As you can see by visiting the events page, I’m embarking on 28-event 35-day Endurance Tour in support of Booklife and my new novel. I’ll be hitting a variety of venues on the West Coast and East Coast, and I hope to see Booklifenow readers at many of these events. The tour also includes guest blogging, interviews in local media, engaging with local writer groups, and much more.
Booklife covers book tours, including how to conduct a virtual book tour through guest blogging and the like. But as my friend Matt Staggs and I put together my Endurance Tour, I think we both realized that the modern book tour is a complex, organic entity, the dimensions of which are even more dynamic and three-dimensional than depicted in Booklife (I can already see I’ll need to revise that section for the second edition).
Here are some thoughts just from planning the Endurance Tour. When I get back in mid-December I’ll report on how much of this I still believe in and what new ideas were sparked by the experience.
(1) Real-world events are still important because a real-world event still triggers certain responses from local media and from the blogosphere, which is especially useful for events in large cities, where local coverage can translate into national attention. (Besides, doing a reading or other gig contributes to the cultural literacy of your country.)
(2) A book tour should be balanced between real-world and virtual events, in part because doing so engages different audiences and different gatekeepers and influencers. You can also be your own best advocate out in the world by Twittering and blogging from the road–people love hearing about writer tour experiences.
(3) Good intel from readers “on the ground” as to which indies and individual chain bookstores are best at promoting events will save you from booking an event at a venue that winds up just going through the motions.
(4) Adding variety to the real-world part of your book tour means turning to universities, venues that host workshops, and unconventional locations like bars. For example, one of my gigs is a lecture at MIT in Boston and another is at Manuel’s bar in Atlanta. Given local resources and the timing of each event, each venue is the best possible for the area. (The MIT lecture will be podcast to a wider audience, and there are no indie bookstores in Atlanta with enough pull to make an in-store event a success.)
(5) Adding variety also means being able to bring diversity of material into play. Just doing a reading and signing will not allow you to take advantage of all the opportunities out there. I have prepared a number of different talks, lectures, discussion topics, workshops, and anecdotes to take advantage of many different situations.
(6) The actual physical event is important, but only half the battle. Getting pre-event publicity to encourage attendance is also important, but as important is sparking reactions after the event, from bloggers and others. Having a chance to meet bookstore managers is also key, as they are, of course, among the strongest advocates for the written word.
(7) In creating a book tour, you should think about how the events dovetail with your career as a whole. Which is to say, while you want to sell books and generate interest in your current book, you should also analyze how certain events fit in with your long-term goals. Since I want to do more workshops and lectures about certain subjects, some of the events I’ll be doing for the tour should be gifts that keep giving: they will lead to other opportunities.
(8) If your tour is unique enough to write about the experience, you can create another context for getting publicity for it. I would be writing about my five weeks on the road regardless, but as it turns out I’ll be blogging about it for Amazon and for other venues, in addition to a longer piece at the end of the tour for a print media venue. What makes my tour unique? The variety of venues and the length mean that I’ll be getting a nice cross-section of American book culture, and that’s worth writing about.
(9) Teaming up with other writers is often a good idea. It’s not just that there’s safety in numbers, but that variety can create additional interest. In addition, if you’re teaming up with writers you find really interesting, you benefit because you get a chance to hang out with them and talk before or after the event. (In general, the talking to interesting people aspect of a book tour gets lost in all of the more “practical” reasons for doing one.)
(10) If you can multi-task so a tour supports your career and creativity goals, all the better. I’m working on a definitive book about steampunk called The Steampunk Bible. This book tour will allow me to meet and interview some of the main creators in this subculture.
Also, the physical part of a book tour in our new media age helps balance all the hours spent at a computer, and that travel, for me at least, always sparks a thousand new story ideas. I also feel less fragmented on the road, because it’s almost impossible to be online 24-7. No matter what the irritations of travel and the stress of planning the gigs and prepping material, that all tends to make up for it.
But, as ever, your results may vary. A physical book tour isn’t strictly necessary in this day and age. Even a virtual book tour may not be necessary, if you get the right reviews and the right word-of mouth. The most important thing is to be happy and creative. Me, I like to push myself sometimes. This is me, pushing myself. Endurance Tour. If I survive, I’ll tell you all about it.
>>>Share your experience: Tell me the funniest or strange event you’ve ever done in support of your Booklife?