Hitting the Road: Playing Publicist for a Weekend


So a few weeks ago, I got the call. I guess not the call, so much as a call, and not so much a call as an email. It’s not a particularly interesting story as to why, but the jist of it was that a friend of mine, who is a publicist I work with, was looking for help with an author tour – and could I drive one of our authors around to three of her signings on a Friday night and a Saturday. I think it’s safe to say there was literal jumping involved when I jumped at the opportunity.

Here’s one of the things about sales, and I love my job, but we don’t get to hang out with the authors that often. And being a super fan of books and having an esteemed respect for people who have actually finished a book, and gotten it published – I can get a little fan-girly when we get to actually meet authors (especially, as was in this case, the author of a book/series that I genuinely adore). So having the opportunity to actually hang out, have a few meals, and spend real time with an author – not just a drinks situation with twenty-five people, or a cupcake party – I was super excited.

Not all authors go on tour, in fact a majority of them do not (due to all kinds of reasons: money, time, resources, among other things). But the ones that do – it’s usually about two weeks of hopping around the country with a publicist, cramming in 8-14 cities, and at each stop usually doing multiple events. There are (as I hear it) lots of early mornings, all kinds of travel, and of course, any and all kinds of wrenches that come up along the way to mess up the meticulously made and calculated plans. Through it all the publicist has to make it work, and also be professional – while also making sure the author is comfortable and having a good time. I knew my friends were talented, but now I’m doubly impressed.

I have more than a few friends who are publicists and I’ve always been a little bit in awe of what they do. Their job seems demanding (to say the least), they have to work with the author directly on all marketing activities that involve the author (interviews, signings, school visits – anything). They have to work with the author to make sure they are doing those things well, but they also have to be supportive and a friend to the author.

I’ve heard many stories of publicists chatting regularly with certain authors, and I think they spend a lot outside of the 9-5 Monday to Friday window doing all that. They also have the difficult job of making sure the author feels loved by the publisher while also making sure the editorial and sales teams feel like the author is getting enough exposure – and that the exposure they are getting is paying off. It’s a delicate needle to thread, to be sure. But up until actually going on tour (for only two days, mind you) I didn’t realize how much energy they expend to do that. Let me tell you, it’s crazy. And I was with an extremely easy going, lovely to work with author, and our schedule was not that demanding from what I understand (no crazy early morning wake-up calls, no super late nights).

The unknown other piece of this adventure was the actual author. I assume most publicist go on tour having met the author and talked with them a couple times before the actual tour, but in this case I had only met this author very briefly at a dinner with twenty other people. I had heard she was great, but really – who knows, right? But not only was she lovely to me, but she was a rock star.

She had great turnout at her events, which meant she was signing and talking to anywhere from 40-80 people at three different venues. The teens (and some adults) were star-struck and she was warm and welcoming and happy to advise them on any questions they had about writing, but also happy to talk about anything. She was cheerful, poised, energetic and thoughtful and never once did she falter. Which by the end I was watching thinking, “How is that even possible? How is she still going?” And after the events, she was on her phone immediately retweeting and responding to her fans.

Needless to say, it added a whole new level to understanding and appreciating authors as well, not only are they writing books (good books! Such good books!) they also have to take on the social media aspect and connect with people online as well as in person. It’s pretty amazing.

Overall, it was a fantastic experience – I absolutely loved it. But I’m even more impressed with publicists than I was before, I certainly question whether or not I could ever do it full time. But the other thing that was amazing to me was the events, the author and the turn out. Kids and their parents come to these book signings and panels – and they are great! I don’t remember ever going to this kind of thing as a kid or teen – was I just not paying attention? Or has the author tour for kids and young adult books blossomed in the last ten years? Cause after this weekend, I started making a list of all the authors I want to see, or wish I had stood in line to see. All those writers who I wish I had gotten to ask a single, nervous question, and had them scrawl their name in my copy of their book.

I’ve got my list started, but let’s hear from you, Swoon Readers! Who is on your Authors I’d Like to Meet list? Or who have you met that made you freak out a little bit? We want to hear from you below!

Author spotlight

Claire T.

When I was little I used to carry one of the Baby Sitter Club books with me wherever I went. …

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