The OF Blog: A new Mason-Dixon Line?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A new Mason-Dixon Line?

I asked a wee little question of Catherynne Valente here just because I was curious, and I'm going to ask it here and see what others have to say (my response is found in the link above):

Here’s a tough question: Besides those authors who literally can’t afford to do it, why does it seem that most fantasy/SF authors avoid signing tours of the [American] Southeast?
It's something that's puzzled me for a while, although I know there are a few "big name" authors who made stops in the Nashville area around the beginning of their tours (Susanna Clarke in 2004, George R.R. Martin in 2005) who had sizable crowds. Just puzzling at times when I think about the general population shift to the South over the past three decades. It is "no shirt, no shoes, no service" these days, after all...

12 comments:

Andrew Wheeler said...

Authors don't book their own tours, generally, so you're really asking publishers why they don't send authors to the Southeast. And, since the Midwest is starting to complain that they don't see authors as much as they used to (and the Mountain states never saw much of anyone), the answer is probably that fewer authors are touring at all, and those are going to fewer cities.

If Chicago isn't getting Author X, Knoxville certainly won't. (Though I would expect Atlanta and Miami to get some events -- maybe Houston or Dallas, too.) Washington, DC also gets more than its share of authors, particularly for topical nonfiction -- but that's not all that South, and it's probably not the books you're thinking of.

Otherwise, it's mostly the fact that smaller cities (except Boston and Seattle) just don't get book tours in the first place. And there's not much national media out of southern cities (except Atlanta), which also hurts -- book tours are only partly about the local book-signings.

Larry said...

Yeah, I knew much of it was due to media issues, but I would argue that Nashville is an anomaly in that its publishing industry is third behind NYC and LA, albeit of a different sort (religious more than secular publishing).

But you raise a point I purposely left out of my original post and that's a matter of there being fewer and fewer tours period. While it's understandable that not all of the Top 30 media markets are going to get an author on tour, it seems that the numbers are smaller than perhaps they ought to be. I suspect it's a combination of fewer resources available for touring (for the larger authors; the smaller authors are left to fend for themselves and in that case, traveling even 200 miles might be too much of an expenditure), lack of media coverage (although Nashville's Davis-Kidd bookstore did draw upwards of 250-300 people for the Martin booksigning in November 2005, around the average for that tour, if memory serves), and perhaps perceived market differences. As for the types of books I'm thinking of, it's indeed more than just fantasy/SF works, which is part of the reason why I've wondered that if one takes into account the factors you and I have mentioned, if there might be something remaining that would constitute a sort of regional bias. I'm uncertain on this, which is why my post was more of a questioning one than a declarative one.

David Moles said...

Too badly traumatized by Books-a-Million.

Larry said...

Point taken. Davis-Kidd is my preferred independent bookstore. Plus their staff promotes the SF/F section quite well beyond the usual suspect choices. Found some small press titles there I couldn't find in the chains.

But Books-a-Million? Yeah, that's like the Winn-Dixie of booksellers.

Richard Parks said...

Unless you are going to BAM or Barnes & Noble, there aren't many other options. The sort of indepenent, sf/f oriented venues that make for good tour stops just aren't down here in the numbers you'd need to justify the trip. As others have pointed out, there are independent venues aplenty across the South but they tend to lean toward the literary/southern culture end of the spectrum, and just aren't interested in sf/f.

Larry said...

Good point, Richard. I live on the outskirts of Nashville and while there are a few good independent bookstores (Davis-Kidd being my preferred place to shop), most don't cater exclusively to SF/F. Can't recall hearing of any SF/F authors being invited to the Southern Festival of Books held in Nashville, come to think of it, which likely is part of the problem.

But part of me can't help but to wonder if it might also be a Catch-22 in that if nobody asks an author to appear, there won't be anybody appearing, thus leading to nobody asking an author to appear.

Plinydogg said...

Larry,

I agree with you and posted a response to your original comment. I live in North Carolina and haven't seen a noted SF author here ever :(

Larry said...

I read that and for some reason forgot to reply later, as I intended. I've seen a few (George R.R. Martin, Susanna Clarke, Scott Bakker) here in Nashville, but with the exception of Scott's, the other two got 250-300 and around 50, respectively. As for NC, maybe it depends on the city? Charlotte likely would have a shot at the occasional author (and I know there's a signing at Wofford tomorrow that Jeff VanderMeer and Tobias Buckell are doing, even if that's Spartanburg, SC and not Charlotte), but it's a weird confluence of things, I guess, based on the responses above.

Plinydogg said...

Wow,

Unfortunately, I'm in Raleigh.

I'd love to go to the Vandermeer signing though. I'm reading City of Saints and Madmen for a review at this very moment!

Larry said...

A pity indeed, as I'd love to be there as well. If you can afford to wait a couple of months until after he submits the manuscript for his upcoming novel, he's very approachable about doing interviews.

Plinydogg said...

Hmmmm. Interesting thought and good to know!

Do you happen to know if his next novel will be set in Ambergris?

Larry said...

It is. It's called Finch and will be out in 2009 sometime. Unless you're talking about the September release of Predator: South China Sea, which is a tie-in novel he wrote earlier this year.

 
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