After the Workshop by John McNally – Book Review

After the Workshop by John McNally
Published by CounterPoint

Have you ever wondered how authors get from the airport, to the hotel, to the bookstore in an unknown town when their publisher sends them on tour? In some cases, at least, they are sent with a media escort like Jack Hercules Sheahan. Sheahan is himself an aspiring author, having graduated from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop some twenty years ago. Back then, Jack’s life was very promising, he even had a story published in the New Yorker. After graduating, he took a job as a media escort and subsequently failed to finish his novel or do really anything in publishing besides drive authors around Iowa. Suddenly, though, the failures in Sheahan’s life seem to be coming back to haunt him. He is trying to escort two authors in the same weekend when one of them disappears with her baby, causing her slightly crazy publicist to all but stalk Jack, while the other reminds Jack of all he despises yet somewhat wants to be as well. Just as he is confronting his professional failures, Sheahan’s personal failures – largely through the person of his ex-fiancee – reappear as well.

“After the Workshop” is a highly entertaining account of a side of publishing about which I had never before thought. Media escorts! It makes so much sense, but it really never occurred to me. It sounds like a really fun job, actually, until you start reading “After the Workshop.” Authors sending you on embarrassing errands, crazy people, authors who lord their success over you…makes me feel very lucky about the personalities of all of the authors I have met!

McNally’s book is very entertaining, I really enjoyed his wry humor. I wouldn’t hand this to every reader, though. There is a very ‘inside baseball‘ feel to the book, so that I would really recommend it more to people who are interested in the ins and outs of publishing and book marketing. If you are happy to just have books show up at your door or on the shelves of your local store, this book might not really interest you. If, however, you like hearing about the politics of publishing, the little details of getting books published and makingĀ  book tours work, you might very well really enjoy this book.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

John McNally’s website

Other Books by John McNally:
“Ghosts of Chicago”
“America’s Report Card”
“The Book of Ralph”
“The Creative Writer’s Survival Guide”
“Who Can Save us Now?” (coedited)
“When I Was a Loser”
“Bottom of the Ninth”
“Humor Me”
“The Student Body”
“High Infidelity”

This review was done with a book I purchased.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

5 comments to After the Workshop by John McNally – Book Review

  • I love to hear about the ins and outs of anything bookish. But I am like you, I never even considered this to be a job. I guess the authors I’ve been around have been too small to have a helper like this!

  • Wow, I’ve never heard of these media escorts before but it makes sense. I suppose really famous authors might travel with their own personal assistants but I bet many end up being “handled” by the media escort.

  • This sounds like a fun read. Media escort – what an interesting job!

  • I’ve seen this book around but never picked it up or really knew what it was about. It sounds interesting! Thanks for your review.

  • i love the premise of this one and am interested in reading it! i actually took a summer class at the university of iowa’s summer writers’ workshop a few years back. it was great fun, and i would do it again in heartbeat (except for the tornado and biblical flooding while i was there…)