Independent Success! Breakthroughs in Publishing

This month: Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
I have always thought a book tour was the most insane thing I have ever heard of. You take a lone, cave dwelling creature and thrust them into a maddening crowd of complete strangers who will freely critique their "baby". This creature is then supposed to smile in the face of criticism, or frightening declarations of undying love, and SELL, SELL, SELL!

We are artists for goodness sake! That is why we are constantly being ripped off, having tortured relationships and hiding from family members who demand to know when we will get "real" jobs. So instead of going for the primitive "meet and greet", many authors are considering giving their pocketbooks and nerves a rest and testing out the virtual tour. With high speed Internet access and endless website designs, a virtual tour is an option for any author. But is it the best option for you?

Independent Success! rounded up a few experts who have braved the crowds for an answer to the question "Should I stay or should I go?"

Kimberly Ripley is a fulltime freelance writer and author of four books, including her latest, "Lily's Gift". Ripley conducts writing workshops and provides an info packed newsletter called "Freelancing Later In Life". Visit her writer friendly website at www.freelancing1.homestead.com.

David Leonhardt is a consumer advocate, media planner and author of three books including "Get In The News!" Get his free "Daily Dose of Happiness" at http://TheHappyGuy.com.

Rose Rosetree specializing in face/aura reading. Two of her books have been selections of the One Spirit Book Club and her latest title, "Wrinkles Are God's Makeup: How You Can Find Meaning In Your Evolving Face" is currently available at her website, www.rose-rosetree.com.

IS: What can a book tour do for you?

Ripley: A book tour can make the difference between selling your book and simply publishing your book. People want to put a face to a name. They want to connect with the writer who either tells a story or offers advice.

Rosetree: If you're worried that a book tour could be a bottomless spending pit, I can relate. But, I also have a recent story to share that may change your mind and just one good tour can give you seed money for more. My first book event began when the NY office of the Learning Annex e-mailed me for a referral to teach a class on Face Reading. I offered myself and recommended that I give a second workshop that same day. I gave the double-header and sold nearly $1,000 worth of books.

After I returned home, one of my students called to invite me back to NY. Unbeknownst to me, while I autographed books after the workshops, he collected names and e-mails of students who'd be interested in receiving one-hour sessions with me. I agreed to come back if he could book at least six paying sessions. He wound up booking nine for the weekend.

IS: In the planning phase of the book tour, what are important steps every author can take to increase its success?

Ripley: My steps would look like this:
1. Book each event several weeks, if not months, ahead of time.
2. Send press releases to all local papers, radio and television stations within the media range of where the event will be held about a month prior to the event.
3. Develop a rapport in advance with the bookstore's CRM (Community Relations Manager).
4. Make up "freebies" to offer patrons who attend your signing. Bookmarks work well and are fairly inexpensive. An excerpt from something else you've written and autographed is also a nice giveaway.
5. Work the crowd at your signing. Don't just read a portion of your book then sit demurely waiting for customers to ask for your autograph. Engage the audience in something that pertains to your book.

Leonhardt:
1. Make sure you have promoted the tour in advance by submitting a notice to all "upcoming events" sections in newspapers, local magazines and alternative press.
2. Seek radio interviews based on the subject of your book, not the book itself, in the days before coming to town.
3. Make sure the bookstores have flyers to hand out to customers a month in advance and that a poster goes up as soon as possible.
4. Ensure that the Toastmaster clubs, reading/book clubs and storytelling groups announce to their members in advance. In fact, offer to make your visit a showcase event and encourage them to invite visitors for the occasion.
5. Send out a media advisory in advance to tell media where and when you will appear.

Rosetree: (currently planning her first book tour)
1. Let people know about your plans whenever parts of your itinerary are final. For example, I was worried about doing a 3-day expo on my own, but when my top Face Reading student found out about my plans she volunteered to come along and help out.
2. One factor that characterizes my approach to putting this tour together, something that more businesslike, and jaded, experts may not tell you is that I'm letting it unfold from the heart.

IS: Do you have any suggestions regarding using technology for author promotion?

Ripley: The Internet is every writer's best bet for free PR. Advertise your event in electronic newsletters, to online writing groups and on message boards for writers, authors and book enthusiasts. There are hundreds of places to list events at no cost at all.

Leonhardt: Email is wonderful for targeted media, but fax and telephone work better for general media. Mail may work best for initial contact if a copy of the book is sent ahead to select media. Also important is anticipating journalists' needs: responding quickly, making sure there is something visual for TV cameras (even for talk shows) and newspaper cameras and developing sound bites that will play well on radio.

Rosetree: Whenever you deal with a reporter or broadcaster, remember that you're dealing with a person. When using technology it can be tempting to lose the human touch. Use everyday good manners, a polite tone combined with respect for the media person's time and have a desire to be of service. Also, be sure to use your technology or the good old U.S. mail to send a thank you letter after every interview or article appears.

IS: Do you have any feelings about in-person book tours versus virtual book tours?

Ripley: I am a firm believer that "in-person" is better. You not only sell your book, you sell yourself. People like to buy products from genuinely nice people and there is no better way to introduce yourself as such than an in-person book event.

Leonhardt: One of the points I make in "Get In The News!" is that too many people think they need a news conference for every announcement. Print journalists can do interviews over the phone and by email, radio works almost exclusively over the phone. Only TV and print photographers need visuals. However, to deliver speeches and sign books you need to be on-site. In-person is best, but a virtual tour can also reach some of the audience when the budget has run out. An in-person tour can also be supplemented by a parallel "tour" over the Internet. Given a tight budget, I would opt to saturate five markets rather than touch down once in each of 25. Unless there is almost certain TV coverage out of all 25. One more thing, if traveling by car between say, St. Louis and Chicago, there must be a dozen small towns to pass through with small local newspapers who would love to have a real-live author drop in for a few minutes and make an unscheduled cameo appearance.

Rosetree: Doing both is the best combination. The synergy potential is extraordinary. But whichever combination of them works best in your circumstances, what matters most is you. You're published because you cared enough to write, then put your hard-won resources into carrying your message into the world. That's different from the greed and-status oriented culture at the five big publishing companies that run America's book industry today. Your message can make a difference and reach the people it is meant to reach. Whether you're rich or famous or not, that's the greatest wealth, isn't it?

So dear readers, while I speak to you across cyberspace and time it would seem that the in-person book tour will stand. At least for now. And it is for the very best of reasons, the relationship between an author and their readers. It is for our readers that we write. For them that we stay up late at night and exorcise our demons into creaking keyboards and connect across minds, race, age, gender and time. It is for readers that we go on tour because maybe some of them, maybe one of them, may come. You should be there.


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