Thursday, January 22, 2015

What goes into accepting or declining invitations

From: Wendy

Forgive my ignorance on such matters, but with all these appearances and interviews, are they required by your publisher? I'm also sure they are fun to do, but are you allowed to pick and choose and then finally just say "Hey, I need to go home and write."
Short answer: I get to choose, to a degree. I get to refuse but I don't always get to initiate.

Longer answer: it's a multi-level conversation. First of all, in terms of travel, I ask myself: 
  • Does my schedule permit?
  • Do I like the city? This makes a big difference: the kind of food, and hotels, and general stance to the world. The weather is significant: if I'm doing a multi-centre gig, then some conditions can make life impossible. Ice, for example (crutches and icy pavement do not mix) or extreme heat (MS and heat really don't mix). However, a conference or convention in a decent, large hotel or resort is fine in almost any weather, because if it's vile outside I can stay inside and use the facility's bars and restaurants and room service.
  • Do I like the university, bookshop, or library that's invited me? This in itself is a nuanced conversation. Has the bookshop sold a lot of my books in the past? Do they consistently move my backlist? Have they done me favours? Do I just plain like the people there? Do they have any media reach, i.e. can they publicise the event effectively? And—vital—is it accessible?
  • Will the time/energy expenditure be worth the goodwill/sales? This is always a tricky one, with many variables.
Then I ask Kelley (because she travels with me):
  • Pretty much all the above questions, though the emphasis and concerns are not identical. 
Then, if the publisher will be paying*, I ask them:
  • In terms of previous, continuing, and projected sales, is it worth it for the to spend the time/staff hours and money getting me to a particular venue?
  • If not, is keeping the author happy worth the time and expense?
All the answers go into the mix. Mostly, sadly, the answer is No.

If I had all the money and energy on the planet I'd go to a lot more places. I have many readers, and in a perfect world I'd get to meet most of them. I love reading from and talking about my work, and I learn a vast great deal from listening to readers' response to it. But travel and work and MS present competing priorities. I have to make choices. 

So if you're set on inviting me somewhere, ask early (what I need is here). Talk to both me and the publisher. Be prepared to be specific: How many readers can you bring? And how? (What kind of publicity/media reach do you have, and how many people will encounter your promos? It's good to be super-specific here: show? posters? newsletter? paid advert? social media promo?) How many books do you think you could sell—at the event and over the next month or two? And, if it's a teaching gig, or you represent a for-profit event series, what's my fee?

For interviews, some of the same considerations go into the mix: How long will it take? How many will it reach? What format is it?

Bear in mind that I'm a lot more generous when I've just finished a stage in the publication process: first draft, or rewrite, or copyedit. I'm freer, I have more energy, I generally not yet engaged on the next thing. Right now I am not free but hope towards the end of the year I might be.

* For tour-type stuff, the publisher pays. For university things, it's generally the institution. For genre conventions, it depends—if I'm GoH, they pay; if it coincides with a book release, the publisher pays; if it's just to party and/or show up at an awards ceremony, we pay for ourselves.
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