Doing the Work

How to Write When You Suck

Cory Doctorow
7 min readSep 18, 2022


A giant typewriter sculpture at Burning Man, with several people admiring and climbing on it.

I’m out on tour again, my first in-person book tour since 2019. I had four books come out during lockdown and “toured” them over Zoom, which was as good as many talented and dedicated publishing PR people, booksellers, and co-presenters could make it.

Now, after three years, I’m out on tour again. It’s an odd kind of tour, because it’s a different kind of book. Chokepoint Capitalism isn’t a novel from a Big Five publisher, it’s a nonfiction critique of monopolies and cartels. That includes the Big Five, which is why we went with an indie, the storied Beacon Press, praised by the likes of Albert Einstein and Howard Zinn for a publishing program that promotes progressive values.

Beacon are great, but independent, misson-driven publishers don’t have the budget for big tours, so about eight months ago, I started accepting every speaking engagement I was offered for September and October, then Beacon worked to find bookstores who’d host events in each city.

A tour graphic promoting upcoming dates on the Chokepoint Capitalism tour.

It’s going great. I’m typing this from Toronto Pearson Airport, where I’m awaiting my flight to JFK for tomorrow’s event at McNally Jackson. I’ll be co-presenting with my collaborator, Rebecca Giblin, whom I haven’t seen in person in many years, despite us having written an entire book together (Rebecca lives in Melbourne, I live in Los Angeles, so we did this all remotely). I did an event on Friday at Type Books in Toronto’s Junction neighborhood, and we had a full house, a good discussion, and a fine time was had by all.

Now, I say it’s going great, and that’s true, but it’s also, you know, a death-march. The point of a tour isn’t really to sell books to attendees at the events (though that’s important!), it’s to generate publicity in the early days of a book’s retail life, to give it a push that might put it on the bestseller lists, which triggers a virtuous cycle that sees every independent store in the country ordering 5–10 copies and sticking them at the front of the store on a best seller case or table, which generates still more sales, and so on.