The launch of Cameron Battle and the Escape Trials, the latest addition to Jamar J. Perry’s middle grade Cameron Battle series, granted Perry an opportunity many authors look forward to: touring. For Perry, this was his first in-person tour due to a planned tour last year having had to pivot to virtual because of Covid.
Hitting the road for the first time, Perry was excited to “to meet students I write for, [who are] primarily Black boys.” The tour was scheduled for stops across five states, including multiple visits with schools. New to the challenges of an in-person tour, Perry recalled a conversation with fellow author N.E. Davenport about his fears.
“I remember I was talking to her before the tour, and I was like, ‘I’m just so nervous. Because what if no one shows up?’ And she’s like, ‘That’s like, my worst nightmare,’ ” Perry said.
On March 1, Perry arrived at Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Ga., for his scheduled tour stop with author Julian Winters. However, after Perry and Winters’ pre-event conversation bled well into the event’s start time, Perry realized no attendees were likely to come.
“I was very embarrassed, because no one had showed up and I thought it was a reflection on me,” he said. “I thought ‘Oh, no one wants to hear from me.’”
That evening, after having a thank-you dinner with the bookstore owners, Perry went back to his hotel, and a conversation with his media escort made him reconsider his perspective.
“That morning, she and I were talking about how she had a gratitude journal,” Perry explained. “When I got back to my hotel, I was thinking about how do I get over feeling this way about this happening. I didn’t have a journal, but I had a piece of paper, and I wrote down what I was grateful for. Grateful for being able to go on tour; grateful for being able to meet my readers; grateful to even have a sequel to come about.”
The next morning, Perry decided to share his experience with the world on Twitter. “I was just trying to support the bookstore,” Perry said about why he wanted to tweet about his event. “I didn’t know all this was gonna happen.”
Kinda embarrassing to admit, but not one person came to my Atlanta tour event. Instead of being bummed about it I’ve decided to focus on being grateful that I get to do this work.
Let’s thank the bookstore & order all 50 copies they have of my books! https://t.co/sx5iz5tNh3 pic.twitter.com/7VtvN0xjqY— Dr. Jamar J. Perry (@jamarperry) March 2, 2023
“All this” refers to how quickly his tweet resonated with the book community; it currently sits at 2.5 million views, with authors such as Philip Pullman, Tiffany D. Jackson, and Kosoko Jackson noting their similar experiences, and booksellers from across the country sharing their support.
“The community coming together really showcases that there were a lot of people out there rooting for my success,” Perry said. “I thought that was really important for me to reflect on and be happy about. It was a little overwhelming at first because it’s the first time that anyone has ever showed up for me in that way, but also I’m happy that people actually showed up.”
Perry’s moment of public vulnerability touched the hearts of people in the publishing industry and translated into impressive book sales. To date, Little Shop of Stories has sold more than 500 copies of Perry’s Cameron Battle and the Escape Trials, which Perry will sign for readers.
"We at Little Shop of Stories are huge fans of Jamar Perry, and have been enthusiastic to help get the Cameron Battle series into the hands of readers in our community, both when the first book came out and we hosted him for virtual school visits, and now for the new book." said Diane Capriola, co-owner of Little Shop of Stories. "We were pleased to have two very successful in-person school visits as part of Jamar's tour, and looked forward to what we predicted to be a fun and well-attended store event. While we work really hard to promote our events, unfortunately sometimes these efforts don't hit the mark. As any children's bookseller will tell you, we are often competing with so many other things when planning events—soccer practice, illness, homework, and tired parents, to name only a few. While we typically have ,people register for an event, there's little we can do to guarantee that they will actually show up. Hopefully, a silver lining here is that customers realize the impact they make when they choose to not attend an event they had originally signed up for."
On his overall experience of becoming a viral sensation, Perry said, “I wanted to show that just because you have one event that no one showed up to doesn’t mean you’re not a good author and doesn’t mean people are not reading your book.”