What every author should know: the new world of book tours

Posted Monday, February 22, 2010 - 13:33 by Wendy in Writer's Resources

What every author should know:  if you want your book to succeed today, you’ll need to do lots of legwork.  Here’s an inspiring story from a bestselling author:

 From: The Immortal Book Tour By Rebecca Skloot -- Publishers Weekly, 11/9/2009 2:00:00 AM

A month ago, I’d have thought the idea of organizing my own book tour with the help of my brain-damaged father was nuts. My father, Floyd Skloot, has written several books about the neurologic damage he suffered from a virus in the ’80s—it affected his memory, his abstract reasoning, and his ability to think about multiple things at once. Exactly the abilities a person needs to envision and organize a book tour. And I’m no better. Somewhere between writing a book, taking a teaching job, freelancing, and becoming my own publicist, things got a bit out of control. My office floor is piled with papers, my inbox has thousands of unanswered e-mails, and I scramble to keep up.

My publisher has been hugely supportive of my book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, so I figured my tour was a given. I fantasized about driving cross country with the boyfriend, our dogs, and a herd of our closest friends in a big tour bus with bright colored cells painted all over it (yes, cells, the things in your body).

Then I went to my first publicity meeting.

The people at Crown, my publishing house, said, “We don’t really do book tours anymore,” and “They’re just not the best investment of publicity funds.” My agent agreed. They explained cost-benefit ratios and said their money was better spent on banner ads, buzz campaigns, and bookstore placement. Instead of talking about a tour bus covered with cells, they talked of blogs and satellite radio tours, of Twittering and Facebooking to interact with readers. I listened and agreed; it all made perfect sense. Then I went home and thought, but I still want to go on a book tour.

Everyone I know in publishing says book tours are dead. One friend, a bestselling novelist, e-mailed me the other day, saying she’d just finished what would be her last tour ever. She had just one word for it: “heartbreaker.”

But I don’t believe all tours are dead, just the old-fashioned kind, where publishers organize events and writers simply show up hoping for a room full of people. I agree that social networking and online campaigns are the most important tools in book publicity. But I don’t see book tours and the online world as separate entities. Rather than replacing tours, I believe the new virtual world of book publicity can help keep them alive.

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