Lodge, Sally. "On the Road Again," Publishers Weekly, December 13, 1999

Authors and illustrators share tales of their tours
Capped by the holiday gift-buying season, fall is always a frantic time for children's publishers and the authors and illustrators they send on tour. Alter spending countless hours arranging bookstore signings and booking interviews, publicists lose sleep, plagued by nagging questions, including the inevitable, generic ones (Will our author make her closely scheduled connecting flight? Will the books arrive in the store before she does?) and specific concerns (Will an earthquake hit California while our author is there? Will anyone show up at a Madison, Wis., bookstore signing during the Packers' home game against the Bears?).

As it turned out, publicists booking author tours this fall received affirmative answers to the last two questions. And booksellers went many extra miles to ease the minds of Scholastic's publicity and sales staff, who likely spent many hours asking themselves one very big question: Will any bookstore be able to accommodate the armies of Harry Potter devotees sure to line up to meet J.K. Rowling? Read on to learn more about these and other events, as PW takes an anecdotal look at some highlights of six recent tours.

J.K. Rowling
One child confided, "I never finished a book until I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." A parent told the author that this same novel was the first book that her dyslexic child had ever made it through. And a 13year-old boy burst into tears when he reached the autographing table.

These are but three of J.K. Rowling's many memorable encounters with fans on her recent tour for her third saga, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The publisher reprinted the book twice before its September 8 pub date, at which point there were 900,000 copies in print. That figure has now climbed to 4.1 million copies, helping to push combined sales of all three hardcovers, plus the paperback edition of the inaugural book, to a spellbinding 17.4 million copies.

Having signed some 40,000 books at 31 stores during her three-week visit to the States, Rowling returned home to Edinburgh on Halloween eve. "Wherever we went, the response to Jo was like that for a rock star," reported Kris Moran, director of publicity for Scholastic, who escorted the author on her eight-city tour. "Kids and adults screamed, 'I love you!' and applauded wildly when she arrived at stores.

Moran estimated that the average attendance at Rowling's signings was 1,000 people. In Santa Rosa, two bookstores-Copperfield's and Reader's Books-joined forces to host the author at a local high school and 2,400 fans turned out. At each event, a number of adults and youngsters came in costume, dressed as Harry, Hermione, Dumbledore, Hedwig the owl and even the fat woman in a portrait that hangs in a Hogwarts hall.

And though at each store there were long and winding lines to reach Rowling's autographing table, Moran said, booksellers took great pains to keep fans entertained, hiring the likes of face painters or magicians to work the crowds. Steve Geck, director of children's books for Barnes & Noble, attended Rowling's appearances at the chain's Westport, Conn., outlet (where the line reportedly began forming at 3 a.m. for a 1 p.m. signing) and at one of its Los Angeles stores. He noted that staff members "went through the line, passing out activity kits and tattoos, and would periodically spring Harry Potter trivia quizzes to keep the kids on their toes."

Despite fans' impatience to meet the author, they were by and large impressively well-behaved, Geck observed. "Everyone--from really young kids who had had the books read to them and teenagers who came in groups-was so enthusiastic about meeting this larger-than-life person. She thanked each and every one of them for reading her books and for coming to meet her. If she met a boy wearing glasses, she'd remark that he looked a bit like Harry. She made everyone feel so good--people just floated away from the table."

Source: MasterFILE Premier