Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Touring Can Be Murder

By Chester Campbell

How’s that for staying on topic? One of the big questions in author discussions these days is how will the oil crisis and the economic slowdown effect the market for our books? There’s a lot of talk about readers tightening their purse strings, making fewer trips to the bookstore. And the cost of a tank of gas is scaring lots of mystery scribes into curtailing their book tour plans.

Being of the Scottish persuasion, I try to be as frugal as possible. The problem is, if people are going to know about you and what you write, you have to get out there and promote.

My wife and I always drive to signings and book clubs and conferences and conventions. That way we always have plenty of books in the trunk, just in case some store or dealer didn’t get their shipment. And we can always whip out a book when the occasion demands. We patronized a casino on one trip. When returning to our motel in the shuttle van, my wife (more properly my sales director) mentioned I was a mystery author. We sold a book to the driver when we arrived at the motel.

We drive a Toyota Camry, which gets around 35 miles to the gallon. And we’ve learned to drive at 65 miles an hour on the interstate. It infuriates the truckers, but it save us ten percent on gas consumption. So have we cut back? Only insofar as attending conferences a long way from home. We like to stay within a day’s drive. Since the old Camry will go 600 miles on a tank of gas, that gives us pretty good leeway.

Have the readers cut back? I haven’t seen much change so far. I like to support the independents, but I do best at Barnes & Noble. We did three B&Ns on a recent trip to South Alabama and Northwest Florida. Only one store had significantly poor traffic, and it was in a dying area. One store was only so-so for us, but it did great the night before. We sold lots of books at the third store, despite signing alongside another author, which normally is a jinx for us.

Bottom line, I’d say the jury is still out. Logic would dictate a declining market for books, along with everything else. Well, maybe everything but food. Then again, when did people in this great nation start acting logically? If touring is murder, let’s go kill ‘em!

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