Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Remember Book Tours?

We’ve talked so much about virtual book tours that it’s almost easy to forget that most writers still do in-person tours. The big name authors might go from city to city. Smaller niche authors might go from winery to winery or craft store to craft store, depending on their niche. Some authors tour from point A to point B.

I know there are authors who feel like book signings in stores are a waste of time. There are just as many that swear by them.

Malcolm Jones in Newsweek said that touring is "as much about selling the author as the book." He also said that a successful tour is "still more about chutzpah and glamour than literature." I think that's true. You have to sell yourself as well as each particular book.

I also think it's true that it's easier to do if you're a big-time author with a big publisher and a well-paid publicist. Duh. But most of us are not only the writer, we're also the editor, the publicist, the tour bus driver, and everything else. We couldn't afford to pay someone to do all that we do!

A writer has to have more than chutzpah to sell books. He (or she) has to be organized and relentless. And he has to be frugal -- most of us don't have the $2,000 a day that publishers estimate it costs to send an author on tour.

First of all, target your audience. This means going to the cities that will net you the most sales. Certainly, visit all your local stores. You're going to sell best there. Do some research and find out which stores elsewhere have a record of good sales. Big independents in cities like Denver, Seattle, and St. Paul are known for their author promotions. They're not the only cities or the only stores that have good track records, though. Decide where you're going and target the stores on your route. Targeting your audience also means aiming your promotional time and money on the people most likely to buy your book. If your book takes place in an officers' club, then why not sign at stores close to military bases? If your book involves a librarian, then make sure press releases and posters go to close-by libraries.

Second of all, don’t forget to look to places that aren’t bookstores, but where your book would fit in. A book involving quilts? Check out quilt shows or sewing clubs. Look to find niche markets where your book would have appeal. Think outside the box.
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  1. Good advice. I've never had a formal "tour" in person, but I have put out massive energy in getting personal appearances - everything from library presentations, to churches, to local independent bookstores, etc. I even rented a booth at a Farmers Market once. Peeps thought I was crazy - who at a FM is looking to buy a book? But an attractive display, being engaging, conversational - as you say, "selling myself" as a "local author" - I made a tidy profit and went home with a long list of new people on my email alert list too. :)

  2. Good advice. I did a signing at a coffee morning by our condo pool and one in a bank lobby - both went well.

    Jane Kennedy Sutton

  3. Great ideas, Marvin and Jane. Don't think I've ever heard of a signing by the pool. Love it!

  4. Great advice! Now if I can get past the fear of the marketing and promoting!

  5. Guru Helen says: Embrace that which you fear. She say that to all but herself.

    There are many things I fear, but talking is not one of them. However, I do totally understand it. I taught public speaking at San Antonio College once upon a time. That should almost be required in order to graduate.

  6. My best sales have been at craft fairs the day after Thanksgiving. People were definitely in the mood to shop for Christmas. Living in the hinterland makes it impractical to travel long distances to the nearest small towns so the internet is where I do most of my sales promotions.

  7. I used to do a LOT of physical signings. I self-published a couple books and did almost 250 store appearances to promote those books. I've found that stores are not the best places to do signings now, though. I have several author friends who swear by libraries. There's lots of other options as well - street fairs, coffee shops, state parks.

    I think wine festivals and coffee shops with a wine tasting night are fantastic - drunk people will buy anything!

    L. Diane Wolfe

  8. Amen, Diane. The closest indie bookstore, which has closed down, used to have a wine bar. It was a popular place during author talks.

    Jean, you're right. I have a sister who, undoubtedly, is already finished with her Christmas shopping. I haven't even begun to think about it. Thanksgiving - it's starting to enter my mind.

  9. Once I'm published, I plan on doing book signings. Like you said, I'd start off small with local bookstores, etc... I can't afford to truck around the US as an unknown author.

    Lynnette Labelle

  10. Yikes, $2,000 a day? Wish I had that kind of backing. LOL

    My latest 'tour' that took me to MI cost about $500 for the entire week. Stayed with relatives and drove.

    I think virtual book tours should compliment those in stores, not totally replace them. I did virtual tours when my latest book first came out, but also did events in stores. Both added to the total sales, and I will do both again when my next book comes out.

  11. Helen, I always went by the belief that we do bookstore signings not just to sell the book that day, but to get the book on the shelf--hopefully in a good spot. A lot of that selling needs to be to the staff, who, if they like your book, will hand sell long after you're gone.

    I just found out the other day that my novel-in-stories EVACUATION PLAN is a staff pick at BookPeople. That's cool!

  12. I came up with a twist on the signing tour a couple years back to address environmental concerns--a "green" walking book tour. Simply identify venues within walking distance, tote books in a rolling carrier and use a big cardboard sign to generate sidewalk press en route. As a side bonus, with "green" such a big media focus right now, you'll likley get better free press buzz for this than your garden variety fly/drive bookstore circuit.


  13. I think virtual and real book tours help get the word out.

    Sometimes it is the personality that sells though. I was thinking the other day how David Sedaris has it good. He sells tickets to his readings and with a venue of over 2900 seats he sells out. Then he signs books afterwards. :)

    It's got to be a long night for him, though.

  14. Can't afford the time from the job or money to travel, but I'm doing some craft fairs and flea markets this summer, some on vacation, also an independent bookstore

    Morgan Mandel


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