Jersey City, NJ
Now that the tour is over, people keep asking me, “Was it worth it? Was it worth it?”
The "traditional" way a nobody like me would promote a book over the first 30 days of release would be to sit around his apartment, sending some desperate emails, appearing at some off-the-beaten-path BNs and Borders, spamming his friends with tons of Facebook and Twitter posts (OK, maybe I do that too), and just hoping, praying, not selling.
But that shit doesn't cut it any more.
Hell, very few things cut it anymore. If you want to sell copies.
Consider a book like "The Ask" by Sam Lipsyte. This was a much ballyhooed major publisher (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) release that was instantly considered a classic, instantly written up in just about every single English-language print and online resource around, which was promoted heavily, had the best front-table bookstore placement money could buy, and...which sold a mere 7000 copies in it's first several months of release.*
I'm a non-ballyhooed author with a non-ballyhooed book from a non-ballyhooed publisher that is so non-ballyhooed all around, that my book never had a shot to be either critically acclaimed or critically panned because no critics were ever going to read it, if even know about it, right from the get-go. And, I knew this. No major bookstores were going to promote me, give me good placement, invite me in to speak, and I knew this too. But I didn't care. I wrote a book for my people, and they aren't reading The New York Times Book Review (they read Deadspin) and they aren't going to bookstores on Friday nights (they're out drinking). So I took the book to the people.
And it worked!
I'm not sure if it's scientific or anecdotal, but it is oft-repeated that if you just sell 1000 copies of a book then that book is in the 99th percentile of all books sold in the county. A bit of an indictment on American literacy perhaps, but more so proof that most all book released do not sell copies. Regardless of quality or entertainment value, it's simply hard to know about one book amongst millions released per year. Especially when most people read about one book per year. The odds are stacked against you if you're not Stephen King, JK Rowling, Jonathan Franzen, or Stieg Larsson.
Well, after just a month, I have achieved that "genius" 99th percentile. Not cause I appeared on "Conan," not cause Time Magazine wrote about me, not cause I got major bookings at major bookstores, not because my publisher shelled out some serious loot for print ads, maybe a billboard in Times Square (har har), not cause I sat around hoping one of my blog posts would go viral and gets picked up by College Humor, or retweeted by Tim Ferriss or Tucker Max. No, if I'd done that, nothing would have happened and I would have merely sold a few dozen books to close friends and family. Pity fucks. Pity buys.
But I refused to do that, I had the prescience to know what would happen if I did that. So I took the book to the people--with my "30 Bars in 30 Days" team (above)--and we sold the books to these (sometimes drunk) people, and these people loved it and continue to love it. Shit, in many cases it's the first book they've bought and read in a decade! That would not have happened if I'd gone the traditional route.
And for that reason alone, "Fail" is a success, hopefully destined for even bigger and brighter things.
I'll have more tour thoughts in the coming week, discussions and post-mortems on a few upcoming more traditional events before the holidays too, but until then, here's the final POWER POLLS submitted for your approval.
POWER POLLS (through "30 Bars in 30 Days")
1. Philly Cigar Club special happy hour (Philadelphia)
2. Amity Hall (Manhattan)
3. Graney's (Albany)
4. The Irish Pub (Atlantic City)
5. Drinker's Tavern (Philadelphia)
6. McGlynn's Pub (Newark, DE)
7. Rustico (Alexandria, VA)
8. Syracuse weekend (Syracuse)
9. Felie (Manhattan)
10. Bukowski Tavern (Cambridge, MA)
11. Brazen Fox (White Plains, NY)
12. A'dam Good Sports Bar (Atlantic City)
13. The Brewer's Art (Baltimore)
14. Paddy Whacks (Philadelphia)
15. Churchkey (Washington, DC)
16. Zeppelin Hall (Jersey City, NJ)
17. O'Sullivan's (Arlington, VA)
18. Brooklyn Bowl (Brooklyn)
19. The Note (West Chester, PA)
20. Track 84 (Providence)
21. P.O.P.E. (Philadelphia)
22. Green Rock Tavern (Hoboken, NJ)
23. Benchwarmers (Ithaca, NY)
24. P.J. Whelihan's (Cherry Hill, NJ)
25. Old Bay (New Brunswick, NJ)
26. Kildare's (Manayunk, PA)
27. Cambridge Common (Cambridge, MA)
28. Loockerman Exchange (Dover, DE)
29. Jillian's (Albany)
30. Stout (Manhattan)
1. My assistant locking her keys in the tour car (with countless books inside) right before the Brooklyn Bowl event was about to start.
2. Having an event at Stout "organized" by Syracuse's Big Apple Orange alumni club (and that's all I'm legally allowed to say about that!).
3. Spending the night at a Motel 6 in Albany, getting sick for the next few days immediately afterward, my lungs surely full of mold and mildew.
4. Not drinking coffee all day causing me to turn into a tweaking recent former heroine addict, throwing up in the street, missing a MAJOR event at Churchkey jam-packed with my friends, and falling asleep before 9:00 PM.
5. Booking events in small towns like Manayunk, Cherry Hill, Dover, and in Ithaca at a bar that is now out of business!
6. Getting duped into giving a free copy of "How to Fail" to a self-proclaimed "important cultural journalist" who we never actually vetted. When he didn't showed up for a scheduled one-on-one interview with me and we realized we didn't actually have his contact info (he only had ours), we knew we'd been snookered for a free book. (UPDATE: Has any one seen this man???)
7. Insulting "supremacistic, gun-toting, shrieking, hardcore, hatemongers" on this blog, fearing for my life for a few days before realizing these are actually the NICE kind of "supremacistic, gun-toting, shrieking, hardcore, hatemongers."
8. My manager Craig leaving his credit card and ID at a bar and not realizing it until we were outside of Atlantic City, forcing us to head back to town at 2 in the morning on a night we desperately needed sleep.
9. My assistant quite possibly hitting a bald eagle with the tour SUV somewhere outside of Albany.
10. My assistant accidentally spilling a pint of beer all over the book table (UPDATE: twice!).
11. My assistant resuming smoking after having quit just a week before the tour kicked off.
12. My assistant parking in an illegal spot in Brooklyn and getting a sanitation sticker slapped on her vehicle.
13. Me drinking Miller High Life forties so hardcore at Drinker's that I was so ridiculously hungover all day I was unable to leave my room to find a sports bar to watch my beloved Syracuse Orange clinch a bowl game against dreadful Rutgers for the first time in ages. Shameful.
14. The dean of Newhouse attempting to purchase "How to Fail" via SUpercard, the Syracuse University intra-school debit card, typically used for late-night muchies runs to the dining hall Burger King or Sbarro's.
15. Me eating bar food for 30 consecutive dinners (plus stadium food, plus late night stops at NJ Turnpike Roy Rogerses, Taco Bell drive-thrus, pizzerias, etc) even though I promised myself I would eat healthily on this tour.
16. Me turning myself from a taut, athletic figure into a man that looks like he's been hanging out at bars 10 hours a day, drinking 10-plus pints of beer per day, for the last thirty days. It's time to hit the gym hardcore.
*Hopefully, "The Ask"'s countless appearances on every year-end top ten list will elevate its numbers.