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Your Book Tour and How to Plan it

Posted on 29 Sep 2011 | Author Stefanie | Comments No comments | Tags

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Here is the eighth great installment I found on book tours, so I thought I would pass it on to you guys!  This is a good post from Kevin, he has a sense of humor about book tours from the glamorous to unglamorous things that can happen on tour.  Take this one with a grain of salt as many people don’t do book tours anymore, with all the social media launch opportunities available including setting up a proper book launch strategy.  But if you can do one, that’s great.  He basically says here that what is really important  is to match the kind of event that is right for you and your book, and which venue you are going after.  There is an exercise at the bottom for you.  Enjoy.

All the best,
Your Book Tour and How to Plan it.

Last time we talked about how to give a great interview. That was probably the first time in our series that book promotion has sounded not just practical but glamorous, maybe even fun. Of course it’s important to describe your book in a smooth, clean sentence, or get your friends excited about the promotion process. But these are functions and not sexy ones. The sexy part of doing all this, we dream, is the unexpected interest, the strangers saying “I love your work,” the out-of-the-blue calls saying “could you be at the studio tomorrow afternoon?”

The sexy part of book promotion is going on a book tour.

What do you see when you hear the words “book tour?” A tastefully lit room with walls of regal brown? A packed house leaning in to your every crafted sentence? Answering questions about your  “process” while a helpful assistant reminds you of the line of autograph seekers vanishing like a horizon out the back door? Must not keep the people waiting, your smile assures her. They’ve already preordered your next book.

I’ve got that fantasy, too. We can both have it for only one Pulitzer Prize or a time machine back to the autumn of 1965.

For now let’s assume we have neither. What does this book tour look like? I had one a few years ago. A baby threw up on me. An earthquake struck while I was naked and shaving in a Palm Springs hotel room. I took about 650 trips to the airport and forgot where I was at least four times. Nobody showed up for some of my events and it felt awful. At few others, hundreds of people showed up without me asking. On those days, I felt like I could lift mountains.

My book tour was wild, exhilarating lunacy that left me grateful, exhausted, delighted and sad, all piled up between dinner and breakfast. And I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

I was also lucky. I had a publicist who valued events, five years of national public speaking experience on my résumé and relationships at venues throughout North America. Many stars will have to line up for me to be that lucky again.

Plan your book tour like it’s the only one you’ll ever have, because a) it might be, and b) these days, planning it is mostly your responsibility. Few publishers pay to send authors out on tour anymore. So if you think doing events, in your hometown or far, far away, is an important part of being a published author (in most cases, it is), your book tour will consist of a series of engagements starring your book and arranged, from the ground up, by you.

Next time we’re going to talk about how to be the star of your events. This time, we’re staying with how to set events up.

Wait, hold on. Should I?

You don’t throw a birthday party for a sofa, so let us not waste time on a mismatch. Are you or your book are right for events as a promotional tool and, if so, what kind of events? If you’re terrified to speak in front of a crowd or if your book wouldn’t benefit from such a thing, perhaps this isn’t the right approach. You can teach yourself how to speak publicly, and you probably should. No one is going to do it for your book but you. But if the book plain isn’t “event-right,” it’s mowing the lawn with a screwdriver. Wrong tool, wrong purpose.

Novels, poetry, humor and how-to books are great for event-style promotion. Biography, history, novelty titles, not so much. Rule of thumb: If your book is boring to an audience when read aloud, find some other way.

Let’s say your book is “event-right.” What then?

Kevin’s Four-step Mini Guide to Planning Your Book Tour:

1)   What kind? What kind of event is right for you and your book? Decide this by what plays to your strengths, but accept a few cold realities. Author-at-microphone-awkwardly-reading is not a big draw anywhere but a community with little competing entertainment. There aren’t too many of those. So what can you do to liven up a presentation of your book and make your event an experience instead of (let’s be real) a polite but ill-disguised sales pitch.Is your main character a basketball coach? If so, can you set up a hoop and have a free-throw contest in the bookstore? If your memoir is about growing up on an apple orchard, I’d like fruit bushels and cider tastings at your event, if you don’t mind. The baseball murder mystery we featured a few segments ago should probably have Gaylord Perry memorabilia scattered about or craft a “how to host a baseball murder” dinner in conjunction with a local civic organization.  Big question here: What kind of event can you structure around your book that makes for a special evening, rather than an “I guess this is better than watching TV” evening, for your readers?

2)  How far? Now that you know what kind of events fit your book, you need to decide how far afield you can go with them.

Start close to home. Venues nearby will be predisposed to aid a local author and easier to work in partnership with. If you’d like to do multiple events in your area, roll them out at least a week apart and vary the event type and venue. Doing six events at six competing bookstores all within twenty miles of each other risks overexposure and is not fair to the small businesses taking a risk on you.

If you’d like to travel, make sure first you have the time and resources to do so. If you’ve assembled your team and put your house in order, you should be able to do at least a few. But don’t start flying about at random. Where do you have large concentrations of friends and family that will show up? Where have you worked previously or gone to school? What organizations—civic, religious, professional—do you have relationships with that you could call on? Where are they located?

If friends/family or an organization would like to throw an event for/with you, make sure they’ve got books on hand to sell. I advise partnering with a local bookstore (independent shops will do this much more willingly than chains), as that store then has good feelings toward you and your book and will speak well of it to their customers long after you’ve gone home.

3)  Event Venue? If you are trying to secure an event at a bookstore or other venue you don’t have an existing relationship with, you’ll have to pitch them in much the same way we discussed in our pitch segment. If your publisher is throwing some marketing muscle behind your book, they’ll do this part for you. More than likely, you’ll have to do at least some of it yourself.

In a pitch, your target venue wants to know three things:

a)  Is your book “their kind of book”? Stores and venues have customer bases to which they direct their programming. A store next to a retirement village will not be game to feature you and your graphic novel about death metal bands. Use common sense and do your research using BookTour’s database to find out what venues host what sorts of authors before you even consider pitching.

b)  Will your event both bring in customers and sell books? If #a is a yes but you’re still an unknown author, I’d get promises from 10-15 friends that they will show up and buy books. Include that promise in your pitch. Otherwise, you’re asking a small business to put staff time, resources and their reputation into an unknown commodity. If they’ve read your book and love it, great, you’ll hear from them. If not, plan to bring your own crowd.

c) Can it fit into our calendar? Most venues book out weeks if not months in advance. If it’s Tuesday and you’re asking for a slot on Friday, you seem like an amateur and worth the risk Be sure to take a venue’s needs into account before you start pushing your own.

A pitch, then, is two to three paragraphs requesting an event, describing the type of event you plan to do, your book, and how it fits into the mission of the venue. As we’ve said before, be professional, succinct and informative.

4)  For Whom? At this stage, if someone wants you for an event six months from now, you say yes unless the request is outrageous or expensive. Same if they want you tomorrow. You’re on the promotion trail right now, and any interest is good interest, potential energy waiting to become kinetic. Promoting from a dead stop is painful and demoralizing. And this is supposed to be the fun part.

Exercise: Plan to be doing this for six months. Here in the early days, start booking events using these simple lenses: What Kind? How Far? For Whom? launched a ten-part series on Book Promotion called “Everything you Wanted to Know about Book Promotion but were Afraid to Ask” written by CEO Kevin Smokler. Kevin has been advising authors and publishers on marketing and promotion for nearly a decade and has written and lectured on the topic throughout North America.

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