Proving there is strength—and energy—in numbers, four YA authors who have recent releases from Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group are winding up a group tour that brought them to Texas, Illinois, Colorado, California, and Washington state. Visits to schools, bookstores, and libraries were on the busy 16-day itinerary shared by Alyson Noël, Gabrielle Zevin, Jessica Brody, and Mary E. Pearson. And from all reports, they received warm welcomes every step of the way.
Jean Feiwel, senior v-p and publishing director at Macmillan Children’s Publishing, accompanied the authors on the Chicago-area leg of their tour, and had the chance to witness their fans’ enthusiastic reaction first-hand. “When they walked into one school gym, they received a standing ovation,” she recalls. “It was awesome and almost gave me chills to see how these authors are treated like rock stars. It’s a lot of hard work on the authors’ part. They are constantly performing, with visits to schools by day and stores at night—it’s certainly not one big slumber party for them—but the number of fans they can reach and readers they can influence as a group of authors on tour is definitely impressive. It’s a terrific inspiration for their readers.”
Mary E. Pearson, whose The Fox Inheritance, a sequel to The Adoration of Jenna Fox, was released by Holt in September with a 100,000-copy first printing, said she found the fans’ enthusiasm for the group tour rewarding—and energizing. “Some of these readers had never met a single author before, much less four, and the excitement level was high,” she says. “One group of students was so appreciative that they clapped after nearly everything we said. We felt quite loved and appreciated. It really took away a lot of the tiredness of being on the road. They gave us energy.”
A group tour is a win-win situation for the authors, fans, and publishers involved, observes Alyson Noël, whose latest middle-grade Riley Bloom novel, Dreamland, was published by Square Fish in September with a 200,000-copy first printing. “This marks my second group tour, and I have to say it’s a fun way to go!” She finds that touring as a group “combats some of the loneliness” of touring on one’s own, “and the readers really seem to enjoy it as well. For publishers, it’s a great way to cross-promote the wide variety of books on their lists, and for authors it’s a great way to support and champion each other’s works. I’ve definitely noticed readers showing up with one or two of an author’s backlist, then, after hearing the other authors speak, running back to the shelves to pick up their books as well.”
Amplifying this thought, Gabrielle Zevin emphasizes a group tour’s ability to introduce audiences to a variety of genres and perspectives in one sitting. “I think it’s great that the kids at these events are exposed to so many voices,” she reflects. “I hope they leave with the notion that there are books and authors for everyone.” Farrar, Straus & Giroux released Zevin’s All These Things I’ve Done, which launches her first series, in September with a 100,000-copy first printing.
The group approach to touring also has added benefits for readers who dream of following in the authors’ footsteps. “Readers really seem to enjoy learning about the different approaches we all take in creating our stories,” says Noël. “The audiences are usually filled with aspiring young writers, and I think they appreciate hearing that there’s no one right way to write a book—that it’s all about finding what works for you, and going with that.”
The authors agree that the tour was an enjoyable bonding experience, and they quickly became familiar with the others’ responses to frequently asked questions. “By now, we could all probably answer for each other,” comments Jessica Brody. “I know exactly how Alyson gets past writer’s block, what Mary did to research the future world in The Fox Inheritance, and why Gabrielle chose to make chocolate illegal in All These Things I’ve Done. But it’s always fun when we get new and different questions from the audience. We all kind of look at each other with excitement and say, ‘Oh! Well that’s new!’ It keeps us on our toes.” FSG published Brody’s My Life Undecided in May with a 50,000-copy first print run.
Among the Pen Fatale Tour’s many highlights, Pearson says, was finally meeting a fan face-to-face whom she’s known online through Twitter and Facebook for several years. “That was a very special moment for me,” she says.
For Brody, the tour’s highlight was visiting her hometown of Parker, Colo. “We spoke at a high school where my 10th grade English teacher, Mr. Larson, is now the librarian,” she explains. “I haven’t seen him since I graduated, and that was a completely wonderful—and surreal!—experience. I tend to pull from my real life when writing my books, and Mr. Larson had a cameo appearance in both The Karma Club and My Life Undecided, which takes place in Parker. It’s a small town that certainly doesn’t find itself in many books. So it was really cool to go back and speak to the students who are living the experiences that I now write about.”