Monday 15 May 2017

How to plan a successful book tour #writetip

by Trish Nicholson

A couple of years ago, after completing a successful writers’ workshop tour in Europe, I shared tips here on how to do it.

In June/July this year, I will be taking my new non-fiction, A Biography of Story, A Brief History of Humanity, on tour to present talks at festivals, bookshops and libraries in the UK. Arranging this different tour boosted some of my earlier tips but also produced new insights, so it seemed useful to write a new post.

When it comes to book promotion, all authors are now expected to do a major part of the work however they are published. Many authors struggle with this side of their career. But a book tour exposes your work to fresh readers, attracts publicity and forges promising contacts for the future.

Publishers arrange book tours for only a tiny minority of their authors. You can join that lucky band by planning your own:

Pick a location:
Competition is so keen that even publicists for bestsellers are scrambling to get their authors into the big national events. But there are advantages at regional and local levels. You need to be smart.

  • Focus on smaller festivals, especially if your book has a connection with the area; you already have local contacts (via social media for example); or you are known in the town.
  • Independent bookshops are often the best bet for author talks/readings – they may prefer evenings so as not to disrupt trade.
  • Most bookshops will host a ‘local author’ or a book set in its locality for a simple ‘meet and sign’ event.
  • Be flexible, some major bookstore chains offer group events for local authors. If it fits your tour calendar – join in, and shine.
  • Depending on the nature of your book, schools, colleges, libraries and interest groups may be happy to host you.

Pitch at the right time:
Start planning early and be aware that potential hosts may work with different time frames. Everyone is busy – make it easy for them.

  • Book festivals generally plan their programmes at least a year ahead, and need details to print their brochures four months beforehand.
  • Bookshops usually plan events 2–3 months in advance and will probably lose your request if you send it much earlier.
  •  If possible, arrange to meet in person, but don’t send emails on a Monday morning or Friday afternoon, and be prepared to send polite reminders.

Offer good value:
Unless you won the Booker Prize last year, simply offering your presence will not get you signed up.

  • Offer a reading, talk, demonstration, Q&A session or whatever fits your book and the theme of the festival or the speciality of the bookshop.
  • ‘Freebies’ help event hosts to attract bookings and make eye-catching displays. And they provide long-lasting promotion: my giveaways are bookmarks and tote bags printed with my book’s cover image.
  • Donating a signed copy of your book for a raffle or competition prize increases its exposure and desirability.
  • Festivals may have their own publicity materials but bookshops and libraries appreciate banners, posters, bookmarks, flyers, and a plate of cakes or wrapped sweets can draw attention to your signing table.
  • Performing for free makes you more attractive and helps self-funded local festivals and small independent bookshops.

Prepare, prepare, prepare:
Before you contact anyone, do your homework.

  • Most festivals have a theme. Research their past events and submission procedures, identify the current theme and pitch your proposal to fit.
  • Bookshops may have a speciality. If you search their sites to find stores that feature your genre, you increase your chances of acceptance.
  • Write a concise pitch – describe what you can offer, what their audience will gain and how it relates to your book (100 words).
  • Write a brief bio (50 words), and a book blurb (100 words).
  • Paste your proposal into the body of an email after a short introductory paragraph – people are wary of attachments from strangers.
  • Well before the event, start building your confidence.
  • Rehearse aloud and time a talk carefully – professionals don’t overrun.
  • For Q&A, identify likely questions and think about your answers.
  • Research venue locations to ensure you arrive on time.
  • Festivals usually let you sell your books – order enough copies.

Publicise your event:
Use social media to publicise your event with blog posts, your tour programme pinned to your Twitter stream, Face Book pages and Pinterest, and promote your hosts’ publicity. Adapt your proposal as a Press Release to local media for interviews or articles mentioning your event.

Show up and smile:
It is not unheard of for even seasoned authors to find only a couple of punters come to ‘meet’ them or hear one of their readings. Even a single reader deserves your smile, your grace, and your best performance. They will never forget it, and for the rest of their lives will tell everyone they know how brilliant you are.

A Biography of Story, A Brief History of Humanity is available from UK bookshops or worldwide from The Book Depository  [TBD link: ]
 Many more tips on writing, publishing and marketing can be found in Writing Your Nonfiction Book: the complete guide to becoming an author. [TBD link: ]
  Find out more about Trish’s books and read her articles at and follow her on Twitter


Bio: Trish Nicholson is a social anthropologist and author of narrative non-fiction and short stories. She lives in New Zealand and is a member of the NZ Society of authors.

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