Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Guest Post and Giveaway

I am so excited today to welcome author Matthew Pearl to Raging Bibilomania. Matthew is the author of the three blockbuster books The Last Dickens, The Poe Shadow, and The Dante Club. Matthew has agreed to guest post here today, and has written a very interesting post about the differences between hosting a book tour back in 1867 during Charles Dickens' time versus hosting one today in 2009.

The Charles Dickens Book Tour

In 1867, Charles Dickens came to the United States and embarked on an enormously successful reading tour. Reading tours were not unique, but the way Dickens did it, and the reception he received, was.

Approximately 115,000 people saw Dickens perform in about 75 engagements around the country. I use the word "perform" because Dickens wouldn't just read in a monotone way, as was usual then, but would act out the various characters in each excerpt. At every engagement, Dickens would read from two specially prepared excerpts, each from a different novel. Tickets were one dollar, though scalpers or “speculators” (as Dickens called them) sold them for five dollars, ten dollars or more. Dickens knew he could have charged more, but refused.

One of the very fun parts of writing my novel The Last Dickens was to recreate the behind-the-scenes operation of the Dickens tour. It was a big operation. Dickens's manager had gone to America months in advance from England to choose venues. In addition to his theatrical manager, Dickens also brought with him his own entourage: a private dresser, a ticket agent, and even a gas lighting expert to ensure the lighting in each venue was optimally flattering. Thousands of people would pack the theaters.

Dickens left the U.S. with about $150,000, which would constitute about a 1/3 of his estate when he died about two and a half years later.

We still do book tours today, though for the most part authors do not get paid. Dickens was trying to make up for the fact that he received no royalties from American book sales because there were not yet international copyright laws. Book tours today also don't come with entourages. Sometimes, we do get assigned what's called an author escort or media escort. The media escort shuttles you around to hotels, airports, readings, and interviews. If you're really nice, sometimes they'll gossip about authors who aren't. My lips are sealed on stories I've heard, or I'd get them in trouble.

Once, I was giving a talk about being a writer to a fourth grade class, while the media escort, a tall rugged man in a dark leather jacket, waited outside the room. The students asked if he was my bodyguard.

Dickens actually did need a bodyguard at times while on his tour. Someone was always stationed in front of his hotel room door.

Today, we also can promote books online through our own sites or what they call a blog tour--appearing as a guest in an interview or post on different blogs (like I'm doing right now).

I think Dickens would have appreciated connecting to readers this way. On the one hand, he was thrilled by the crowds and the adulation. On the other hand, he was left debilitated by each strenuous performance combined with general health problems. “On Monday night, after the reading,” Dickens wrote home a month into his six month American tour, “I was laid upon a bed, in a very faint and shady state; and on Tuesday I did not get up till the afternoon.”

There can never be another Dickens (which is part of the meaning of my title The Last Dickens, in addition to referring most directly to his last, unfinished book). But that aside, book tours now have to compete with a slew of entertainment that has much heavier promotion and visibility. More difficult than that, people have busy schedules and the 7pm weeknight reading is more likely to conflict with work or family than not. Online promotion can invite readers to connect with an author, through a blog or podcast, on their own time.

At one point during the Dickens tour, several women threw themselves on stage at the end of the performance to collect the flower petals that had fallen from Dickens's buttonhole. One thing that can't happen online!

The publishers of the book have generously provided me with 2 copies of The Last Dickens to give  away to two lucky winners. All you have to do is leave an e-mail address in the comments section of this post where I can get in touch with you should you win. The contest is open to everyone, so good luck to all entrants. Winners will be announced October 17th.

Many thanks to Matthew Pearl for being here today and TLC Book Tours for including me in this book tour. If you would like more information on Matthew or his books, please stop by his website:

Other tour stops for The Last Dickens:


lick the wound said...

Haven't read much Dickens but plan to read more in the future. And 'The last Dickens' is on my list too.

Aarti said...

That's a really interesting bit of history on book tours and Dickens. I suppose I can forgive Dickens for putting as many words into his stories as possibly, as he was paid by the word, if he did not receive any money for the books he published in other countries.

I'd love to win a copy of the book! My e-mail address is aarti [dot] nagaraju [at] gmail [dot] com.

Mystica said...

Interesting tidbits of history as Aarti says.

Please count me in and thanks for making it open for international readers.



sudden.death2009 said...

The obvious time, effort and intense research put into these works combined with intricately laid details make these books a unique combination of fact and fiction. We love Matt!

Unknown said...

I love the idea of reading in installments, I even impose them on myself if I'm reading a book I don't want to finish too soon!
I'm on a 'book budget' since being laid off, but reading all the reviews and synopses of Matthews's books, I am champing at the bit to read them all-thanks for this opportunity!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I've been eying this book, and would love to win a copy.

bibliophilebythesea AT gmail DOT com

Anonymous said...

THat is so interesting. I love the idea that Dickens would have appreciated connecting with readers through online blog tours!!

Thanks so much for a fascinating guest post!

Lisa said...

Love Dickens and Pearl's book sounds really interesting.


M.A.D. said...

Mary D
zenrei57 (at) hotmail (dot) com

Wow - I would LOVE this!!! I grew up on Charles Dickens, my mother had an entire set of his books from the late 1800's, and by junior high I had read several of his stories - my favorite being a Christmas Carol, (probably the easiest one to read, too - for an 11 yr old lol)

I don't think many people these days realize what an important voice Dickens was for the poor, workhouse and downtrodden people of his era. To my understanding he was avid for social reform.

Linda Bond said...

Having read all of Matthew's books, I can attest that they just keep getting better and better! Really...

Contact me at


Matthew Pearl said...

Just stopping in to thank everyone those who read and commented on my guest post, and of course to thank the great folks at Raging Bibliomania for letting me put in my two cents.

Aarti, it's an often repeated trivia that Dickens was paid by the word, but he wasn't! He did publish serially and was paid by the installment, or section, but these didn't require a certain number of words. In fact, he often had to trim down what he wrote to fit the installment pages.

May Ann, you're right that Dickens was an advocate for social reform, though the novels most invested in that, like Hard Times, are not ones that are as frequently read today (connection? I'm not sure)

Sudden.death2009 and Linda what nice praise, thank you!

For anyone who enjoyed the post, I also do posts on my Facebook author page, and cross post them on my Myspace, Red Room and GoodReads pages.

Melissa said...

Thanks so much for the great guest post! I would have never guessed that there were book tours back then. Things sure have changed, and I love the way the Internet has made authors so accessible to readers.

Thank you too for the giveaway!


The Tome Traveller said...

Don't enter me, I am part of the tour. I just wanted to say that I loved this post, so interesting! It is fun to hear a little about an author's touring, both now and then.

Anonymous said...

i love his books!!!
I hope to win

Lenore Appelhans said...

I need to read more Dickens. Maybe Little Dorrit.

M. Denise C. said...

I just finished The Poe Shadow for my book club, bought and began reading the Dante Club, and can't wait to read the Dickens book. Thanks for the giveaway!

CultureThemes said...

Since 'finding' Matthew Pearl's The Poe Shadow this summer, I've become a firm 'fan'. I would never consider Historical fiction as an option, but thankfully, found an author that made it less intimidating. I'm in the middle of Dante Club and can not wait to read The Last Dickens!

I'd love to win a copy, my email is marlenedixon at gmail dot com

Gwendolyn B. said...

The ladies collected the rose petals? You mean, they weren't busy tossing their bloomers onto the stage?! Terrific and interesting post. I'll be a Matthew Pearl groupie for this tour and see what else he has to say!

Thanks for the chance to win a copy of this book. I'm looking forward to reading it.

geebee.reads AT gmail dOT com

Booklogged said...

Very interesting comparison of book tours. This was a wonderful author post that I enjoyed a lot.

Please add me for the giveaway.

booklogged at gmail dot com

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

I find it so sad that Dickens' work wasn't copyright protected in the US; I also find it sad how much of a toll the book tours took on his health. However I am excited about the possibility of winning this book (lame transition I know)!


bermudaonion said...

I would love to read this book! Please enter me! milou2ster(at)

Cindi said...

I loved "The Dante Club" and I'd love to win a copy of "The Last Dickens". My email address is

Petunia said...

Thank you Matthew for your wonderful guest post. I wonder how much Dickens' efforts in his book tours contributed to his popularity both then and now. Personally I love all things Dickens, which is evidenced by my naming my cat for him. :)I like to think the original Mr. Dickens was as lovable as my cuddly feline.

becky_quilts @

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

I would love to be included in this giveaway. Thanks for the wonderful interview.


Shawna L. said...

Shawna L

I am always up to learn more about a person in History from reading. This book sounds like just that!!! I'd love to read it & be entered!!
Thanks much!! Shawna ;o.)

Kay - Kay's Bookshelf said...

I love Dickens and yet I realized now that I only know very little about his own life.

Please enter me too,
kay [at] kaysbookshelf dot com

chocowafer said...

Haven't read any of Matthew Pearl's books but this sounds interesting. Count me in! :)


Ruth (Book Focus) said...

Wow, that sounds really interesting. I love reading about historical figures' lives - especially someone like Dickens! While I haven't read most of his books (I'm working on it), what I have read is really good, and I think a book on his life could be fascinating.

Email: kiwibooklover at gmail dot com

Chelsea S said...

Cool giveaway. Thanks for the chance at winning this book.


-- Chelsea

Hazra said...

I would love to read this book.


Sue said...

This looks great. I LOVE Dickens. I have 8 or 9 of his on my bookshelf! Thanks~

s.mickelson at gmail dot com

Jonnie (JB) said...

Great guest post and giveaway. Please enter me

Luvdaylilies said...

I love the work of Charles Dickens and have read all of his stories (several more than once!). My Christmas holidays always "officially" begin for me with my reading of 'A Christmas Carol' sometime in November to get my heart and mind in the right place=)
I would so love to read 'The Last Dickens'!
Luvdaylilies at bellsouth dot net

CherylS22 said...

This was an interesting guest post. I would love to read "The Last Dickens" - please enter me!

Thanks ~ megalon22{at}yahoo{dot}com

Strangelove said...

Count me in, please!

carlos_durao AT hotmail DOT com

Edu Chico said...

Oh, goody!

educhico AT gmail DOT com

Jafantunes said...

Not too late, I hope!

jafantunes AT sapo DOT pt

Cavalier said...

A friend just warned me about this!


o_rei_de_havana [at] hotmail [dot] com

Maria D said...

Many thanks for this giveaway!


Caty said...

Great, still on time!

catarina DOT magoito AT gmail DOT com

Susy said...

Still room for one more?

Best regards!


39 [dot] 5susy [at] gmail [dot] com

MIl said...

Oh, I would love to read this!
I have my eye on it since I read a review a couple of weeks ago.


Rebecca N. said...

I would love to read this book. Thanks so much for the chance to win a copy!

imsosweepy { at } gmail { dot } com

Sheila (bookjourney) said...

This sounds to be a fantastic read! Please count me in for the giveaway. Love Dickens!

journey through books @ gmail dot com

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