Saturday, February 21, 2009

And How Did Your Book Tour Go, My Dear?

As I begin preparing to teach my editing fiction class once again, I’ve been browsing the Internet trying to find all I can on the state of publishing today. This article from Open Salon by Bob Ekstein caught my eye. Any author who’s gone on a book tour and sold approximately one-eighth of a book per day for two weeks will know what this particular author is talking about. I’ve borrowed part of his article, "The Sad State of Publishing; My Disastrous Holiday Book Tour," for your reading pleasure. The full article can be found at

First, an introduction to his book, The History of the Snowman (from Amazon’s product description):

Who made the first snowman? Who first came up with the idea of placing snowballs on top of each other, and who decided they would use a carrot for a nose? Most puzzling of all: How can this mystery ever be solved, with all the evidence long since melted? The snowman appears everywhere on practically everything -- from knickknacks to greeting cards to seasonal sweaters we plan to return.

Humorist and writer Bob Eckstein has long been fascinated by this ubiquitous symbol of wintertime fun -- and finally, for the first time, one of the world's most popular icons gets his due. A thoroughly entertaining exploration, The History of the Snowman travels back in time to shed light on the snowman's enigmatic past -- from the present day, in which the snowman reigns as the King of Kitsch, to the Dark Ages, with the creation of the very first snowman.

Eckstein's curiosity began playfully enough but soon snowballed into a (mostly) earnest quest of chasing Frosty around the world, into museums and libraries, and seeking out the advice of leading historians and scholars. The result is a riveting history that reaches back through centuries and across cultures--sweeping from 15th-century Italian snowballs to 18th-century Russian ice sculptures to the regrettable "white-trash years" (1975-2000).

The snowman is not just part of our childhood memories, but is an integral part of our world culture, appearing--much like a frozen Forrest Gump--alongside dignitaries and celebrities during momentous events. Again and again, the snowman pops up in rare prints, paintings, early movies, advertising and, over the past century, in every art form imaginable. And the jolly snowman--ostensibly as pure as the driven snow--also harbors a dark past full of political intrigue, sex, and violence. With more than two hundred illustrations and a special section of the best snowman cartoons, The History of the Snowman is a truly original winter classic -- smart, surprisingly enlightening, and quite simply the coolest book ever.

Bob’s Mishap Index of His Book Tour (abridged)

Total miles traveled for the book tour: 1,435
Total number of History of the Snowman books sold on tour: 41
Number of states visited: 7
Number of ways I could have been more productive: 1,000,000
Rank of reasons the Schenectady event was poorly attended; poster listed wrong location, poster listed wrong time, lack of interest: 1, 2, 3
Amount, in US dollars, lost because the NY Times could not reach me for a job: $1,200
Amount, in US dollars, I made that same evening at an Albany, NY book event: $10
Number of radio interviews I did during the book tour: 8
Number of Open Salon bloggers who asked for a free copy of my book to prepare for an interview or review: 3
Number of them who got back to me or thanked me: 0
Time it would take, at this pace, to break even on the book: approx. 6 yrs.
Number of copies slated for initial print-run: 50,000
Number, in weeks, after book was bought by publishing head that he stepped down: 5
Number of editors the “orphaned” book went through: 5
Actually size of the print-run for book after it changed hands: 20,000
Size of its recent reprint: 15,000
Size of print-run for Jenna Bush’s Ana’s Story: 500,000
Amount, in US dollars, Ana’s Story received as a book advance: $300,000
Amount, in US dollars, my book received as a book advance: $35,000
Number of covers created for The History of the Snowman book: 35
Number of times I suggested to my agent we walk because of the cover the publisher picked: 2
Number of times my agent told me to get over myself: 2
Number of snowmen in my personal collection: 800
Amount, in US dollars, spent buying snowmen on ebay and flea markets: $ 6,500
Amount, in US dollars, spent on photo, quotation rights and cartoon reprints: $40,000
Amount, in US dollars, spent on research & expenses for the book: $15,000
Amount offered to walk away and let someone else write it as a children’s book: $15,000
Amount, in US dollars, spent on advertising the book on MySpace and Facebook: $1,100
Getting a letter from Python Michael Palin telling me my book was funny: priceless


Jennie said...

Oh,those book signings!
The unfairness of it all! It's a good thing most of us write for love; not money--or is the correct term insanity?

Michele Ashman Bell said...

That post was perfect and painfully true. And Jennie . . . Amen to what you said.

Lynn Gardner said...

Now I have to go find the book and read it! You are delightful, Val. And yes, everything he said is true about the horror of book signings

Snowman Expert said...

Thanks, Lynn. I hope you enjoy the book and I hope the "index" provided some insight.

so, how does one make this worth while at the financial front? Well, many of my friends realize that it's movie options that do the trick and one friend who has never sold more than 5,000 copies for either of his books had both his books optioned. Boyth near a million $.

My book was just optioned for a small amount to be made into a Christmas special. The film studio has just received $250,000 in funding and I started writing the script this weekend!

(great blog, Val, thank you. Please visit my fun online magazine Today's Snowman

Snowman Expert said...

I should toot my horn too...if you don't mind. Amazon had picked The History of the Snowman as The Best Book of the Season. That was neat!

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

What a great blog, Val. Writing/publishing is exhausting business.

Congrats on the Amazon award and the Christmas Special, Snowman Expert!

Cheri J. Crane said...

Great blog, Val. And as others have already stated, painfully true. =)

Jeri Gilchrist said...

Too true, Val! Book Signings can be a nightmare! I think Jennie's comment about writing for love and not money is spot on... combined with a little insanity. :)
What an awesome post, Val. Loved it!

Oh! And congrats to the Snowman Expert as well!

Gale Sears said...

Thanks Val,
That blog really melted my heart! made me laugh really hard well as making me want to buy the book.