How to set up a book tour by Trish Nicholson
A book tour is an excellent way for you to increase the exposure of your book, to meet potential readers, and to make many useful contacts for the future. It can also be fun. Even if you have a publisher, they rarely offer their authors book tours these days, so here are some tips from my own recent experience to help you create your own book tour whether you write fiction or non-fiction.
Where to tour: it’s not necessary to jet around the world – with a little imagination a successful tour can be arranged within your own region. It’s a good idea to boost your confidence by beginning the tour locally where you are already known, and then extend your reach to new opportunities beyond your comfort zone.
When to start: a book tour is not something you can do entirely alone. You need co-operation from others to host events, or provide venues and local publicity. So begin planning well in advance: eight to twelve months beforehand is not too soon to start looking for potential hosts and ‘partners’. Many bookshops, festivals and interest groups set their programmes a year ahead.
Who to contact: draw up a list of organisations likely to share an interest in your book. Writers’ and readers’ groups, libraries and bookshops are obvious, (although bookshops may not stock self-published titles, they are likely to support a ‘local author’, so it is worth approaching them). But consider wider possibilities. If you write for children or young adults, what about schools, colleges, clubs and discos? Does the setting of your book suggest particular locations, environments, historic sites? Think about where potential readers hang out and to which interest groups they might belong.
What to offer: based on your book, your skills and the organisations on your list, decide what you can offer that would be of mutual benefit. Readings and signings could be part of other activities such as an author talk, a workshop, a competition, or demonstration. For a significant activity, such as a workshop – or if you have to pay for a venue – you, or the host, may need to charge, but as you would expect, events that are free attract more interest. Some organisations offer a fee or a contribution towards travel, others do not. Decide in advance how to handle costs (and retain all receipts, they might be tax deductable).
How to prepare: before contacting anyone, you will need a brief author bio (50-100 words), a description of the activities you are offering (specific to each interest group), and a synopsis of your book (150-200 words). Provide these when approaching potential hosts, but also send them to local media for publicity, later. Make sure you have sufficient copies of your book to sell during the tour. If your book is only in digital form, think about creating alternative ‘physical products’ – a video, promotional bookmarks, postcards, reading/study guides, or handouts.
How to make contact: where possible, make an initial approach in person and follow up in writing; otherwise, send emails or letters, mentioning any mutual connections. It’s best to keep communications brief, and be patient: voluntary groups especially can be slow to reply. Maintain careful records of correspondence and, as people respond, build up a programme that is workable for you. For example, if being away over night is a problem, allow for this in your scheduling.
How long to tour: this depends on your circumstances, but a concentrated effort – several events within two or three weeks, for example – is likely to create more word-of-mouth buzz and media attention. But be realistic about what you can achieve. It is better to organise fewer events than to inconvenience people with last minute cancellations.
What to do after the tour: during the tour, it may seem as if a surge wave is bowling you along, and it may leave you feeling beached once it is over. Extend the benefits of your tour by talking and writing about it. Use social media to thank your host organisations publicly, and share the events more widely with blog posts or magazine articles. And of course, follow up on contacts or promises you made during the tour.
A successful book tour requires effort and resources. You may sell an encouraging number of books – people are more likely to buy your book if they have met you – but it is not only about selling. It is about your book being discovered, and the longer-term strengthening of your ‘author platform’.
Touring with your book can be a satisfying and rewarding experience with many spin-offs for the future. Whether you want to consider a book tour or other marketing methods, you will find many more promotion tips for fiction as well as non-fiction, including how to write a bio, synopsis, and press release, in Writing Your Nonfiction Book: the complete guide to becoming an author
Author bio: Trish Nicholson writes short stories and narrative non-fiction on a range of subjects, including books on writing with which she recently completed a successful book tour in the UK and Netherlands. Trish lives in New Zealand and is a member of the NZ Society of Authors. You can read more of her writing tips on her website: http:www.trishnicholsonswordsinthetreehouse.com
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