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Tours 'R' Us: The 411 on Literary Road Trips, from a Publicist's POV

Regularly heard ‘round Publicity Row—that corner of the Flatiron Building populated by suitcase-towing, caffeine-powered elves—is the exclamation, “I haven’t seen you in weeks!” It’s no overstatement. Spring and fall are peak seasons for book tours, meaning that publicists are sprinkled all over the map—hoisting up banners, flapping covers, asking guests how to spell their names (“is it Kristen with an ‘i’ or an e’?”), passing authors granola bars after hours of signing, and yelling “Two more questions!” when it gets to be that time during the presentation, among other things.

I know this, because this is my life. Hi! Fun fact: About 50% of the posts I’ve written for this blog have been drafted on a plane or in a hotel. It’s a whirlwind, but one that’s exhilarating and gratifying. And for readers curious as to what these adventures are really like, I’m going to reveal some behind-the-scenes tidbits.


1. Publicists typically meet every person in the signing line.



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We’re positioned as the first person fans meet, greeting people and jotting down how each person wants his or her book personalized. (Disclaimer: We know you totally don’t care about seeing us, but we’re huge fans of yours!) 


2. There are people called media escorts who help us get around.



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Friendly faces drive us and the author from Point A to Point B in most markets, most of whom we now know on a first-name, how’s-your-kid-doing basis. They’re our life preservers when we don’t know how to navigate a new city, and they usually dole out killer restaurant recs, too.


3. We memorize the author’s bio in case we need to introduce them.



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Publicists are basically understudies to whomever is scheduled to introduce the author before he/she takes the stage. We know the author well, so if the predetermined host cannot do so for whatever reason, we’ll happily fill in.


4. We’ve become mini experts on the author’s likes/dislikes, dietary restrictions, and traveling quirks.



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If there were a Jeopardy category filled with facts like, “This author is allergic to catfish, but only on Sundays,” we’d have it in the bag.


5. Non-tour work is still a thing during tours.



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Publicists tend to burn the midnight oil on tours, because of all the pitching, future event planning, and admin work that still needs to get done, regardless of where we are. (Shout-out to whomever invented Google Drive. We owe you.)


6. People often cannot figure out who we are in relation to the event.



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“Are you [this author]’s daughter? Wife? Friend?” “Do you work at this bookstore?” “Can you tell me where the bathroom is?” “Oh my gosh, are you the author?” Eh…


7. Friends from various cities will want to hang out, but we’ll only have time to grab half a cup of coffee.



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“Sorry, I have a 6 a.m. call time tomorrow. Love you, bye!”


8. We’re so used to spending all day—every day—with the author, that when we finally part ways on the last day of tour, we instantly miss them.



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Tour withdrawal is real. Luckily, the reunion with our fellow publicists, back at base, makes up for it.

So next tour event you attend, Swooners, keep an eye out for our kind. We’ll be waiting for you, Post-it in hand.

Author spotlight

Kelsey M.

Publicist for Swoon Reads. LA native. Not ashamed to know all things Kardashian.

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