I've got to say, though, this travel is taking its toll, and I'm glad that I shouldn't be traveling again until the Last Sacrifice tour in December. I cringe each time I see the TSA line, yet I've also got my screening down to a science. Three bins: one for my laptop, one for my coat and shoes, and one for my toiletries and purse. Laptop bag goes on its own. I also get weary waiting at the gate, lining up with the others who seem convinced that if they don't push into the line right away, they're going to get left off the plane. And lately, my back's been hurting each time I get home.
This recent trip had an extra kick because O'Hare is rolling out its body scanners, which really aren't as bad or "privacy invasive" as people think. But, because it was so new, the TSA line dragged more than usual. Then, our plane had mechanical problems with its air conditioning and was delayed 1.5 hours. While boarding, I actually saw the official Boeing 737 manual opened up to the air conditioning page, which is a little disconcerting. Somehow I expect mechanics to just know how to fix it without needing to look it up. On board, we found out there were storms between us and Seattle. The plane had to fly a very round about route (going almost to Texas before heading north), tacking on another 1.5 hours.
So you can see why I'm down on travel lately. But, in somewhat more cheery news, I was thinking about how when I go on a real tour, I have a number of survival behaviors, and author Ally Carter reminded me of some she shares too. So, I thought I'd provide some helpful tips for any budding authors out there who might find themselves on extensive book tours someday.
First off, you have to understand the nature of a book tour. I'm flying to a different city every day. This means I'm usually up at 6am, waiting to get picked up for the airport and its procedures (see above). I fly into a new city, usually getting there mid-afternoon. If I'm lucky, I get to go to my hotel for a couple hours and clean up. Other times, I may have to go straight to promo somewhere, meaning I have to walk off the plane groomed and dressed up. In the evening is the signing, and then everything starts all over the next morning at 6am in a different city. Each city has a new driver or escort to pick me up and drop me off where I need to go.
Here's what necessary to survive.
1. If you arrive before check-in, the hotel may not have a room ready for you. Don't throw a diva fit. They don't care who you are. Act shocked but be polite, and then say you have to call your publicist. Maybe even call her--though she may not be able to do much. Regardless, using the word 'publicist' and getting out your phone is sometimes enough to hurry the hotel staff into prepping a room. Otherwise, you'll be sitting in their restaurant, trying to stay awake because you're still strung out on Xanax from the flight. (Okay, that last bit only applies to me). Hotels try to honor early check-in requests, but most can't guarantee it unless the previous night was also paid for. Happily, I've never had to wait more than an hour when a room wasn't ready.
2. As soon as you enter your hotel room, drop your bags and find the room service menu. Don't even take off your coat. Some hotels don't serve between 2pm-5pm. If you get there at 1:30pm and start unpacking, you will be sad at 2pm when you get around to ordering. Because most signings are at 6 or 7, I often get picked up at 5 or 6, meaning I don't get to eat at dinnertime. Get food when you arrive, or you may not eat at all.
3. Because you're missing dinnertime, you won't get your next meal until at leat 9pm. Probably 10 or 11, depending on signing length and transportation time back to the hotel. So, also check when the hotel stops serving food. If you're lucky, they do room service 24 hours. If they stop before you think you'll return to the hotel, you need to have your driver take you somewhere on the way back, or you'll be stranded and hungry. Once the driver drops you off, they're gone.
4. Hoard all the water you can. Flying every day will dehydrate you. Water's offered to authors everywhere. The drivers have bottles in their cars, the bookstores will give it to you, and hotels will have it too. Take them all. You'll have to give them up when you go to the airport the next day, but you'll be glad it's always on hand. You need it for lots of reasons. You'll be thirsty, you may need it take aspirin with, and you'll need it if you decide to have a drink at night. (As an aside, I rarely drink alcohol on tour. I can think of few things worse than calling my publicist in the morning because I'm too sick to board a plane. It's best avoided). Ally Carter points out that in a pinch, hotel gyms often stock water bottles or at the very least a cooler to refill from.
5. Make sure your carry-on has bare essentials to get you ready for a public appearance. I always check a bag both because it's necessary for 2 weeks of travel and because of all my products. I've never had luggage lost (knock on wood), but in the event it doesn't make it to the city when you do, you could be in serious trouble, and with the short turnaround on these trips, it's unlikely the bag will get to you before the signing.
6. If you snack before a public event, choose carefully. Don't pick things that could mess up your clothes or (for women) smear your makeup. Bookstores will often kindly offer food and coffee along with water. I've had a couple of bad experiences getting frappuccinos before signings, only to have them drip onto my shirt while drinking. So now, I either don't eat once I'm dressed and cleaned up, or I pick something I can break apart and eat in small bites (like scones).
7. Err on the side of extra time. If your driver says it's going to take longer to get to the airport than the publisher's itinerary says, go with the driver. Sacrifice that extra 30 minutes of sleep or whatever. You don't want to be late for a flight or a signing.
Okay, that's all I've got at the moment. I'm sure there are other hot tips for author touring, but those are the biggest. They're essential for long tours but hold true for these overnight trips too. One thing I'll say, though, is that despite all the running around and exhaustionin travel involves, it's always worth it once I'm at a signing. I LOVE signings. I can be miserable getting off that plane, but as soon as I walk into a bookstore and meet my readers, all the stress goes away. It's amazing. I usually fall over when I get back to my hotel, but for those 2-3 hours of signing, I'm super-energized, and it's all because of the crowd.
So, thank you to everyone who helps make the events so great! Of course, I still need downtime, which is why I'm glad to be home where I can spend my days in pajamas and not do my hair. I also need to keep writing those book things, which I can't do while traveling. Speaking of which, it's time to get back to work...