Things have changed dramatically in the last couple of years in the publishing industry. This is not news, or you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog. As part of our continuing efforts to be brutally honest, let’s look at whether you should go on a traditional “book tour” as part of your promotional efforts. You remember those, right? Bookstores, you and a table with your hardback books lovingly displayed upon it and lines of people waiting to speak with you and obtain your signature.
Before we get to the nitty gritty, I think it is important to think about WHY things have changed in the book business. When the major criteria for book sales were getting thousands of books to thousands of stores, there were different priorities. There were no book bloggers, but there were book sellers who lovingly displayed their favorite selections on display tables and made personal recommendations to patrons they knew. Today, Amazon alone sells more print books than all US bookstores combined. Barnes and Noble charges publishers $3-$5K for that coveted table space (although that amount varies by contract per publisher). You don’t have to take my word on this, take a look at this article in the NY Times about the current Simon and Schuster dispute with Barnes and Noble . People don’t get recommendations in bookstores as often anymore; they get them on Facebook or Twitter. This is where the modern ideas we discuss here are even more important than ever.
*A quick aside – did you know that tablet and eReader customers read 40% more than their print counterparts per PEW Internet research? Which does beg the question, when you are trying to get groundswell moving, should you worry about print at all?
Now, I know, your official author dreams included book signings at your local bookstore. I totally get it. But let’s think about what that will, and won’t, do for you.
First consideration – is your book available for purchase in the bookstore you are targeting? Is it available for purchase by a bookstore at all? If you are in print solely through Createspace, for example, it will not be purchase-able by most bookstores. Inquire before you get your heart set on a location.
Some bookstores will host you, even if they can’t order your book, provided you are willing to bring your books with you (and take the ones that don’t sell with you). Again, inquire before you get your heart set on a location.
But truly, before you even go that far, ask yourself whether this is where your efforts are best spent. The average successful reading or signing in a bookstore will attract 10-15 people (I will leave what an unsuccessful one attracts to your imagination). Unless you are planning something in your hometown, where you are assured of driving friends and family to attend, this is not really a great use of time and money. It is far more effective to plan events that leverage larger crowds of people to help your word of mouth marketing efforts. It also makes it easier for folks who are not bookish if those events are not totally book focused (think wine tasting, or just a good old fashioned party!)
Another popular spin on the tour concept is the blog tour. In short, this is a set of dates where you are hosted by a series of blogs that is promoted as a package, or tour. We will cover how to set up such a thing in a future post. This is a far more useful and economical use of your “touring” time and leverages all your other social media efforts nicely.
I will say this, if you are going to do a classic bookstore signing (unless you are a Big 6 author) you really will need to stick with your local independent bookseller. Barnes and Noble is not a likely prospect for those of us from small publishers, or who are independent authors. Keep in mind that any bookstore will be much more inclined to want to work with you if you 1) have a relationship with them already 2) have a marketing plan in hand that will help them understand how you will promote the event including how many people you believe you can attract.
Last point, unless you are Nora Roberts, your publisher is not going to pay your travel expenses, so factor that in.
Disagree? Tell me – I can take it!