of the books. But even for THE MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE, I didn’t set up a big book-signing schedule or attend a lot of conventions.
There are some authors I know who are at every single convention, year after year. I don’t know how they do it…or how they avoid the boredom of hearing the same advice and anecdotes over and over again (from themselves and from others). When I go to conventions now, the only panels I attend are the ones I am on…or that feature first-time authors. That’s because I know the majority of the authors at these events and I have heard them speak dozens and dozens of times at conventions, signings, seminars, etc. As clever, funny, and intelligent as they are, I have heard it all before. Some writers have become more known for their promotional efforts and panel appearances than the books they write. (It must be equally boring for the attendees. If they get bored and overly familiar with you at conventions, does that translate into boredom and over-familiarity with you as a writer? My guess is that it does).
I end up spending most of my time at conventions these days in the dealers room, at the bar, or the hallways talking to readers, booksellers, and authors. That’s fun but is it the best way to be spending my time? Probably not. With the exception of Bouchercon, where I get a chance to see my agent and editors, I can’t really justify the time and expense from a business point of view.
So I’ve skipped a lot of conventions and I have been turning down far more invitations to attend events than I have been accepting. This way, when I do show up some place, I think it’s more fun, productive, interesting and fresh for both me and the readers who are there. I can’t wait for Left Coast Crime in Hawaii in 2009. Would I be as eager to go if I’d also attended Left Coast Crime in Bristol, Seattle, and Denver, Bouchercon in Alaska and Thrillerfest in NY? I don’t think so. Reed says:
I had let myself get farther and farther away from being a writer. It had happened by the inch, in tiny, almost imperceptible, increments. Whether I’d done it gladly with eyes wide open or had it foisted upon me was beside the point. I was no longer where I wanted to be, not even close.
He’s back at the keyboard, focusing more of his energy on the writing and less on the selling. I am, too.