“Breathing/so darn difficult, slow motion/craving oxygen, another bottle/quick, so much confusion/like sucking air through straws” – Debbie Okun Hill*
Roll out the suitcases. The spring 2015 book tour season has arrived. For some poetic bookworms, the thought of planning a tour produces adverse reactions similar to climbing Mount Everest. Breathing is so darn difficult!
Not everyone likes an adventure, no matter how small. However, if you are a published author, you will need to decide whether a book tour should be part of your marketing plan. A tour can help create awareness of your book and reach markets that you normally wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise. Keep in mind, travelling is time consuming. Planning and promotions also cut into your reading and writing time. Your friends and family may question your absence at normal gatherings.
Below are some tips I have learned on my journey! I do not profess to be an expert. Other authors may have other views based on their experiences. I welcome your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section at the end of this article. Let’s call it an exchange of ideas!
Plan Ahead: Start planning your tour as soon as your manuscript is accepted by a publisher. Your release date can change so don’t carve anything into your day timer until the books are in your hands. However, you can create a list of contacts and map out a rough route. Get a feel for the deadlines and what various reading groups may be looking for.
Put your plan in writing: What do you wish to accomplish? Is your goal to sell books or to create awareness of you as an author? This will help you to stay focused.
Nail down your audience: Who will buy your book and where can you find them? Are they writers or are they readers and book buyers? How can you reach them? Think outside the box. Local library book discussion groups are often overlooked. Some writers have found success at festivals, arts shows, church gatherings, and local service groups. Much of it depends on the type of book you have written.
Create a list of possible locations: Book tours can be local, provincial, national or international in scope. If you are a first time author, start small in your hometown or place of residence then expand outwards as you become more experienced.
Decide on a budget: Unless you are a well-known author or are a member of a professional writing organization (ie: League of Canadian Poets or Writers’ Union of Canada) it is unlikely that your publisher will have a travel budget for you.
Seek out funding sources: Both the League of Canadian Poets and the Writers’ Union of Canada has funding available for reading fees and travel. Check out their websites for additional information. Applications must be submitted well in advance. Thus, the need to be organized and to plan ahead. Another option: start your own slush fund by saving your nickels, cutting out daily expenses such as coffee at the local shop or scaling back your cell phone charges.
Treat your tour as a vacation: The cost of travel will often outweigh the revenue generated from book sales and royalties. If you consider your travels as a vacation, then your expectations are more realistic and your disappointments are lower.
Treat your tour as a business: This may contradict the above tip but like with all businesses, you still need to keep tabs on your budget. Also, be professional and courteous to your host or anyone else who helps you. This is not the time to burn bridges.
Lighten the load: Work with various literary groups. For poets, there are numerous reading series and organizations who welcome readers to their events. Sometimes all it takes is quick e-mail expressing your interest. Some writers insist on a traditional snail-mailed letter, followed by a phone call. Experiment to determine what works best for you. Also, consider networking at open mic events. Most literary events will have a regular audience as well as a marketing plan in place.
Find a travelling buddy: Find a compatible travelling friend to share travel and accommodation expenses with you. For example, a writing friend organizes duel readings so that his writer-wife may also be featured at the same venue and time. Make sure you travel well together or the trip will be frustrating for both individuals.
Tour as a group: Watch for opportunities to travel with other writers. Often there are group discounts for rooms, flights, trains, buses. You will have to share the limelight with others, but in doing so you will gain valuable friendships that can last a long time.
Be flexible: Travelling can be challenging and sometimes flights get cancelled or readers become ill. Consider the weather-related problems associated with travelling during winter months, especially in Canada. A sense of humour is helpful. If possible have a back-up plan.
Remember to promote the tour: Even though your publisher and/or reading host may advertise the event, be prepared to do some of your own promotions via traditional local media and your own social media networks. Where possible coordinate your efforts so everyone is aware of what is going on. Use of attractive graphics and photos will draw the reader’s eye to your message.
Learn from your mistakes: Mistakes happen. Learn to deal positively with those set-backs. Some venues will generate more sales or a larger audience than others. Discover what works for you. When you fall, get up and move forward.
Learn to Say No: Know your limitations: financially and emotionally. Determine what works for you.
Have fun: Planning a book tour is time-consuming but it can also be fun. Enjoy the journey. Should you decide to pick up the challenge and climb Mount Everest, remember: “Crampons on boots/one step in front of the other*….” Let’s go….
Announcing my Spring 2015 book tour here.
See my 2014 travels here.
*from the poem “Reaching the Summit”, Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press, 2014) Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright ©2014 Debbie Okun Hill.