It’s my great pleasure to have as my first guest on Crime Cafe the suspense author Jenny Milchman!
As part of her guest post today, Jenny is giving away a free copy of her next novel, AS NIGHT FALLS!
All you have to do to get in on the giveaway is email your name and mailing address to email@example.com. The winner will be picked by random drawing.
And don’t forget to tune in here and on iTunes and/or Google Play for my interview with Jenny on the debut of the Crime Cafe podcast next week!
So … please, take it away, Jenny!
Book touring is so 1995, right? Or maybe so 2005. But for sure it’s passe at this point. The only authors it makes sense to tour are the blockbusters who will jam pack a room and sell at least 500 books. Yes?
No. Or at least, I don’t think so, and haven’t found that to be the case in my own early career. In fact, quite the opposite. Arguably, the blockbuster author will sell 500 books within 5 minutes of her or his book dropping. While for the newer author still working to establish him or herself, a series of well-planned, targeted events can really pack a punch.
I have some street cred for this opinion of mine. Of the past 24 months since my debut novel came out, I’ve spent 11 on the road, visiting over 500 bookstores, libraries, book clubs, and schools. I’ve walked into my share of empty rooms—enough to learn that the real power of a book event happens after the event is over—and quite a few blissfully full ones, too. And they seem to be getting fuller…which makes me think that book touring is a long term investment, but one that may in the end have the biggest impact of the many kinds of marketing we’re asked to do.
My guess is that it will also be some of the most meaningful and fun promotion you do. And since no one really knows whether having 20,000 followers on Twitter translates to any book sales, you might as well decide to do something that will at least add richness to your writing life along the way.
So, without further ado, here are some Do’s to make your tour a success–
- Do plan ahead. You may get local media coverage—newspaper, radio, even TV—or a review of your book.
- If you are an indie author, Do understand the economics and particulars from the bookseller’s perspective. Consider a POD version from Lightning Source or one of the bookstore print outfits versus CreateSpace. Know that even simply cutting your check versus building an order through one of the large distributors takes effort and costs time for the bookseller. Learn the difference between consignment and ordering. If you are published with a small press, find out what they offer in terms of discounts and returns and have this information on hand when you approach a bookseller.
- Do bring a small gift for your host. My momma raised me never to arrive without a gift. And it can relate to your book—think hot cocoa if you wrote a winter story. Or swag—pens, pads, matchbooks always come in handy. I’ve never met a bookseller—or a person for that matter—who didn’t appreciate cookies or doughnuts or candy.
- Do consider hiring an independent publicist. They can help steer you to particularly robust venues and events, and help with the many logistics.
- Do get creative about events. You don’t have to read for 20 minutes. (Please don’t read for 20 minutes). Instead think about holding a writers workshop or publishing pitch. Teach a skill related to something in your book—a craft or a recipe or a foreign language or how to use Jujitsu to take down a bad guy. Be the guest author at a book club. Lead a kids’ story class. The possibilities are endless, and will really value add to the site’s event calendar during the days when you are still growing your readership.
- Do understand that the measure of an event’s success is not in how many books you sell that one particular night, but in longterm payoffs down the line, and the relationships you are building, one by one by one.
And some Don’t’s—
- Don’t rely on the bookstore to bring in a crowd. They may, but you can always boost attendance. Tap into your Facebook Friends and Twitter followers who live in the area. Meeting virtual contacts face-to-face is one of the great joys of this kind of touring. Ask friends and family to invite people on your behalf. Spread the word through local media. Many towns have Twitter accounts—Tweet at them! Find MWA and SinC chapters in the area, and of course, rely on your fellow ITW members to come out and support you.
- Don’t worry that if you can’t go out for eleven months, it’s not worth doing. Nobody would be nuts enough to go out for eleven months! Oh, wait…But even doing a mini tour right in your own backyard can add richness to your life as an author. And if you happen to be planning a vacay, make it tax deductible, and search out good venues there too.
- Don’t read for twenty minutes at your event. Yes, I know I just took a Do and flip-flopped it. But it bears repeating. I see no reason why author events can’t be as exciting as a rock concert or a big game. There are authors who give a great show—Lisa Scottolline, Lee Child, Harlan Coben, and Chris Bohjalian may as well be standup comics. Louise Penny is like a motivational speaker. And Jodi Picoult once howled like a wolf. You’re out there representing when you do an event—show ’em how it’s done.
- Don’t burn bridges. Maybe you just had the worst event in history, and the non-existent crowd booed and spattered you with tomatoes. This same place may turn out to be a great gig next year. Or handsell a hundred copies of your book after you leave. Or simply be going through a rough patch, and your courteous response can make all the difference.
- Don’t underestimate the investment and effort a venue is making on your behalf. Events cost money, take time, and require skill for your host. Until we’re raking in thousands of dollars towards their bottom line, the event is probably a loss for the bookstore. They do it because they want to invest in authors and in their community. How generous is that.
Jenny Milchman’s third psychological thriller, As Night Falls, is a July Indie Next Pick. As soon as it drops, Jenny will hit the road on another of what Shelf Awareness calls “the world’s longest book tour”. Find her—literally—at http://jennymilchman.com/tour/bring-on-the-night-2015
Your comments were very helpful, especially those that dealt with adding dimension and creativity to a book reading.
Having been at events with you, Jenny, I have to say – you’re spot on. Great advise from a generous, creative, really nice writer! See you soon.