Did you ever wonder what it would be like to be on a book tour?
Whether you are a writer or a reader, the thought may have occurred to you that it would be an exciting and satisfying experience. All those adoring readers! All those bookstore owners welcoming you into their cozy literary community! All those sales and reviews!
I suppose that has been a few authors’ experience in the past. But my last few weeks on the road, visiting bookstores, talking at events, and – mostly – hiking to my heart’s content have been nothing like that.
I suppose the reasons for the difference starts with doing this on my own. I understand that very few publishers these days support their authors with robust marketing. Unless you’re Kristin Hannah, Lauren Gross, or Richard Powers, there’s little chance a publisher is going to do much to sell your book other than put it in their catalog and make it available through their own distributors or through a company like Ingram.
So, we do it ourselves. When I told the marketing staff at my publisher that I wanted to hit the road and visit indie bookstores across the West and Midwest, I naively asked if they’d make some calls, set up some events, and create some marketing collateral.
“We don’t do that,” was the response.
Okay. I will do it myself. But can you give me a list of bookstores with which you have relationships?
“No, we don’t do that.”
Okay. If I send you a list of bookstores on my route, will you let me know which ones buy your books?
It took about four weeks, but the busy sales team eventually put stars by the half-dozen stores on my list that carry the company’s books. And they sent me some company-themed bookbags and booklights to hand out to the bookstores I visited.
And that’s where I started.
The vast majority of the 50 bookstores I contacted never responded at all. Nevertheless, the trip so far has been more fun than not, full of happy surprises and great experiences.
Over the next several short blogs, I’ll document my trip. Much of it has nothing to do with bookstores or book events. With more days between signings than days spent at them, I finally adjusted to the idea that I would just have some fun out on the road, enjoy the time with old friends and family, and be happy to be away from the 100-plus desert heat for a couple of months.
It's my story of what a book tour looks like when you’re not famous and you organize it yourself.
Tomorrow: The Cargo Van