A book tour for a self-published book can be woefully demoralizing or unequivocally gratifying. What makes the difference? The cities you choose, the bookstores (or other locales) that host you, and the work you put into it.
First of all, set you expectations correctly. If you believe your tour will be the singular launching pad to your book’s success, think again. You’ll have a much better time if you realize that it will be an expensive, time-consuming way to celebrate the publication of your book, get a smidge of press, and see some family and friends whom you haven’t seen in while. As for how to go about it, below is a step by step guide.
- Choose your Cities Wisely
Choose cities that A) you want to visit, B) have a critical mass of friends family, and C) have groovy, independent bookstores that support author readings. Note, sometimes smaller to medium-size cities (usually university towns) have better venues that larger cities (e.g. Portland, OR–Powell’s; Austin, TX–Book People; Asheville, NC–Malaprops; etc.)
- Find the Right Bookstore/Venue
It’s easy to locate the one or two bookstores that host author readings. Here’s a good start. Convincing them to host a reading for a self-published author is another thing entirely.
- Prepare Yourself for Disappointment
Many bookstores will not host readings by self-published authors. First of all, realize that all bookstores operate on razor-thin margins and that that might even consider selling a book on commission (which is how most bookstores structure the book-selling contract for POD books) is a big deal. Also, realize that the authors that a bookstore hosts is part of their brand. If they host an unknown author with a self-published, it may impact their ability to attract reputable authors who author bestsellers. Now with this realization, hold your head high and go for it.
- Arm Yourself with Incentives
If you have any press, include it in your pitch. If you’ve had other successful readings, report how many people came and how many books you sold. Work the local angle (or you were born/raised/went to college in the city where the bookstore is located).
- Send an Envoy
If you’re not local, send a local family member or friend to pitch your reading. Ensure said envoy envoy is a salesperson and a frequent customer of the bookstore.
- Simplify the Logistics
Most bookstores will not order direct from your POD publisher. You’ll need to buy the books and resell them to the bookstore, and you’ll need to handle all shipping costs/logistics. To boot, whether the bookstore buys your books outright or sells them for you on commission, you’ll need to accept all returns.
- Choose an Alternative Venue
Ask a friend or convince a local book club to host a reading. Unless you know someone in the book club, convincing a book club to read your book and host a reading is a long shot (though this did happen for in my last book tour. How do you find local book clubs–ask the bookstore owners).
- Promptly Supply the Reading Coordinator with All S/he Needs.
This usually includes an author photo and book cover .jpegs, a synopsis, and pre-reading book shipping logistics.
- Promote the Reading
Once you get the reading (especially if it is in a bookstore), contact every local press outlet you can. Avail yourself of the Internet to find press contacts from local papers to magazines to radio shows. Be creative–if you went to school in the city in question, contact the alumni organization and put an announcement in the alumni bulletin.
- Thank the Bookstore and Don’t Forget to Sell Your Book
Some authors are so excited after a successful reading, they forget that the bookstore has graciously hosted them in order to sell books. Precede a reading with an announcement that you will be selling/signing books after the reading and then end the reading by reminding them. Also practice your signing schtick–how you engage the book buyer and what you choose to sign in each book (I completely flubbed this the first time around).
Below is a full list of Entrepreneurial Reluctance/e-Publishing Reticence lessons from my Top 10s blog post.
1. The Catalyst(s)
2. Good $ vs. Bad $
3. Risk Reduction
4. The Network Effect
5. Been There, Done That: The Serial Entrepreneur
6. The New New Thing
7. Emergence & Maslow
8. The Analogy of the Watch
9. Founder Skills and Dynamics
10. Perseverance or Blinders
1. False Deadlines
2. Readers & Editrs
3. Genre Opportunities
4. Target Marketing
6. Creating you Literary Brand
7. The Indie-zation of Literature
8. The Placenta Effect
9. Amazon Sales Rank Lore
10. The Book Tour