Given that most poetry books are published by small presses, and that many bookstores don’t stock those small press books, a book tour is the only surefire way a poet can get his or her wares into the hands of readers. Or is it? When Wave Books published Dorothea Lasky’s debut collection, Awe, Lasky wasn’t sure she’d be able to mount a full scale tour to support the release. She decided, instead, to hold readings in different rooms of her house over the course of a month, invite a few close friends, then film the events and post them to her website, calling it her “tiny tour.” PW caught up with her somewhere between her stop in the kitchen and a reading scheduled in her bathroom to find out if the camera made her nervous, whether she was selling books, and what it means to be part of a generation for whom a virtual tour might be as good as the real thing. |
I watched the video you posted of the reading in your kitchen. Where else has your tour taken you?
I’ve done a living room, the bathroom, a bedroom and a fire escape. I’m doing the movies in iMovie.
So you have a small live audience in your apartment when you’re reading and filming. Do those people stand in for all the strangers that you hope are going to watch? Are you more comfortable with the people in front of you, or the “viewers at home?"
Basically, in all of the readings, except for the living room, because it’s bigger and can fit a larger group, the live audience makes me feel like I can’t access the reading persona I would have if I really thought about how there are a lot of people on the Internet, as opposed to these four people in the room. It just makes me gentler, because I know the people in front of me—they’re friends—and I don’t want to scream at them. When I give a normal reading, I’m usually really loud.
This is your first book—you’re still forging your reputation. Can this kind of virtual book tour replace a brick-and-mortar bookstore tour?
I think that it ostensibly could. Maybe because it is the first book that it probably is good that I’m supplementing it with by some face to face readings. It could especially if there were also other videos of the person in a regular space, rather than just a house. Though I also think of Emily Dickinson in her house and that kind of space. When I was living in Amherst and I went to her house, I thought a lot about how there was all this happening in this one house.
So you think a lot can happen in a small space—as long as you’ve got the means to broadcast (which are now readily available on most laptops with an internet hookup)...
I’m thinking about how much I love watching videos on YouTube and how that was part of the connection. I think there’s something about the video—It’s a different kind of intimacy than going to see someone read: you can be really close to the person in a way that you couldn’t if you were sitting there. It’s a different kind of energy but it might be equal if it’s done right.
Then, of course, the other big motive for book tours is selling books. What about that? How do you imagine this will affect the sales of your book? Will potential readers click over to Amazon and buy it after watching the videos?
I think of myself as both a consumer and a poet. I feel like it would be more likely if I were just watching it to buy a copy, as opposed to buying one at a performance. A lot of times I don’t buy books in those situations—I wait till I can have the impetus to buy it on my own. The way that we’re going, I think it’s likely that an Internet book tour will sell more books, at least for a consumer like me, and I think I’m a typical consumer.
So you were born in 1978, and I was born in ’79—I think this is a strategy that appeals particularly to people of our generation and people younger than us, who are buying books online more than anywhere else.
People now have a lot more agency over what they like and what they want to look at due to the Internet. I think that’s really wonderful—how people learn and how people buy things. You can really choose what you’re consuming.