Sorry for the radio silence since publication day on Feb. 6, 2018 of At Peace: Choosing a Good Death After a Long Life. I’ve been on my “book tour” (please note the small letters and quotation marks). This was not a Book Tour with red carpets, black limos, personal assistants, and the exchange of pleasantries with other celebrities in various green rooms.
This was a series of book talks and signings at medium to small venues organized by friends, family, my agent, and my publicists, as well as multiple podcasts and radio interviews organized by my publicists. (See my events and interviews page.) Yet, during the run up to the publication, I was daunted. I suffered blog-writing writer’s block for months. I filled the workdays spinning my wheels with email redundancies and half-hearted attempts to create more book talk opportunities.
I learned two things. First, you cannot make a venue interested in your book by blowing your own horn. They might say they are interested to get you off the phone, but if not truly interested they stop returning calls and ghost you on emails.
Second, I learned that I can do this.
And how could I know what it would be like? Looking forward to the first speaking gig was like trying to anticipate the first day of internship or the first time I had sex – lots to look forward to, but how will it play out?
The product of a reticent mother and a comparatively reticent father, I seem to have been endowed with a double dose of reticence genes. In a public setting, I tend to be the last person to speak. But on my own book tour, I am forced to be the first and so I had to do it, and I did it.
My first speaking gig was at the Seattle Public Library. It was set up by my agent’s wife, Karen Maeda Allman, a lovely woman devoted to books as a vehicle for spreading ideas. She works for Seattle’s venerated Elliott Bay Book Company as their chief author events planner.
I scouted the venue one day in advance. The library itself is a massive, modern, glass and steel building with large public spaces. On this particular day, during a frigid cold snap in Seattle, every seat was occupied. Homeless men and women sat in most of them, nodding off with books in their laps. Security guards circulated, gently reminding them that sleeping was not permitted.
Signs on the restrooms reminded patrons that bathing, laundry, tooth brushing, and drug use was prohibited. Because every sink in the men’s room was occupied by someone bathing, cleaning clothes, or brushing their teeth, I presumed that literacy ended at the restroom door. To discourage drug use, all doors of the toilet stalls were cut in half, making any semblance of privacy a thing of the past.
I am sure that these problems are common to most large urban libraries (a possible topic for someone else’s blog) and I do not mean to sound critical of the Seattle Public Library in particular. Rather, I am dwelling on it to emphasize that my reaction to the situation was quite selfish. It occurred to me that should I suffer a moment of weakness during my presentation, there was no place to hide, certainly not in the men’s room.
I found the Microsoft Auditorium to be large (to me it appeared cavernous, only slightly smaller than a professional football stadium). About 180 patrons actually attended. I had visions of it being filled with the city’s homeless, but at the actual event they were very few in number. Apparently concerns about the next meal and a safe bed crowded out their interest in stories about hospice care and advance directives.
In any event, the evening went well and I survived.
Each subsequent event has varied in terms of venue size, duration of presentation, and the moderator’s skill asking or rephrasing questions. Common to all of them, however, is that I have survived and by that I am fortified and thankful.
Now the question is how to maintain the momentum. Right now, my best resource is word of mouth – your words and your mouths. But if you have a media connection or know a venue with a real interest in the subject matter, please let me know.
If you like the book enough to offer a review on Amazon, please consider it.* And not all reviews have to be five stars. I am not a vindictive Uber driver. But if you are tempted to start your review by saying, “As a writer, Dr. Harrington was a reliable gastroenterologist,” please hold it until I am feeling stronger still. I am waiting on reviews from large media outlets and I don’t want to kill all momentum yet.
Over the months leading up to the publication I would wake up every few nights with cold sweats and nightmares about Sisyphean tasks. My family would try to comfort me by saying, “Don’t worry, Dad, people are going to like the book.” Curiously, I took more solace from my son-in-law’s reassurance, “Don’t worry, Sam, no one is going to read the damn book, anyway.”
But now that people are reading it and most of the feedback is positive, I want to keep going.
Well, that’s all the news from the book tour front. It is time to soldier on.
How to leave an Amazon review
* The easiest way to leave a review is to purchase the book on Amazon (also the cheapest way to get a copy). You can get it in hardcover, for Kindle or the audio version. Then go back to my Amazon page and scroll down to where it says Customer Reviews to leave your review. A few sentences is fine. Again, don’t feel obligated to give it five stars. The reviews are so important in helping me gain momentum for the book.
One Tip: do not include in your review that I am your cousin, brother, son-in-law, patient, best friend or whatever it might be as a loyal reader of this blog. If you do, Amazon will not post the review because they will consider it “biased.”