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Virtual book tours, the origins of

Today’s NY Times covers virtual book tours, the increasingly popular practice of book authors touring blogs instead of touring the non-virtual bookstores of the US and staying in non-virtual and expensive hotel rooms. From the article’s midst:

[] was founded by Chris Anderson, the editor in chief of Wired and the author of “The Long Tail”; Adam Goldstein, a 19-year-old sophomore at M.I.T.; and Kevin Smokler, a publishing expert credited with creating the first blog book tour. That was for “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers” by the science writer Mary Roach, in 2003. Since then, Mr. Smokler said, “It’s become de rigueur for public relations to include blogs and online media as part of regular touring.” was one of the tour stops for the Stiff book tour (here’s the entry) but I also participated in the first blog book tour more than a year earlier, for a book called Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard, written by Greg Knauss and published by So New Media, a small publishing concern lovingly run by Ben Brown and James Stegall and now, sadly, defunct. The Rainy Day Fun… tour was the inspiration for Kevin in putting together the later tour. Not sure why the Times indicated otherwise.

And if you want to go back before most people were aware of these blog thingies, author M.J. Rose recalls participating in a virtual tour circa 2000:

So the NYT finally did an article on Author blog tours, which if memory serves, some of us have been doing for a quite a long time… in 2000 I did one that included Salon and and a few other places that updated regularly and operated the way blogs do even though then we didn’t call them that.

Update: So New Media is still going strong…just their old domain is no longer working. (thx, greg) And hey, Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard is still available ($5!) and still funny. I’m planning a re-read now that I’m a total bastard and soon-to-be toddler wrangler.

Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard Book Tour 2002

Hello, and welcome to the first stop of the virtual book tour for “Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard,” the surging juggernaught of virtual book tours. My name’s Greg Knauss, and I’ve commandeered today to pester you into dropping six bucks for a big wad of dead tree. Jason will be back tomorrow, ma’am, please put your shirt back on.

“Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard” is a collection of stories about kids โ€” birthing them, caring for them, confusing them for your own petty amusement โ€” that originally appeared on An Entirely Other Day. There are plenty of good reasons to buy a book composed of Web pages โ€” several of which revolve around bathroom accessibility โ€” but I’d like to start with a reading, to give you a flavor of what you’ll find inside:

[Cough. Clear throat. Sip water. Read aloud. Lament my ineptitude at producing MP3s, and rue this lame substitute.]

Imagine how much better that would have been on paper, away from your computer, outside in the sunshine without all that pesky money weighing you down! Yes, “Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard” makes the perfect gift! Unless the person you’re giving it to has children, in which case it will make them cry.

We’re scheduled to begin the question and answer portion of the event here, but I’d like to say a few words to those of you who haven’t been convinced to buy a copy by the reading:

C’mon, you weenie! It’s only six bucks! If you don’t want a book about kids, look at the rest of the So New catalog! Buy something else! Buy “Help Wanted” or Words! Words! Words! or “The Brick.” Or Little Engines, which isn’t even from So New Media. Or buy Macros, or back issues of Beer Frame, or, God, something other than another freakin’ Grisham novel. How many of his books have you read? Six? Eight? Can you even tell them apart anymore? Here’s a hint, sparky, the youngish white male lawyer is the good guy! You dropped six bucks on that, why not spend it on something that isn’t extruded from the ass of the publishing industry like crap from a horse overdosed on Metamucil? Instead of your next Big Burger Value Pak, how about you grab an apple and some independent media? Huh?

And, now, Q&A:

You’re a complete hypocrite, aren’t you?

Yes. Total. Today at lunch, for instance, I’ll be finishing “A Painted House” over a Western Bacon Cheeseburger.

But you still want me to buy your book?

Oh, yes. I did โ€” I bought six copies. You should, too.

Six is an awful lot, don’t you think?

Yes, you’re right. So I’ll cut you a deal: order in the next ten minutes, and I’ll only make you buy three.

These aren’t real audience questions, are they?

No. It turns out that the Web is about as interactive as a box of cereal. But if you’ve got a question, please mail it to [email protected], so I can answer it when the “Rain Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard” book tour pulls into Stating the Obvious tomorrow morning. See you there!

Except for you, ma’am. No, you can’t camp here until Jason comes back. Yes, I’m sure he’ll like the embroidered pillow. And, please, put your shirt back on.