I write this as the guest of wonderful hosts and writers Jeff Strand and Lynne Hansen, whom you all should be reading. Great authors, and great people.
AFRAID seems to be doing well, and word of mouth continues to spread. If you've read the book but haven't reviewed it somewhere online, I heartily encourage you to do so.
This is also the last two days to get the AFRAID ebook for only $1.99, available everywhere ebooks are sold, in a variety of ebook formats. The sale ends when April does.
If you're one of the several hundred thousand people who own an Amazon Kindle, you might also want to check out the other books I've made available for that particular reading device. Cheap, too.
Joe's Kindle Books
When the tour ends, mid May, I'll devote several blog posts to the ebook phenomenon, and my ebook experiments, including Tequila for Sheila, the Kindle, Afraid, and the free ebooks available on my website. In a nutshell: this is the future, and money can be made.
Current tour stats:
Miles driven: 2865
Bookstores visited: 123
Books signed: 888
States traversed: 7
Days on the road: 13
Nights in hotels: 5
The "nights in hotels" stat would be smaller, but it was easier to stay at the conference hotel during the Romantic Times Convention than shlup back and forth.
RT was impressive. Several thousand readers attended, everyone was friendly, and I gave away and/or sold hundreds of books. I hung out with too many cool people to mention them all by name, but the networking and schmoozing was just as valuable as meeting old and new fans. I'll be back next year.
Joe's Tour Tips:
If you're thinking about doing a Drive By Tour, here are some quick suggestions:
*Get a GPS and a 3G phone with Google Maps. There is limited WiFi on the road, but you should be able to locate most of the bookstores with these two gadgets. Call first to make sure the store still exists, as many have gone the way of the dinosaur.
*If you run out of clothes, it's faster and easier to buy new socks and underwear than it is to take two hours to stop and wash them. Of course, if you're staying with a friend or fan, ask to use their washer and dryer. In a pinch, wearing your socks in the shower and then blow drying them gets them clean enough.
*Giving away free books is a good way to recruit booksellers into your ever-expanding sales force. If your publisher doesn't supply them, buy them yourself to give away. Ask them to post reviews if they like it. Buy books from a bookseller at their discount (many will do this for you if you're friends) because then these go toward your royalties and sales figures.
*Staying with family, friends, and fans, really cuts down on expenses. Not only will they save you the cost of a hotel, but many of them feed you. In fact, Lynne Hansen made what might have been one of the best lasagnas I've ever had. Which brings me to my next valuable tip:
*When you're in Florida, stay with Lynne Hansen and Jeff Strand.
*Having a case of water and a bag of fruit in the car keeps you hydrated, staves off hunger, and requires less frequent (and expensive) stops for food and drink.
*Realize that not all booksellers will be happy to see you. In fact, some may be downright hostile.
Real life example, from yesterday.
Our hero (me), weary from a 13 hour day signing stock along Florida's west coast, comes upon his final stop of the day.
My protocol is always the same:
1. Find books on shelf.
2. Bring them over to a bookseller.
3. Ask to say hello to a manager while signing them.
I won't mention the name of the store, but I have signed at well over 300 stores from this particular chain. The overwhelming majority are happy to see me.
The manager at this store, a scowling woman named Sylvia, was not.
Joe: (smiling) Hi, I'm an author, breezing through town and...
Sylvia: (scowling) You signed those? Are you buying them?
Joe: Excuse me?
Sylvia: You can't just sign books. If you sign them, I can't return them.
Joe: Uh, actually you can.
Sylvia: Now I'm stuck with them. Do you know how many signed books I've gotten stuck with?
Joe: (still smiling) These can be returned. You just strip off the cover if you want to return them. But the point of signing them is because they sell better than unsigned...
Sylvia: You can't just come in here and sign books. Now what am I supposed to do with these?
Joe: Uh, sell them?
(Sylvia frowns even deeper. I look around to the other booksellers for support, and see all of them cowering.)
Sylvia: I've got a whole back room filled with signed books.
Joe: (still smiling, but it's getting tough) You do see the "Autographed Copy" stickers on the cover, right? These are from your chain. In fact, I picked them up at another one of your stores less than an hour ago, because they gave me extras. The fact that your chain has stickers expressly so authors can...
Sylvia: Where did you sign them? (she flips open one of my books, scowling)
Joe: Usually booksellers are happy to see me.
Sylvia: You can't sign anything unless I get approval from the corporate office. What am I supposed to do with these?
Joe: I'm, frankly, flabbergasted. And that's not easy to do to me.
Sylvia: Don't sign anything else. (walks away)
Now, this exchange caught me completely off guard, especially late in the day when I was exhausted. But it is important to point out a few things:
1. Sylvia is lying. Paperbacks are always returnable. You strip off the cover, and send that back for full credit. Signing the book doesn't inhibit returnability.
2. A bookseller doesn't need corporate approval to have an author sign stock already available on the shelves. Ever. That's why they have "Autographed Copy" stickers.
3. If Sylvia has a back room full of signed books (unlikely, because even signed hardcovers and trade paperbacks are returnable, unless they are POD), maybe she'd be able to sell a few if they were ON THE SALES FLOOR AND NOT IN A BACK ROOM.
4. It's a bad policy to be rude to anyone, ever. Especially in retail. Especially to an author who could call up their DM and their corporate office and his publisher and complain like crazy.
Of course, I didn't call up anyone. Unhappy people are their own hell, and I feel no need to add to their misery.
Also, when she said, "Don't sign anything else" I wondered, and still wonder, what she meant by that. Was I going to start grabbing books by other authors and signing them? Or did I somehow tap into the woman's greatest fear, having a bookstore filled with signed books?
So, how did our hero deal with this crazy woman? I thanked her for her time, picked up all of my books, and bought them myself. Because there was no way I was leaving them in this lunatic's store.
I also apologized the employee at the cash register, who looked somewhere between sympathetic and terrified.
Now some may think the moral to this story is to ask permission before you sign anything. I'm of the "it's better to apologize than ask permission" school, especially since I've signed at well over 1500 bookstores and have only encountered loonies like this three or four times.
No, the actual moral to this story is: You can't please everyone.
Get used to it. Some people won't like you, your books, or the fact that you're a successful author and they hate their jobs.
While it isn't pleasant to have a bookseller (99.9% of whom are wonderful people whom I love like family) scowling and berating you, it is a good reminder that there are crazy, hostile people in the world. They make life a little more interesting, and you can't dwell on it for any longer than it takes to blog about it.
On the other end of the spectrum, I've met dozens of booksellers on this tour who were eager to see me. Some remembered me from my previous tour. Some are fans. A few broke out the cameras and I posed for some pics and signed books for them.
Here's a list of the stores I've been to lately, if you're looking for signed Konrath/Kilborn books. And no, Sylvia's store isn't on here. :)
BN Lakeland FL
Walden Lakeland FL
BN Brandon FL
Borders Brandon FL
BN Sand Lake FL
BN Orange Blossom FL
Walden Orange Blossom FL
Borders Sand Lake FL
BN Colonial FL
Borders Winter Park FL
Borders Almonte FL
Walden Sanford FL
Borders Oviedo FL
Borders Ocoee FL
BN Winter Garden FL
BN Sarasota FL
Borders Sarasota FL
BN Ft. Myers FL
BN Estero FL
BN Naples FL
Walden Ft. Myers FL
Borders Ft. Myers FL
Borders Naples FL
BAM Ft. Myers FL
Today I'm doing stores in Tampa, and then I'm flying back to Chicago because I forgot I was speaking at the Reaching Out library conference. If you're an Illinois Librarian, I hope to see you there on May 1. Then it's back to FL, where I'll work my way up the east coast to Philly, then head westward back home.