March 2, 2009

The Ben Tanzer virtual tour wrap-up; and have I mentioned CCLaP's next book yet?

Ben Tanzer virtual book tour 2009

Oh, what a happy and sad day! It's officially the end of CCLaP's latest artistic experiment, a two-week "virtual book tour" that was conducted by Chicago author Ben Tanzer, in support of the story collection Repetition Patterns that the center put out last fall. (You can click here to read more about the tour if you'd like, including the entire schedule and what exactly a "virtual book tour" is anyway.) After twelve stops at various websites scattered all over the US, Ben is finally back home both physically and mentally, ready to recover from all the sacrifices he's made in the last half-month for the sake of all you good people and fans.

Anyway, I wanted to take a moment and thank again everyone who participated in this tour, and link once again to the guest entries they posted as part of this project: Pete Anderson; Elizabeth Crane; Jason Jordan; Jason Behrends at What To Wear During An Orange Alert; Tim Hall; Michael FitzGerald; Amy Guth; Robert Duffer at the Chicago Literary Examiner; Jason Riley; Nick Ostdick; S. Craig Renfroe; and JA Tyler. (And of course don't forget the two virtual postcards Ben sent in during the tour as well.) All twelve of the people mentioned here ended up volunteering their time and effort into making this tour happen, and often were the ones coming up with the cool and funny things you actually saw during the tour itself (the videos, the MP3s, the word-association games, etc); it wouldn't have been nearly as successful as it was without their input, so on behalf of both Ben and myself let me mention how appreciated it was.

And speaking of results, I'm sure many basement presses and self-publishers out there are wondering just what they were in this case, and whether it'd be worth it to put together one of these virtual book tours themselves; and since CCLaP is semi-nonprofit in mission and scope, I'm happy to share those numbers, although want to make it clear that most of these figures are only fuzzy at best, based on things like Google Analytics reports and extrapolations from existing trends over previous months. In general, though, over twelve guest posts at other blogs over a two-week period, I estimate that another 200 or so brand-new people at least went by the book's online headquarters because of the tour, that around 20 people actually downloaded the book, that four people have so far voluntarily sent payment for it, and that they've sent a very healthy average of eight dollars apiece. So are those numbers "worth" the costs of actually doing the tour, in which both Ben and I spent X amount of time but not a penny of actual money? I'm very happy to have twenty new readers of the book, for example, and nearly 40 new dollars of revenue off a project I still haven't spent a penny on; but perhaps even more important in long-term business term, I'm very happy with the goodwill such a tour spread, the noticeable interest the Chicago media took in this project and the noticeable amount of press it received, the amount of conversation it inspired about both Ben and CCLaP in the literary community, and the way it helped cement in the public's mind what I hope to be the center's overall image, as a bold experimenter* who helps define the conversation of what the cutting-edge in the arts is to be in the first place. To achieve all those things for no money and what was essentially an hour or two of my life each day for two weeks is what I consider a pretty fair "price" indeed.

In Rainbows, by Sally Weigel

Oh, and did I mention that we'll be going through all of this again this summer? Because today seems as good a time as any to quickly yet officially announce that CCLaP's next original book will be a novella called In Rainbows, by yet another Chicago author named Sally Weigel. Sally's a young writer, just finishing up her freshman year at DePaul, and I'm proud to say that this will be her first full-length publication; the plot is a little more complicated than this, but it basically concerns a poetry-writing semi-goth-girl high-school senior who volunteers for the Iraq War after graduation, the reasons why she does so, and how she does and does not cope with having both her legs blown off while over there, during a non-combat jeep ride. The story itself then is structured much like the Vietnam movie The Deer Hunter, where almost all of it takes place in the sleepy Chicago suburb where our hero lives, in the summer both before and after her tour of duty; the band Radiohead plays a major thematic role in both parts, hence the title of the book.

Anyway, that's slated to come out at the beginning of May, and with another virtual book tour just like Ben's for the last half of July; if you're the owner of an arts-based blog and would be interested in participating, you can always drop me a line directly at [cclapcenter at]. My many thanks again to all the people who helped make this Ben Tanzer tour such a success; and here's hoping that you all will get to stick around as well, and have a chance to participate in all of CCLaP's upcoming projects and experiments.

*And speaking of which, a clarification as long as I'm here; that as nice as it was to receive compliments about me supposedly inventing the virtual-book-tour idea, in fact I directly stole it from a whole series of more techie writers who were online in the 1990s. And in fact these techies used to do something else that's ripe for a revival too, what they used to call "carnivals" -- where each week a half-dozen of them would gather together for a group discussion on their industry (via IM chat, over a table at a convention, etc), and then post the discussion each week at a different participant's website, cycling through the entire group over the course of two months or so. There's already a number of writers I know of that do such a thing, have these small group conversations about literary issues whenever they find themselves at the same readings and whatnot; they might want to think more about trying one of these "progressive dinner" style distribution systems themselves, in order to both share the love and gather a larger audience for the project in general.

Filed by Jason Pettus at 8:56 AM, March 2, 2009. Filed under: Arts news | CCLaP Publishing | CCLaP news | Literature |