Five Reasons Why the Book Tour Is Not Dead
by Ethan Gilsdorf
Is the book tour dead?
It's true that the lavish, publisher-funded, four-star hotel tour with handler, driver and copious bowls of M&Ms (green ones carefully plucked) is over. If that even existed.
Today, with publishers facing woefully depleted publicity staffs and budgets, and the culture's current focus on ebooks, the Internet and social media, one wonders if the old-fashioned reading tour is even worthwhile.
But IMHO, the book tour is alive and well and is important as ever – no matter how you define it.
To be sure, the nature of a “tour” certainly is a-changin’. But whether you appear in person in a bookstore, crisscrossing the region or nation via a trains-planes-and-automobiles itinerary, or pop into your potential readers' viewfinders via other means, the tour remains an essential element of your many-pronged book promotion strategy. This, and more, is what I’ll cover in my upcoming Guerrilla Book Promotion seminar this Friday, June 12th [Seats still available!]
Here are five reasons why the book tour is not dead, why hitting the road can produce unexpected results and why getting out there with your book is still important.
1. Size doesn't (always) matter.
If 40 folks show up at your reading, wonderful. But more likely, it's going to be 15, or seven, or four. Whatever the numbers, there’s no need to despair: Your event was listed in the bookstore's newsletter, events calendars, and local media. That means more people who will hear about your book. Plus, your book will be featured on a table in the bookstore. That stack of face-out copies of your title displaying "signed copy" stickers will sell.
2. Events connect you to opinion leaders
When you’re on tour, you meet people. (They’re not all weirdos, I promise.) All kinds of folks: booksellers, professors, editors, scholars, members of the media, fans. And, if they love your book, these people can help you get the word out to others. I once had an event where four people showed up, but the bookseller went on to recommend my book to customers and sell more than 25 copies.
3. You are a news story
When you hit the road and appear at a local bookstore – or better yet, library, school, VFW hall or hardware store – you’re news. That gives you the chance to tie-in your event to media coverage. Every appearance is an opportunity for a story to be written about you. Contact arts and books journalists, and see if they’ll cover your appearance. Local boy or girl coming back to town makes for a great news story.
4. Book tours force you to think outside the bookstore
Are there book groups, trade shows, and speaking engagements where you can appear as an expert in a topic related to your book, be it fiction or non-fiction? Moderating a panel, visiting a high school and getting your name in a conference program can be just as important as a traditional reading. Use your book tour to brainstorm other kinds of “out of the box” event ideas.
5. Don’t forget the “virtual” book tour
What’s a virtual book tour? You identify blogs, websites, podcasts, and other online venues, and you contact editors or fellow writers. Then, you jump from blog to blog and post columns, or offer up interviews or answer questions in Q&As. Or, partner up with other authors, and agree to promote each others' books. You can also use guest appearances to launch contests and offer up free swag, signed copies of your books, and other goodies.
The most important thing is to have fun. Now get out there and sell some books. And enjoy your book tour.
And if you want more book promo tips, I'm offerng my next Guerrilla Book Promotion seminar this Friday, June 12th. Cheers!
A GrubStreet instructor since 2005, Ethan Gilsdorf is a journalist, memoirist, essayist, critic, poet, teacher, performer and nerd. He is the author of the travel memoir investigation Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms, named a Must-Read Book by the Massachusetts Book Awards. His essay "The Day My Mother Became a Stranger" was cited in the anthology Best American Essays 2016. His fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in Poetry, The Southern Review, The Quarterly, Exquisite Corpse, The North American Review, The Massachusetts Review, New York Quarterly and dozens of other literary magazines and in several anthologies, and he is the winner of the Hobblestock Peace Poetry Competition and the Esme Bradberry Contemporary Poets Prize. Gilsdorf got his start in journalism as a Paris-based travel writer and food and film critic for Time Out, Fodor's and the Washington Post. He has published hundreds of feature stories, essays, op-eds and reviews about the arts, pop, gaming and geek culture; and media and technology, and travel, in dozens of other publications worldwide including the New York Times, New York Times Book Review, Boston Globe, Boston Globe Magazine, Boston Magazine, Wired, Salon, WBUR's The Artery and Cognoscenti, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Art New England. A regular presenter, performer, and event moderator, he frequently appears on programs such as NPR, The Discovery Channel, PBS, CBC, BBC, and the Learning Channel, and also lectures at schools, universities, festivals, conventions, and conferences worldwide, including at this TEDx event, where he nerded out about D&D. Gilsdorf is co-founder of GrubStreet's Young Adult Writers Program (YAWP), and teaches creative writing at GrubStreet, where he served on the Board of Directors for 10 years. A GrubStreet instructor since 2005, he teaches essay, memoir, journalism and other workshops, and is also the instructor of GrubStreet's 8-month Essay Incubator program. He’s also the lead instructor for the Westerly (RI) Memoir Project. He has led writing workshops for non-profit social justice organizations and also teaches writing and Dungeons & Dragons classes for younger students, in schools, libraries and community centers. He had also served on the Boston Book Festival Program Committee and as a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics. He received his BA from Hampshire College, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Louisiana State University. Follow Ethan’s adventures at ethangilsdorf.com or Twitter @ethanfreak, and read his posts on Grub's blog, GrubWrites.See other articles by Ethan Gilsdorf