Notes from the Road, Volume I


Greetings from Providence, Rhode Island. This week we launched the AONC book and began the Unconventional Book Tour, with six stops in six days.

If you’re new to AONC, regular articles are posted on Mondays and Thursdays. I often use Sundays for a weekend update about my business, For the rest of 2010 I’m not doing much business work, so I’ll use this space more often for updates from the tour.

So … how did the launch go?

Last Sunday, I went to NYC and holed up in a midtown hotel for the launch on Tuesday. The book was around 2,000-3,000 on the Amazon sales ranking the night before, which was good. Then right after it came out, we shot up to #100 thanks to Seth Godin, my LifeRemix friends, and many of you who ordered the book.

After #100 it kept climbing… on to #33, #18, and even #10. We finally made it to #8 on Amazon and held steady most of the day, beating out Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and even the Twilight series. (Alas, I wasn’t able to topple the Dragon Tattoo guy—but it was fun to see my book at #8 and Tony Blair’s book at #9 all day.)

In the “good news and bad news” department, the book was selling so well that it actually sold a few too many. Less than 36 hours after launch, we sold out of the first print run thanks to the Amazon frenzy and a large order from Barnes & Noble, where it’s also in the Top 100.

NYC Launch Event

At Borders Columbus Circle that night, we had a packed house for the first stop of the 63-city tour. I asked my good friend Jonathan Fields to introduce me. Sherry Ott from Meet Plan Go (fun project!) gave a short overview of her upcoming event, and Jodi Ettenberg took photos. My editor and publicist from Penguin came out, along with many old friends, new friends, and readers from the city.

That night we sold and signed every copy in the store and went to a fun afterparty at a place down the street. It was a great start to the adventure of visiting readers in all 50 states (and later every province in Canada).

You can see lots of great photos from the launch event here, courtesy of Jodi.

New Jersey

A few days before the tour started, Tom from Mendham Books offered to host our group. After taking the train out from NYC, I met Tom and toured the shop. Tom had emailed the night before and asked “If it would be OK” to have wine or beer available during the talk and signing. My response was: “Yes, that would be great… and can you make it mandatory?”

(The night before in Manhattan, Borders had unsuccessfully tried to impose a cupcake embargo on our meetup, finally giving up and putting them out on the tables as dozens of people lined up to get their book signed.)

Mendham is a fairly quiet place, but we still had a good-sized group come out. I got a chance to meet Alex Rinehart, long-time reader and ringleader of a World Domination chiropractic group (long story), who also volunteered his services as chauffeur so I could get back to Newark before going on to Philly the next day.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Near the “brotherly love” city, our meetup was hosted by my friends at Aweber. Their place is a long ways out of the city, so I was worried that no one would come. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about and we had a good-sized group. The Conversation Agent introduced me and co-facilitated the Q&A with me.

Afterward, we went to a bar that seemed exactly like the one in the U.S. version of The Office, which was appropriate since Scranton, PA isn’t that far away. Thankfully, most of us escaped just as the karaoke was beginning. (Alas, there will be no non-conformist karaoke on this tour, at least not from me.)

Wilmington, Delaware

Three days before the Delaware stop, I had no real plan. I was just going to Starbucks it, meaning “show up at Starbucks and see if anyone was around,” because I don’t know much about Delaware and didn’t have a lot of people on the DE list.

Then Whitney Hoffman came along and rescued me, explaining that in fact there was more than one Starbucks in Delaware, and she knew a better place anyway. (Thanks Whitney!) We ended up at the Brew Ha Ha, a coffee shop that Joe Biden hangs out at when he’s in town. Joe didn’t make it out this time, but a fun group of readers joined up with a fun group of Delaware social media people to make for a nice afternoon.

I actually prefer smaller groups because it gives us much more of a chance to talk together instead of me just talking to people, so the Wilmington stop was fun and relaxing.

New Haven, Connecticut

After taking the train to the first four events, I rented a car in Delaware and drove up to the next stop in New Haven. This event was held offsite with support from the Yale Bookstore, which was kind enough to bring copies of the book out even with all the “Yalies” (Yale University students) moving in and starting up classes this week.

My thanks to friend and co-conspirator Brooke Thomas for co-hosting this event with me. Brooke went all out and spent the day baking cupcakes (no embargo this time) and getting ready for the event, leaving me to hang out at Blue State Coffee, where I sat down under a sign advertising the event and wrote much of this update.

Providence, Rhode Island

That’s where I was a few hours ago today. Books on the Square hosted an afternoon event, and I enjoyed meeting another good-sized New England group of readers and new friends. Once again we were able to have a group discussion instead of a lecture, which is always my preferred option but not as easy to facilitate with a bigger crowd.

Since this event was at 2pm, I jumped in a rental car afterward and drove to Cambridge, Massachusetts—where I’m posting this update from, and where I’ll be tomorrow night at the Harvard Coop.


How to Support the Book

As mentioned a while back, the book launch and 63-city tour is kind of an all-consuming thing for a while. If you don’t care about it, you can always unsubscribe from AONC for a few months, or unsubscribe forever if it just isn’t your thing. I won’t be writing about it all the time, but since I’m doing an event almost every single day, it will definitely be on my mind a fair amount.

This week’s highlights are Boston/Cambridge (tomorrow night at the Harvard Coop), Portland, Maine (Tuesday night at Longfellow’s Books), Manchester, New Hampshire (Wednesday night at Barnes & Noble), and Burlington, Vermont (Thursday at U. of Vermont Bookstore). All events are 7pm except for Vermont, which is 12pm.

If you’d like to help, start by asking your bookseller about the book. You can find an independent bookstore by searching on IndieBound. After the reorders are shipped, it should also be available in Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Chapters. Most stores are only stocking a couple of copies each at this point, so if you drop by, ask them about the book and gently nudge them to stock more.

By the way, no less than 50 people have emailed me to ask why the book is available on Kindle for international customers but not U.S. customers. I have no idea! I’m sorry about that and my publisher is busy pestering Amazon to fix that. It should be ready very soon, but then again, it should have been ready last week…. so we’ll see.

The good news for digital book fans (or at least, iPad owners) in the meantime is that it is available on the iBooks store, and even featured on the landing page there.

The second thing you can do (after you’ve read the book) is write a review and spread the word. During my talk on the tour, I mention how I get paid in nice emails and trackbacks. If you enjoy the book, please help other people learn about it in whatever way makes sense to you.

I’m donating 100% of my author royalties for every reader I meet to our Charity: Water project in Ethiopia, and it looks like we’re on track to meet a lot of people. If you come out to a meetup or discussion, be sure to sign the notebook I have with me on the table. That way we can credit your name with the donation.

Most Important: Thanks so much!

This is a lot of fun and I’m extremely grateful. Remember: we regret the things we don’t do much more than the things we do. If you’re on the fence about something, “go for it and take action” is almost always better advice than “think about it without doing anything.”

A few months ago I still wasn’t sure about this tour, but I decided to make the leap. It’s still early, of course, but so far, so good.

See you next from Boston and beyond.

– Chris


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