Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mighty Mississippi Book Blast Recap!

I'm still kind of winding down from the #MMBB tour, having gone directly from a 12-hour driving day, to a full day of airplane travel, to getting back to work on an overdue freelance project the day after I made it back to Portland. #MyGlamorousWritingLife :)

However, non-MMBBers keep asking me how the tour went, so in the interest of not having to repeat myself (AKA general laziness), I give you:


1. Some people are natural performers and others are not. 
Even though I knew what basic questions I was going to be asked about my book--heck, I even made up some of them--I realized after the first event in Wayzata that I had basically described my book in a rambling and roundabout way that made it sound so unappealing that even *I* wouldn't buy it. Next to me, Philip Siegel was so funny that I probably would have bought his book even if he said it was about how to mix wallpaper paste. I do believe I'm a funny person, but I'm third-draft funny. I'm funny on paper. I'm funny in my comfort zone, surrounded by cats people I know. I am not a natural performer, but that's okay. It just means I should think a little about how I want to present my book before I do it in front of an audience.

Dawn Klehr, Philip, me, and Lindsay on Day One of the #MMBB

2. It's best if I be myself (but with less swearing ;-D)
I don't mean my rambling and roundabout self. I mean if I start out nervous and then try to be funny because everyone else seems to be rip-roaring comedy club hilarious, uh, that doesn't end well. Better to be unfunny but add something else to the mix--thoughtfulness? honesty? encouragement?--than to go for the laughs but come up short. Also, it's also best to dress as myself. Is it a coincidence the two events I felt most uncomfortable at were Iowa and Dallas, the two places where I wore a dress? (Sorry, Mom. I'm just not a dress girl.) If you're doing events for the first time, resist feeling pressured to get fancy. Go in the clothes you feel best represent you...unless those clothes are pajamas...unless your pajamas are really stylish...You see where I'm going with this. People who buy your book because of how you are dressed are probably not readers that you need.

Us in Iowa with bookstore owner, Sue. I look uncomfortable, don't I?

3. Acting silly never stops being fun.
Lindsay Cummings and I played Blair Witch with her phone cam in the bed & breakfast where we stayed in Dubuque, sneaking up to the deserted third floor in the dark. Either the stairs in that place were the creakiest stairs ever or Lindsay and I are really bad ninjas. Anyway, the third floor was deliciously creepy by the light of my cell phone. In one of the rooms we found...FACELESS DOLLS. 

More silliness, in group form. Team Anderson's poses for pix after the event.

4. Doing events gets easier with time and experience.
I'll never look forward to bookstore events because I'm just not an extrovert, but it did get easier throughout the week. Or maybe I was so deliriously tired by the time I got to Houston that I just didn't have the energy to be stressed anymore. Also, I really liked the events that were more about giving writing advice to aspiring authors and less about singing the praises of my books. I love my stories, but it's way less awkward to be my own book cheerleader when I can hide behind the interwebs.

Team Houston, with blogger Sara. Yep, I look pretty tired.

5. Hanging out with other writers is informative and inspirational.
I'll be the first to admit I'm prone to writer jealousy, so you might think that hanging out in groups of authors, many of whom are more successful than me, would be a recipe for disaster. But that's not what happened at all. Part of the reason I even thought I could plan this tour was because I'd heard Victoria Schwab planned tours on her own. I admire so much how she has made a name for herself by being prolific and tenacious. Hearing her and all of the other authors talk about their successes just filled me with this sense of "Hey, I can get to where they are someday, too!" Everyone was so incredibly kind and gracious to each other. Victoria Schwab, Courtney Stevens, and Heather Brewer in particular all shared such wise and thoughtful words that I felt uplifted just being around them.

Memphis was a laid-back event where we spent a lot of time talking about writing craft.

6. Everyone is nervous about the future.
Just like I found inspiration and energy from hearing about other authors' successes, I found comfort in realizing that everyone shares the same fears about their publishing futures. The only way to stay in the industry is to sell more books, and that's never a guarantee until your books have their own theme parks. Hearing authors talk about diversification, hybridization, working with multiple publishers, trying out new genres, etc. made me realize that there are a lot of options when it comes to building a career as an author. 

Dinnertime with Phil, Lindsay, Lydia Kang, and Whitney Miller.
People wearing pink in the back, please :-D

7. Making connections with indie bookstores has a lasting effect.
Setting up a tour like the #MMBB wasn't just about trying to sell a few more copies of our books to a few cities. Unless you are mega-famous, a tour would never pay for itself in that way. For me, it was all about the connections: meeting readers, meeting other authors, and meeting booksellers. When you set up an event with an indie, often times they let you sign stock. Then, after you're gone, your books will continue to sell well because they're signed. And then, maybe the booksellers will remember you and continue to hand sell your books. Maybe they'll be more likely to order your next book. No guarantees, of course, but I sold more than twice as many books in Chicago and St. Louis the week of the tour than I signed on event nights, so I have to partially credit that to the connections made with the bookstores. Indies forever!

Look at all those LAINEYs! Signed copies available throughout the Midwest!

8. St. Louis will always be part of me.
When you spend 35 years in a city, it gets inside of you. As much as I just cannot handle the St. Louis weather anymore, being back in town made me super-nostalgic. I miss my St. Louis author pals like Cole Gibsen, Heather Brewer, and Sarah Bromley. I miss my writer-blogger friends Christina and Jamie. I'm so glad I made the decision to set THE ART OF LAINEY in St. Louis, to highlight the Cardinals and the Arch, Forest Park and Wash U. Sure, some of the places are made up, but many are based on real places where I spent a lot of time--Mississippi Nights? Pi Pizza? Kayaks Cafe? Look hard and you'll find them :) And I'm so glad I got to do this big event with the amazing people at Left Bank Books. They brought me to St. Louis Comic Con, something that will forever be one of my greatest writer experiences. If I ever get famous, I'm signing all the books for Left Bank, no matter where I live at the time. I LOVE YOU GUYS!

Me with Christina from Ensconced in Lit

Me with Jamie from This Isn't Rocket Science

9. Power comes from doing the things that scare you.
A blogger in Houston (hi Nikki!) asked what dystopian world we could survive in and I said I'd be Dauntless in Divergent-land. [Sidebar: Everyone else said they couldn't survive in ANY dystopia and that they'd be killed/eaten first in an apocalypse scenario. This saddened me. Step it up, guys! When the zombie apocalypse comes I want GOOD people for my team :D] I always tell people I'd be Dauntless because even though everything scares me (seriously, everything), I do it anyway. I was scared to plan the tour, scared to go to the events, basically terrified to drive most of the way. I was scared to move to Portland, again terrified to drive there, scared to apply for a new nursing job, scared to quit said nursing job when I sold more books. Going further back, I was scared to live in Korea, scared to pet tigers, scared to ever show my writing to industry professionals. But I did all these things, and now none of them own me. To be honest, I wish I had done most of them sooner. Bravery isn't about not being scared. Bravery is about being scared but doing it anyway! 

Hey! We made the digital sign in Dallas! It doesn't get more powerful than that, right?

10. In the end, it's about the love of books.
Networking and selling copies is great, but in the end a tour should be about celebrating the joy of books with other readers. From Minnesota to Houston, the #MMBB was blessed with good-sized, attentive crowds who were enthusiastic and engaged. I am so grateful to each and every one of you who came out, and to those of you who couldn't make it but still mail-ordered books or spread the word about the events. I say this on basically every Acknowledgments page, but it all comes back to you guys. Without readers, there would be no authors. Thank you for making it possible for us to live our dreams <333

Amazing book cheerleader, blogger, and librarian: Mary from Mary Had a Little Book Blog.
(I swear we're not related. She's just that cool.)

St. Louis had the biggest crowd, but Naperville probably had the most teen attendees.
Thanks for coming to see us! We love you guys!