Book Tour Warrior
By Michael Morris
It’s been ten years since my first novel was published. For the most part the publishing business still mystifies me. However, one thing is certain. If you have a friend who needs to be humbled, encourage him to fight the battles to get published and then send him off on a book tour.
My journey began in Raleigh, North Carolina where I was living when my first novel, A Place Called Wiregrass, was published by a small press. My wife and I decided that we would scour the southeast, driving from town to town. We would be like Loretta Lynn and her husband. Doo, in the movie Coal Miner’s Daughter. Instead of looking for radio towers and bologna sandwiches we were hunting for independent bookstores and Subway sandwiches.
I was fortunate that the Raleigh newspaper did a big Sunday feature on my novel. The night of the event one hundred people were on hand and not all of them were family. It was a magical night and I decided right then and there that I loved book tours. But that was before the next event.
The following day I walked into a bookstore in distant city where one hundred folding chairs were placed – the difference was no one was there. Not one single chair was filled. “People are probably just getting off work,” the nice community relations manager reassured me. My wife, sensing my nervousness, took a copy of the book and walked up and down the store aisles, raving about the book and adding, “The author is actually here tonight.” God bless my wife. She was able to rope one poor soul into taking a seat on the front row. The other ninety-nine chairs remained empty.
The community relations manager was dressed up and her hair was perfectly coiffed – I think she had even been to the beauty shop. When I offered to sit down and have a one on one conversation with the lone potential reader, the community relations manager protested. She seemed determine to deliver the introduction that she had typed up special for the occasion. “The show must go on,” she said and cleared her throat. Standing before the podium, she fanned her arm toward the sea of empty chairs. “Good evening everyone,” she began.
After I gave my talk, the potential reader clapped extra loud. “How much is the book?” the reader asked. “Fifteen dollars,” I said. Maybe I can at least make one sale, I thought. Then the potential reader bit her lip. “Hmmm…are you going to be back next week? I get paid next week.” I quickly handed over my personal copy and thanked her for being kind enough to fill a chair.
The tour went on and the numbers for my events never reached the hundred mark again. But I learned a few things. Book tours are important because they give us an opportunity to meet the store owners and staff and to thank them for their support. If they like you, they will at least look at your book and if they like your book, they will hand sell it.
And just when you feel like you might give up, someone comes up to you at an event and says that they read your book. They might even tell you that it spoke to them. The encouragement gives you the fuel to move on to the next bookstore, to eat another Subway sandwich and to realize once again that writing is not so much a choice as it is a calling. We do it because we have to, just like we have to breathe.
We battle on and appreciate beyond measure the bookstores – particularly the independent bookstores – that stand on the front lines, opening their doors to writers like me with unrecognizable names. The independent bookstores are the real warriors. They face battles just to stay in business, with a conviction to connect books with the right readers. So in September I’ll get in my car with a new novel in hand and hit the road, thankful for the store owners who will give me another shot and set up another event — whether I can bring in one person or one hundred.
A fifth-generation native of Perry, Florida, a rural area near Tallahassee, Michael Morris knows Southern culture and characters. They are the foundation and inspiration for the stories and award-winning novels he writes.
Upon graduating from Auburn University, Michael worked for a US senator
and as a sales representative for pharmaceutical companies. It was then that he decided to follow a lifelong desire and began writing in the evenings. The screenplay he penned is still someplace in the bottom of a desk drawer.
It was when Michael accepted a position in government affairs and moved to North Carolina that he began to take writing more seriously. While studying under author Tim McLaurin, Michael started the story that would eventually become his first novel, A Place Called Wiregrass . His debut won a Christy Award for Best First Novel and was named an Indie Next List Great Read by booksellers across the country. Michael’s second novel, Slow Way Home, was compared to the work of Harper Lee, Flannery O’Connor and Mark Twain by the Washington Post. It was nationally ranked as one of the top three recommended books by the American Booksellers Association and named one of the best novels of the year by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Birmingham News.
Michael is also the author of a novella based on the Grammy-nominated song “Live Like You Were Dying,” which became a finalist for the esteemed Southern Book Critics Circle Award. In addition, his work has appeared in Sonny Brewer’s Stories from the Blue Moon Café II and in Not Safe, but Good II, an anthology edit by Bret Lott.
Michael and his wife, Melanie, live in Alabama.