To tour or not to tour, that is the question. Book tours are greedy monsters that can quickly consume your entire publicity budget-if you let them. Here are some ideas to consider before embarking on a tour.
Making the Decision
Assuming you’re not a celebrity (because if you are, hey, by all means tour), does your book contain a subject that will be newsworthy in other cities? Does it have any timely topics you can use to attract local media attention? If the answer to either of these questions is no, you will quickly realize it when you don’t get any bites after pitching your book to the media in a particular city.At this point, you are at a crossroads. Either pitch the book again with a new angle, or cancel that city. Without publicity, you’re not going to get any sort of turnout at a booksigning anyway, unless you pay to advertise the event.However, if the media responds positively to your efforts, confirm your bookings and prepare to sell some books.Many local television and print media focus only on local authors. However TV and print are the key media you need to make a tour worthwhile. Radio shows are much easier to book, but remember that you don’t need to be in studio for this type of interview. If the only media interested in interviewing you are radio programs, cancel that city, save your money, and do the interview from home.The primary goal of a book tour is to generate publicity for your book. Ideally, in any one market, you should have at least two television shows interested in interviewing you to make the travel expenses pay off.
If you decide a book tour makes sense for your subject, establish a budget. Know how many books you must sell on average per city to break even. The reason many publishers are reluctant to send authors on book tours is because such efforts often lose money. Here are some ways to stretch your dollars.
- Embark on a regional tour. It is much easier to travel on occasional Fridays and weekends, especially if you have another job. It will also be easier to book media in surrounding cities, as you can be flexible, and you still have somewhat of a local tie-in.
- Piggyback your tour with other trips. Planning a vacation? Traveling for business? Take an extra day out for interviews and a booksigning. If you book a national television show, use the morning before or after for local interviews.
- Conduct a workshop. Some independent bookstores will consider splitting the workshop fee with you, or you can make the purchase of your book the price of admission. Unfortunately major chains are rarely interested in this idea.
- Book your publicity before buying plane tickets. Say it with me, “If I don’t have any publicity, I will not go to that city.”
- Realize that booksignings are not a mandatory part of a book tour. It is smarter when going to back-to-back cities to do a full slate of interviews every morning and fly out that night, then to waste an additional day per city just to squeeze in a signing. Remember: The purpose of a book tour is to generate publicity for your book at a local level.
Before You Travel
A month prior to your trip, be sure to alert local bookstores in each city of the tour about the publicity you have booked. If you are really organized, follow up with a phone call. Then cross your fingers and hope they stock additional copies.
On the Road Again?
A book tour can be a great source of exposure for an author. Authors from other cities automatically carry a certain amount of cachet with the book-buying audience, even if they don’t with the media. The key to a successful book tour is generating enough publicity to make the tour pay for itself in book sales.Copyright 1999 Katherine Brandenburg
Katherine Brandenburg is President of Avalon Marketing & Communications, 5611 Abbey Court, Suite 6, Lincoln, Nebraska 68505. Phone 402/466-4531, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is from thePMA Newsletterfor July, 1999, and is reprinted with permission of Publishers Marketing Association.