The DIY Book Tour: How to Organize a Tour Yourself

The Right Frame of Mind

You’ve landed an agent and a publishing contract, and you’ve pumped your fist in the air like a champion.  Your dream has come true.  Now what? Rest on your laurels and let the publisher handle all of the promoting? Hardly. You are now the leader of a grassroots movement, and the cause is generating buzz for your book.

A book tour gives an author the opportunity to speak in person with readers.  Try not to think of the book tour as a selling spree.  Statistically, that is unlikely.  Instead, reframe it as a “seed planting” tour.  You’re the Johnny Appleseed of your own word-of-mouth campaign.  The book tour is about making connections with potential readers and their circles of influence.  It’s about building relationships. An author must get her book in front of people who are already avid readers.  Making appearances at bookstores, libraries, book club meetings and literary festivals will add momentum to the buzz that is key to a book’s success.

(What are the best practices for using social-media to sell books?)

 

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Column by S. Jane Gari, who lives in Elgin, South Carolina with her husband
and daughter. Her nonfiction has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes.
Her memoir LOSING THE DOLLHOUSE was released in February 2015
by Touch Point Press. She has also co-written Flush This Book, a collection
of humorous essays.  In addition to her own work, Jane edits manuscripts
and business copy. Connect with her on Twitter.

Make Contact

Before your book is released, visit your local bookstores. This is something Michelle Johnson, literary agent and owner of Inklings Literary, can’t stress enough: “Go in person and talk to the manager…have a friendly conversation.  Shop there.  When you have an event there, bring your friends and ask them to shop there.  If an appearance makes the store money, and you connect with the owners/manager on a personal level, your chances of being supported for your next appearance increase tenfold.”

Know Before You Go

Before you ask a bookstore for an event date, you’ll need to get the answers to some basic questions.  What is your exact release date? How will your book be distributed? Bookstores need to know if they can order books directly from you, a publisher or a distributor like Ingram.  Know your publisher’s return policy.  A “sell sheet” lists general book information, including ordering details.  If you don’t have one, create one or ask your publisher to send you one.

If you’re traditionally published, try to schedule events at stores whose policy is to order books for your event. Some independent booksellers require the author to provide them. In that
case, your publisher isn’t likely to hand over lots of copies to you for free. You’ll shell out your own money to purchase the books at an author’s discount.  Try to get your publisher to at least pay the shipping (if they won’t, make sure you ask that the books be sent at “Media Rate” which is much cheaper) and ask if you can return unsold copies.

Be prepared for bookstores to have different ideas about the timing and logistics of a book signing. Some like events to be done within the first several weeks of your release date (think Politics and Prose in DC). Those types of venues book well in advance, so plan ahead.  Others wait a couple of months to generate more interest in your book and prefer to have your book on their shelves long before hosting an event.  Be willing to navigate each store’s preferences and adjust your requests accordingly.  Your “tour” will most likely be a handful of dates spread over time and distances that are within the reach of your schedule and finances.  It probably isn’t going to be a two-month string of appearances made at a rock-star’s pace.  You’ll have to be flexible.  Keeping track of details on a spreadsheet is a good idea.

Mapping It Out

Your best bet is to start local.  You’re more likely to draw a crowd with your friends and family rallying behind you, and it’s best to get your sea legs in front of familiar faces. This is the time to call in every favor you can think of, ask for help and milk connections.

Reach out to any organization you’ve ever been a part of, and ask them if they can partner with you in some way.  You’d be surprised how excited alumni associations of universities and high schools get when one of their own publishes a book.  Contact organizations related to topics in your book, and ask if you could be a guest speaker at an event or be interviewed for their newsletter.  If your novel’s protagonist is a war hero, write to the VFW.  If your memoir is about surviving child abuse, contact appropriate support organizations.

Your local bookstore is an obvious start, but also reach out to libraries and arts councils which often host local author events where you would be one of many writers.  Teaming up allows you to ‘cross-pollenate’ and expand beyond your own connections and build a broader audience.

Scour online forums (like Meetup.com) and talk to librarians to get the names and haunts of local book clubs and reach out to them.  Offering to make an appearance to sign and discuss your book in an intimate setting is bound to get a ‘yes’ from someone.  You can also list your book with one of the online services designed to connect book clubs and authors (Bookclubreading.com is very reasonable).

It’s a Date

Once a venue says yes, it is your job to promote the event.  If your publisher doesn’t supply you with posters of your book cover, have some made (Vistaprint.com runs regular deals).  Post your events on your Amazon, Goodreads and Facebook pages. All of those outlets have sharing options where you can send friends personal invitations.  Also contact the “Patch” for the media closest to your event.  Simple do a Google search for “Name of Town, State Patch” and you’ll connect with local media sources to whom you can send press releases and online community calendars where you can post your event for free.

(The difference between your “current platform” and “future platform.”)

Virtual Reality

Don’t limit the tour to brick and mortar appearances. Once you’ve exhausted your local outlets, reach out to book clubs and organizations around the country and make yourself available via Skype.  You can also offer to write guest posts for book bloggers, other authors and topical blogs related to your book.

To help build the relationships that will get you closer to a ‘yes’ from these virtual platforms, Michelle Johnson has some recommendations: “Go make conversation on blogs. Answer questions the blog poses without promoting yourself—I’m talking about fostering a personal relationship. Chat with other authors.  The personal connection, combined with showing an effort, can really carry you forward.”

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Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers’ Conferences:

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
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Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

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One thought on “The DIY Book Tour: How to Organize a Tour Yourself

  1. Green Dragon

    Chuck, this is great if you have the personality of that bar tender who won “Jeopardy!” But what if you are a shy person who lives in a room full of books, with a teapot and a bunch of cats?

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