MY TOP 4 BOOK TOUR TIPS

As usual, much going on around here lately, a yet to be announced little project which is taking quite a bit of time. A couple horror related posts for this weekend, research for an article I am trying to do on publishing alternatives. Surprisingly, I have encountered very few folks willing to pitch in outside of self publishing. No wonder traditional and semi traditional publishing appears like a damn secret society to the rest of us. I am not even getting responses from smaller presses, business must be real good. Keep in mind I am approaching it as a bloggist trying to write a post rather than an author looking for a back door, which I am not. Some might argue I am neither...

I have posted a couple hugely popular articles on the benefits of self publishing by authors Sheri McInnis and Bibiana Krall, which has led many people to the assumption this site is about self publishing. It is not. I am not sure I have figured out what this site is about yet, but I will continue to look. I would love to present some other view points if for no other reason than to educate myself. 

If you know of an agent, author someone in the non self publishing world willing to talk, please send them my way. Speaking of the traditional publishing world and conspiracy. My co-conspirator Sheri is back to share a little about one of her book tours with a traditional publisher earlier in her career. Grab your surgical Michael Jackson mask and some hand sanitizer and brace yourself.


Guest Post by Sheri McInnis


When my first book came out in August of 2003, Simon & Schuster sent me on a four-day tour of the American Midwest. I was a little disappointed The Today Show and Good Morning America weren't on the list, but even if I wasn't going to meet Matt Lauer, I still wanted to look and feel my best. So about a week before I was set to leave, I decided to have a chip in my front tooth filled. Bad idea.  

BOOK TOUR TIP #1: DO NOT GO TO THE DENTIST BEFORE A TOUR



It was a hot August afternoon when I waltzed into my dentist's office to see the dental assistant coughing and blowing her nose. She held up her hand.
"Don't worry! It's not SARS," she said. It was the summer of SARS and everyone in Toronto – where I'm from – was on guard. "It's just a cold, I promise. I've had it checked out." 
SARS or not, I didn't want to get sick for my first book tour. But I hadn't had a cold in five years – and I really wanted that chip fixed – so I took a deep breath and stretched out in the exam chair. A few minutes later, the lights went out and the office, usually buzzing with drills and muzak, went quiet. 
As coincidence would have it, it was August 14, 2003 – the day of the big Northeast Blackout that shut down electricity to fifty million people for two days. My dentist managed to fix my chipped tooth on emergency power, but the next morning I woke up to a dark apartment – and one of the worst colds I've ever had in my life.   
Remember Toronto was the focus of the SARS epidemic that year. Even the World Health Organization had put the city on a travel alert. So it wasn't a good time for an author from Toronto to go on a book tour with a cold. 
It crossed my mind to call the whole thing off. But there were radio and TV interviews set up, readings, signings, almost every minute accounted for. I didn't want to disappoint my publisher – and I certainly didn't want to lose my chance at a book tour. But it was still miserable timing. 
I'll never forget walking into the airport and seeing all those big SARS signs warning travelers that if they were coughing or had a fever, they wouldn’t be allowed to fly. When I went through security, I was mopping sweat off my forehead and shivering so badly, I must've looked like I was auditioning for Midnight Express. Which brings me to … 


BOOK TOUR TIP #2: BRING LOTS OF KLEENEX 


I made it through that flight without attracting too many nasty stares – though I did need a lot Kleenex to blow my nose. When the author escort met me at the Minneapolis airport, he knew I was from Toronto and he was a little concerned. 

"No, no! It's not SARS! I promise! It's just a cold." 

He seemed to take that in stride, sweet soul, and after a busy day, he drove me to my first reading that night. Outside the bookstore he turned to me, like a dad dropping his daughter off before senior prom.  
"Now don't be too disappointed if nobody shows up," he said. "I drove Tom Wolfe once and he said nobody showed for his first reading."  
"Yeah, yeah," I said, sucking a Halls lozenge and so anxious about the appearance, I barely heard him.  
But when I walked into that bookstore, he was right. There were forty empty chairs and not a single person showed all night.  
Luckily, the manager had read the book and she loved it, so we had a great time chatting as I 'signed stock' and we slapped 'Signed by the Author' stickers on each of the books. But that's another reason you might need Kleenex. Because I certainly had to dry a few tears remembering all those empty chairs the next day. 
Luckily, people did show up for my other readings – which is where the next tip comes in …



BOOK TOUR TIP #3: PRACTICE YOUR INSCRIPTION 


Do not wait until you're sitting in front of the first stranger who buys your book to come up with the catchy little phrase you'll use when you sign it. Because you might've autographed copies for your family – Dear Mom! Thanks for always believing in me! or Suck it bro! I'm an author now!  – so those inscriptions will come naturally to you. 
But if you haven't figured out what to write for strangers, when someone is standing there waiting for you to personalize a book for them, trust me, you'll get the worst writer's block of your life. You'll be left with lame clich├ęs like Best Wishes! and Enjoy! –  which you'll probably regret forever. 
So practice your clever inscription before you go on tour – or even before you get published. It'll be one less stress when you're actually out there signing books. Speaking of books …


BOOK TOUR TIP #4: DON'T FORGET A NOTEBOOK


For one thing, you'll want to keep a journal of everything you see and do – because author escorts will show you around town and it'll be fun to see the sights. In Minneapolis, we went to the corner where Mary Tyler Moore threw her hat up in the air in her opening credits – and then across the river to see the big brownstone where F. Scott Fitzgerald grew up.
But more importantly, you'll  need the notebook to jot down the names and contact info of the great bookstore staff, TV interviewers, radio hosts, hotel employees, author escorts and new readers you'll meet along the way. Because people are so great to authors on tour, you're not even going to miss Matt Lauer. 
By the way, my teeth looked pretty good the whole time. 
But I would rather have kept the chip.


Sheri McInnis is the author of two traditionally-published novels, DEVIL MAY CARE and BY INVITATION ONLY. She's self-publishing her third novel, THE HUNTER'S MOON, and will be taking a virtual book tour this time.


Contact @slmcinnis



2 comments :

David McAliley said...

Awesome post. Thanks for writing it. I put out my first book in February, and have been looking into options for a book tour or virtual book tour. Good to hear some pointers from more experienced authors on the small details people never think about until they realize they didn't take them into account.

I like the one about practicing the inscription. I never thought of that, but it certainly makes sense. I have signed a few copies for family, friends, and fellow church members, but haven't really had a true "fan" inscription yet. Something I guess I need to spend some time refining before I find myself in that moment.

Glad I found your blog, and I will definitely keep an eye on it.

John Clarkson said...

Sheri, thanks for taking the time to provide these tips. And thanks, Gordon, for posting. I've been traditionally published by Crown, Berkley/Putnam, Tor/Forge, and most recently St. Martin's Press. Every experience has presented its own set of problems. I've come to the conclusion that Book Tours and appearances at book conferences/conventions are definitely a Catch-22 proposition. If you're not well-known you want to do events to get known. But unless you're well-known, it's unlikely you'll get an audience. Then there's self-publishing. Anyhow, enjoyed your post and wanted to comment. (Really sorry about that cold/fever thing.)