The Ups and Downs of Going On a Book Tour

If you’re an aspiring indie author, you might imagine a stop on a book tour going like this:

You’re on your way to your book event in a town car that is just the perfect temperature to allow you to be alone with your thoughts and relax. Your books are already at the bookstore and set up in a way that says “look, I am important.” You walk into the venue and are greeted by an event manager who brings you a well-prepared cup of coffee and gives you a few minutes to yourself. You peek inside your event space and see that the room is more than half full and several people already have your book in hand. They are waiting for you. This is your moment of glory. Everyone is engaged and waiting for you to speak. At the end of your book talk, people line up to get your autograph and a photo that they immediately tweet to their friends and family. Lo and behold, one of them is a blogger with over a thousand followers! You leave your book talk and have a delicious meal at a local restaurant where they don’t know who you are, but they treat you like they do. You feel amazing. 

This might happen, if you are Mitch Albom and have 4,000 people show up to your book talk for a ten-hour long book signing. Yes, that actually happened.

mitch_albom_booktour_phillipines

This is how it goes for so many indie authors:

You drive to your venue and scramble to find parking. It way better than taking a stinky cab. You get there and let the security guard know you are there for your book signing. The security guard shrugs and tells you to go find some person who isn’t immediately visible, but three hallways away. You walk quickly, trying to look confident, but you aren’t. You find the person and get put into a nice enough room with a table and lots of chairs set up. You’ve either brought your own refreshments for your guests, or there isn’t any at all. You wish you had bought that overpriced bottle of water at the gas station before you got here. You unpack your books that you had to lug out your trunk and arrange them in an appealing way. You start plastering your signage wherever you can and you pray that people show up. You set up free tickets on event websites and tweeted to your followers and harassed your Facebook community. You have been a relentless promoter, and you are nervous but ready for the public. It’s game time, and no one is here. After a while, two people float in and haven’t heard of you, but are curious and polite enough to have a seat and wait expectantly for you to say something amazing. A couple people wander in, realize that you aren’t a famous author and abruptly walk away. You talk about you book and people seem engaged, but only one person buys your book. You pack everything up and graciously thank the venue for their accommodations. You go home and rethink this whole writer thing. 

These are kind of extremes, but I’m sure you can imagine each scenario.

You hope that your book talk will go smoothly. You prepare in advance what you want to say, but you try to be flexible. After all, you don’t know who you are going to encounter, if you encounter anyone at all. A lot of authors decide to team up with other like-minded authors (or at least authors in the same genre) just to entice book stores to even host them. Often times, you end up expending a lot more energy then you imagined you would. But sometimes, just sometimes, it pays off handsomely.

My favorite book talk was one I had at Village Square Cafe in Baltimore, MD. I had several unsuccessful book events before that, so I was pretty nervous about flying 3,000 miles to go to my own book talk that my business manager arranged for me. However, it went well. There was signage, I was greeted with coffee and a number of people (more than five but less than ten) actually came to the shop specifically for my book talk. I had a book talk that lasted almost three hours and everyone who attended bought a book. For a little known author, that is an incredible experience. People showed up specifically to hear me talk about my book. They engaged me and asked lots of questions and shared their experiences. It really doesn’t get better than that.

Of course, unless you’re Mitch Albom.

Have you gone on a book tour before? If so, what was the experience like? If you haven’t, do you think you will go on a book tour for your next published work?

Note: A version of this article appeared on The August Rose Press Blog

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