Going on book tour conjures up a dual image of the feted author winging from one city to the next making her way (on the dime of the publisher!)….adoring fans lined up out the door at major bookstores across the United States waiting for a stolen moment with their favorite author, a few personal words, and a signature…and on the flip side, grim hotel rooms with even grimmer food.
Signing at Keplers - Publisher had to pay (!), store under construction (hammering!), not enough books (!) - a successful nightmare...
My book tour was none of the above. It was mainly orchestrated by me (at my choice). I had a willing and able publicist provided by my publisher (Andrews McMeel) but for me it made sense to contact the people I knew in the food world and plan my pivotal book events layer by layer. It took every day, all day, throughout two entire months of the summer of 2012.
The one thing people don’t tell you when you say, “I want to write a book” is how many steps there are in the process and how long the experience will extend for if you are serious about sustaining book sales. Everyone all say “Don’t do it for the money!” –and that much is true. I had just not anticipated how much of my life Japanese Farm Food would take over. (Not that I have one iota of regret – husband, Tadaaki, would have a different response!)
Photo shoots: 2+ years!!! (started before I wrote the proposal). Proposal process + working with agent: 3 months. Shopping the proposal to book contract: 3 months. Futzing around: 9 months. Madly writing: 4 months. Re-testing and editing: 6 months. Preliminary Book Tour planning: 2 months…Serious Book Tour scheduling: 2 months. Main Book Tour Sept/Oct 2012 (7 weeks); Mini Book Tour Feb 2013 (2 weeks); Spring 2013 Book Tour (5 weeks). ….You can see why Tadaaki was not so excited about the whole book thing.
But for me Japanese Farm Food is a living thing and every time I have some reason to go to the States, I feel compelled to put events on the docket to spread the word and introduce this simple style of food to more and more people.
I have some strange impression that only people I know are buying the book so when I see random tweets or posts from people who have (and love) the book I get a tickle/twinge in my stomach. Is it real? How do these people find the book? I always wonder. I am also touched by the periodic email from fans (fans…hah!...so odd to say).
And it is because of that kismet chance of opening up this door into the Japanese countryside for people that I continue to do events. I will be in the U.S. for my Stanford Reunion and have five Japanese Farm Food events on the calendar. I will post the schedule on my website.
You know the saying “in for a penny, in for a pound”…that is completely how I look at where I am. These days it seems easier to get a book contract, but you need to pour much more of yourself into the project than in the golden years of book publishing. I can live with that. Also who cares about the project more than I do? Nobody. So I better get out there and do something about presenting myself and my book in front of people who love food. Certainly doing food events what seemed like every day for 7 weeks (or the 2 weeks in winter and the 5 weeks in spring) was thoroughly exhausting but it was also exhilarating. And that is why I keep doing it again and again. Because I am lucky enough to get the holy grail of all for writers: A book contract. So I will not squander it whining about not having support (which I do) or not having enough money to travel (which I don’t).
Also writing a book about a way of life that is mostly unknown by modern, urban Japanese has catapulted me into the eye of the media (Fuji TV is documenting my pickling and farm food methods for periodic 20-minute segments aired on Sunday mornings under the title of “Lost Japan.”) and the government (I presented at Japan Night of Summer Davos on our life and food). Japanese Farm Food has given me a big voice in Japan at a time where traditional foods and ways of life are in crisis. And for that I am deeply grateful.
I am also deeply grateful for the ever-inclusive community of Chez Panisse and Alice Waters for kindly allowing me into their world. It is my second home. For that, the book launch dinner deserves its own post and I will write it separately.
Once Alice and Jen Sherman had given me the thumbs up for holding my book launch dinner at the Chez Panisse Café, the rest of my first book tour fell slowly into place. Over the course of seven weeks in September and October of 2012 I collaborated on 7 Japanese Farm Food dinners; talked, signed books, and served Japanese farm food snacks at 12 bookstores; conducted 4 cooking classes and 6 cooking demos; and was also interviewed by 7 well-known radio shows. I travelled from the Bay Area to Portland, Seattle, Woodstock VT/Hanover NH, Boston, NYC, and Albuquerque, NM. My publisher kindly underwrote a portion of the expenses, but let’s face it the book tour is the responsibility of the author these days so it makes sense to go where you want! Of course unless you are a well-known author like some of my friends. Something to aim for, perhaps?
For now, here are some other highlights of the Fall 2012 Book Tour.
First, had it not been for my dear friends Ceciily Dumas and Sarah Moulding, I would have been a poor little orphan fending for herself in Motel 6. They and their darling girls Izzy and Pinky took me in for the 2 months I was a vagabond in the U.S. Their basement apartment was in a constant state of out-of-control disorder as I unpacked and packed for each new venue. Having this home base kept me grounded and and being part of their family kept me feeling connected.
But many people supported my 7 week book tour...friends and family put out all the stops to come to as many events as possible. And they have been equally patient and understanding with my lack of free time to meet privately. I have tunnel vision: book, book, book.
One of my favorite events was sadly also the least attended. The food at our Japanese Farm Food Party at Pizzaiolo was true to the book and completely delicious. Unfortunately we were not successful on getting the word out and the date coincided with a major ballgame as well as the day after a huge wedding in our community. But Charlie Hallowell kept a smile on his face and kept making pizzas...
And Sylvan Mishima Brackett of Peko-Peko Japanese Catering brought out the kamado wood-fired rice cooker to cook Tadaaki's rice for umeboshi-filled rice balls on the back patio. Chez Panisse Chef Cal Peternell, assisted by son Henderson, was grilling teriyaki burgers along side Sylvan's kamado. Wish you could have been there for all the food...there was a lot. Charlie goes big when he puts together an event. Watch his website for future dates and for the opening of his new place in Oakland: Penrose.