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The Truth About Book Tours

Are book tours really worth it, a writer-buddy of mine wanted to know.  And if they are, what do you do if your publisher doesn’t send you out on a multi-city one, complete with a publicist and media escorts awaiting you at every stop?


To be honest, whether book tours are “worth it” depends on your definition, objectives and where you are in your career.  Personally, I think a book tour’s primary objective is to get you out there to meet booksellers, librarians, and readers and to generate buzz for you and your book—rather than simply straight book sales. 


Since book tours can be expensive, there are ways that you can conduct your own Do-It-Yourself Book Tour if you don’t happen to have publisher support—yet.  There are tales about an author piling into an RV and touring the entire country.  That makes me tired just thinking about it.  I'd rather be writing.  But here are a few topline thoughts...


Start locally, build nationally.  Visit all the major bookstores in your local area and introduce yourself to the book buyer, store manager, and community relations manager.  They’re busy, and won’t be able to spend more than a few minutes with you.  Be pleasant and succinct:  what your book is about and who you consider the ideal reader.  Bring your book in case they don't stock it.  Hand out bookmarks, if you have them.  And by all means, follow up with a thank you note.  If you’re shy, grab a published writer-buddy and go with him/her to make the local bookstore rounds.  And whatever you do, support these booksellers.  Attend their events.  (You should do this anyway to see how other authors do presentations.)   

Buddy up on your book tour.  Last May, acclaimed poet Janet Wong and wonderful children’s book author/illustrator Grace Lin took me on my inaugural book tour, which we named Hi-YAH!  We hit the east coast one week (Boston, NY, NJ), I did Chicago on my own and then hooked up with Janet for the west coast leg (Seattle, SF).  Our publishers set up a few of the events for us, but booked the rest on our own…down to radio and TV interviews.  This was so much more fun and effective than touring on our own.


Leverage your own travel plans.  If you’re traveling anyway—for business or pleasure—add in a few bookstore.  Word has it that bookstores ideally like 8 weeks advance notice to arrange an event.  But if the bookstore isn’t up for throwing an event for you, I am an advocate for a “drive-by signing”—where you call ahead and ask the bookseller to pull your stock so that you can sign your books.  You can schedule this a day ahead. 


Hire a media escort.  If you’re in a major metropolis area (Chicago, SF, LA, Seattle, Boston), I recommend hiring a media escort if you can possibly afford it.  These are wonderful people who know every single bookstore, the booksellers by name, and all their locations!  They also have media contacts that they are happy to share with you prior to your “tour." 


Even better, travel with a writer-buddy, and share the cost of the media escort.  This is what I did with Janet Carey when we were at the SCBWI National meeting in LA. In hindsight, we could have asked one other author to go with us; there was room in the car. We covered at least TWICE as many bookstores as we would have been able to visit left to ourselves, and were brought to the right bookstores for our books. 


If you do hire a media escort, create a 1 page “fact sheet” with your book cover, ISBN, and any accolades it’s received to date.  I gave away those along with buttons made from www.buttonarcade.com and bookmarks to every bookseller I met.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 8th, 2006 01:41 am (UTC)
Hey Miss Story of a Girl,

You must be getting so excited about your book launch...just weeks away now, right? So do you have any burning questions?

(Deleted comment)
Dec. 8th, 2006 03:41 pm (UTC)
Ha! You make me laugh, Sara.

Well...you know, when my first book launched, my agent told me my numero uno priority was to promote my book since you never have another first novel. That took the pressure of writing the second novel off--so that writing was a fun release, not a deadline. I don't know if that helps!!

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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