books with Athena

books with Athena

Sunday, August 21, 2011

RIP the Author Book Tour—and why you shouldn’t be sad to see it go

We’ve all fantasized about book tours, haven’t we? That glamorous trip we’ll take when our novel makes it big? Our publisher will send us off in a whirlwind of glamorous travel: booksignings, readings, and personal appearances with our adoring fans all over the country—maybe the world!

But this week, BookTour.com shut down, saying fewer tours and marketing budget changes make business “financially unviable.”

The book tour seems to be one more casualty of the electronic revolution.

Of course the death of one company doesn’t mean touring has completely disappeared. There are still tours for superstars. No doubt this year’s presidential hopefuls who don’t make the cut will get major book deals, complete with extended tours of the mini-malls of the heartland. And when Mick Jagger writes his memoir, novel, and/or children’s book, he’s sure to get booked on global booksigning expedition.

Just last week, Meghan Ward posted an interview with Holly Watson, a publicity manager with Penguin who plans such tours (a great insider’s view) so the institution is not dead…quite.

But my crystal ball says it’s not going to last long.

Not just because it’s hard to sign an ebook. (OK, they have invented the Kindlegraph—an online service lets authors create a digital autograph and send it directly to the customer’s Kindle. But it’s not the same. And you don’t have to travel anywhere to use it.) 

But 70% of books sold are still in paper, so why is a book tour “financially unviable”?

That’s because it’s not just the ebook that’s killing the book tour. Social networking has affected it even more—simply because social networking has turned out to be a better way to sell books than traditional advertising.  

This week Kristen Lamb wrote a great post on why traditional marketing doesn’t sell books. It included an interesting quote from super-agent Donald Maass: 

“There are only TWO things that sell books…a good book and word of mouth. Period.”

David Gaughran at "Let's Get Digital" said much the same thing in his Tuesday post on “Word-of-Mouth in Action.” He said: 

“While a glowing review in the New York Times will undoubtedly shift some copies, if the limited amount of people that actually read the reviews (and then purchase the book), don’t then spread the word, the sales bump will be temporary.”

Also speaking about that coveted NYT space, here’s a quote from editor Alan Rinzler’s blog from June 5th:

“That $50K space ad in the New York Times? Forget it. It’s only for the author’s mother. The twenty-city bookstore tour with first class airplanes, limousines, and hotel suites? A waste of money.

Not even an appearance on the Today Show can guarantee more than a brief spike in sales. And Oprah, bless her heart, isn’t around anymore to guarantee sales for the very small number of titles she once had as her book club picks.

The old ways don’t work, and smart people in book publishing know that and say it openly now.

What works, all agree, is the creation of “buzz”, one person telling another, “Hey you have to read this!”

This is where you, the author, come in. What creates buzz is when the author connects directly with the reader. Readers don’t care who published the book; they want a relationship with the author.”

How do you form those relationships? Get that buzz? Start that word-of-mouth?

Social Media. 

That’s why the blog tour has replaced the book tour.

I recommend every writer who’s approaching the marketing stage of a writing career get a copy of Kristen Lamb’s book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media  and follow her blog.  Kristen takes you step by step through the process of establishing a digital “platform.” Right now the three most important legs of that platform are still Facebook, Twitter, and a blog. (Google + may take over from FB at some point, but it isn’t even close yet.)

But what if you don’t want to start your own blog?

There are good writers who really, truly aren’t cut out to blog regularly. They’re fiction writers and anything nonfic hits their muse’s snooze button.

But non-blogging authors can still connect with people through blogging. All you have to do is leave comments.

A post on this blog averages 1000 hits. That means your comment will be seen by 1000 potential readers.

Think how many bookstores you’d have to visit to reach 1000 people.

You do have to make sure people can reach you if they see your comment and want to find out more. If you’re not at the stage where you want to pay for a website (I’m not) and you don’t have a blog, you can give yourself an online profile if you sign up with Gravatar.com

Gravatar gives you a page where you can post a picture, a bio and links to whatever sites you do participate in on the Web—whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, RedRoom, or whatever. Having a Gravatar profile and url is a huge help in commenting on blogs—you get your picture in the comments and you don’t have to jump through so many hoops. Signing up with Google profile is good, too (although it only works on Blogger blogs.) About.me is a new alternative as well. Take five minutes to sign up with each, and you'll raise your online presence a good deal.

Of course you don’t want to leave a comment that says anything spammy like “buy my book”. That’s not “creating buzz”, it’s creating irritation. As Alan Rinzler says,

“A cardinal rule of the new author platform is never to actually ask people to buy your book. Rather promulgate your work by making an enduring connection.”

 It’s permissible to have a signature that mentions your book, or you can bring it up as an example as you talk about the topic of the post: “This advice sure would have helped me when I was working on my romance, The Savage, Burning Duke” is OK, but if the Burning Duke shows up in every one of your comments, you’re going to start getting blocked.

Once you start commenting on blogs, you’ll make blogfriends. Bloggers will recognize you as one of their regulars. Then when you have a book to promote, you ask blogfriends who are likely to reach your target audience if they’ll let you guest blog, give an interview, run a contest for a free book, or—if they do them—write a review.

And that's what they call a blog tour.

You can visit anything from a handful of blogs to dozens, over a week, or a month, to coordinate with your book’s launch. You’ll reach thousands more potential readers than you would flying around the country getting groped by TSA agents. 

And before you lament the loss of the glamorous booksigning tour, it’s good to know it isn’t actually an age-old institution. Yes, people like Dickens, Oscar Wilde, and Mark Twain toured the world selling books, but it was their lectures that brought in the crowds. Those revered authors were offering an evening’s entertainment—not just the opportunity to stand in a long line in a crowded bookstore to acquire an author’s scribbled name on a flyleaf.

The author book tour as we know it was invented in the 1960s by Jacqueline Susann, who changed the face of publishing with her steamy Hollywood sagas and savvy marketing. She rented her own plane and flew around the country visiting as many bookstores in as many towns as possible. She made a point of memorizing the names of the employees of each store before she arrived, establishing a relationship with each one as she sprinkled her Hollywood glitter across the provincial backwaters of America.

Susann designed her tour as a way to market herself, not so much to customers, as to bookstores: their owners and employees. It was a radical way to hand-sell books to the retailers who would in turn hand-sell to customers.

But in our 21st century world, when bookstores are evaporating, it makes no sense to cater to the middlemen. (And the truth is, most booksellers hate booksignings: they don’t bring in much revenue and gum up the store traffic for regular customers.)

For those of you who are feeling despair at the news that we are losing one more revered literary institution, Pay it Forward author Catherine Ryan Hyde says, “If you’re sorry to hear the news, you’ve never been on an author tour.”

Turns out they weren’t much fun, even before today's draconian security measures and customer-unfriendly airlines. They mostly involved lots of missed flights, skipped meals, double-booked interviewers, and always—the airplane cold.

A blog tour sounds a whole lot better to me. I’ve already had some fantastic offers from fellow bloggers to guest, give interviews, etc, to promote the re-release of Food of Love, and I’m going to get to know a whole new bunch of people. All while staying in the comfort of my own home, drinking my favorite tea and wearing my Crocs.

What about you, scriveners? Are you disappointed you won’t get sent on an author book tour when you land that Big Six contract? Do you want one so much, you’ll set one up at your own expense? Or are you secretly relieved?

And speaking of blog tours, Kim Wright, who visited here on her blog tour promoting her critically acclaimed novel Love in Mid-Air, has just come out with a great guide for writers who have just finished your own opus: Your Path to Publication, available for pre-order now. 

Next week, Ruth Harris will be taking the helm, with a post on “Wealth Creation for Writers”. She’ll also have AWESOME news about a legendary  upcoming guest, plus the debut of her brand new medical/political thriller, HOOKED—a dishy book about sex, greed, ambition and murder among the high and mighty. Emphasis on the “high”. Sounds like a fantastic read to me!

77 comments:

  1. Great point. The world of books and being an author are changing, and we have to go with the flow. Lucky for me I like social networking, and making those connections. I'd MUCH rather do that than travel somewhere for book signings in multiple bookstores, etc! Although you can't beat the personal, real-life interaction of actually meeting people in person.

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  2. I experience a little anxiety whenever I'm in a real-life social scene so I'm happy that I will never be expected to show up at a public place, speak, or otherwise engage people in real life. I do much better online and in very small groups. Thank you for writing this informative post on the differences and changes that impact the Big Six authors.

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  3. The hardest thing for me to explain to people is why I'm not doing a book tour. Everyone wants to know when I'm coming to Detroit - Cambridge - Halifax - Seattle - and when I explain that it's expensive, they offer their couches. When I point out airfare and time off work, they suggest (so helpfully!) that I drive. When I point out that I could take all of that money and send out more review copies or buy very targeted ads on blogs where my readers will be, they just don't know what to say.

    I mean, people who are otherwise excellent businesspeople just fall apart at the thought that I'm not doing a book tour. "You could have a barbeque in the park for family and friends!" "Or I could use that $250 and take out an ad or send out more books."

    I only caved in and did a local event because I realized - hey, I know a lot of other talented people, I can turn this into an event AND leverage their networks, and turn it into an interesting event instead of an evening of solipcism tied to a fantasy.

    I understand that people just want a chance to publicly celebrate success, and they equate a book tour/party with that, and they mean well, but you'd think I was insulting their mothers when I tell them "no".

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  4. Aaaargh, the book tour! Sleepless nights, late flights, skipped meals, clueless interviewers, fatigue, exhaustion, illness. I don't know a single writer (including me) who ever came back from a book tour without getting deathly sick.

    You're in Chicago, your pantyhose are in Cincinnati. Your wakeup call comes before room service is open and you get back to your hotel at night after room service is closed.

    If you can survive a book tour, you can get through SEAL training!

    And, even back then, when I went first class & stayed in swell hotels, I was absolutely convinced the tour didn't sell books. I used to tell my publishers to take the money & use it to run ads — preferably on the side of a bus.

    Didn't do me any good though. Was a time when the book tour was sacred.
    One thing I did learn: when you meet lots of women you never saw before in your life (I mostly wrote women's fiction), the one subject of conversation that never fails is: hair!

    Also, I learned that a female audience always has fantastic sense of humor. A good semi smutty joke always comes in handy.

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  5. I can honestly say that I've never fantasized about a book tour. They always sounded torturous to me and I've never been to one.

    If Nathan Fillion were to give one, pretending to be his character from Castle, I would totally go to that!

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  6. I once walked past W.H. Smith (sells books but also a lot of other things) in a shopping centre. At the front of the shop was a local author sitting at a table with a stack of books. In the twenty minutes I talked to him, nobody else came to see him. He said he hadn't sold any books and he'd been there for almost two hours. I didn't want the book but if I'd had the money I would have bought it. That was the day I decided I hoped that nobody would ever ask me to do a book signing. Large groups of people scare me, but no people would be worse.

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  7. My mother and I were discussing my books one day and she said I should probably do something about my wardrobe when I went on a book tour. She didn't want people to get the impression I was just a stay-at-home-mom who wrote books. When I told her book tours didn't sell books, she asked what sells them. Quoting from Maass and Rinzler -- word of mouth.

    I've always believed that was true, even before Kindle/Amazon/computers. I always asked my friends what they were reading, just to see if I would want to, and 9 times out of 10 I did.

    So no book tours for me. A blogging tour would suit me just fine. And if you need any help with yours, just let me know. Perhaps an author interview?

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  8. The book has been more trouble than it's worth, but I do enjoy live interaction with people. I guess I have that type of personality.

    I wonder if there is some more modest and financially manageable substitute for the old book tour.

    Maybe cons and local events?

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  9. Anne, as always, you are so "with it" in this brave new book-world. As an author with 7 published novels, I've recently and happily embraced social media - I LOVE Twitter (@BKyleAuthor) - and am so enjoying all the personal connections with readers. Thanks for your consistently informative blog!

    Barbara Kyle

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  10. The occassional bookstore appearance is fun, but since I write for children I really, really love classroom visits. Can't get enough of those. No really, can't get enough, they can't afford to pay authors to visit anymore and I can't afford to front the travel expenses. But when they come together, they truly inspire my muse.

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  11. Book tours are usually awful things, and I'm not sad to see them all but disappear. The few authors who do them well, like Chuck Palahniuk, will keep the tradition alive, and technology will fill the role for everyone else.

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  12. I agree with everything you said but I still wish I could have had one of those book tours with the limo.

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  13. Carol--Yeah, it really helps if you actually like social networking.

    Michael--An awful lot of writers are introverts and this is a great development for shy persons.

    Caryn--I hear you. It's so hard to get people up to speed with the electronic age.

    Cynthia--Oh yeah. Nathan Fillion gets within 100 miles of me and I'm there!

    Sarah--my first booksigning was at a WH Smith's. I had pretty much the same experience.

    Anne--Welcome back to the blogosphere! Love to guest blog for you. Thanks. I'll be in touch!

    Jason--local events are still worthwhile, I think. Cons are fun for some people. Depends on the cost. But I plan to do promos locally for Food of Love.

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  14. Ruth--"If you can survive a book tour, you can get through SEAL training!" ROFL. Especially about the pantyhose. Listen to this woman, people--she knows what she's talking about!

    Barbara--You've got a great success story, and you're one of my favorite Tweeps. Everybody who wants to know how to tweet--follow @BKyleauthor

    Kai--I agree that local promos can be useful. And if you love teaching, for a children's writer, there's nothing like a classroom presentation.

    Susan--If those tours ever had been the kind Carrie went on in Sex and the City, it would have been fabulous, wouldn't it? But everything she did was pretty fantastical. Like affording all those $1000 shoes on a freelance writer's salary.

    Jesse--Palaniuk is a superstar, and I've heard he's amazing in person, so he's an exception.

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  15. What a great post, but as a big Twitter person, I find it amazing that authors still don't know how to build their brand (themselves) and many have no clue how to even set up a fan page.
    I still wish I could've experienced one book tour lol, but I'll settle for getting "discovered" he he.

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  16. I never had any interest in physical appearances which is why I began blogging. I don't get anywhere near a thousand hits a day though. Hundred comments yes, thousand hits no.

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  17. I would not want an electronic signature on a Kindle edition of any book. I want to meet and shake hands with a writer and look in his or her eyes, even if I have to wait in line. I don't expect to ever have six figures, but I still think it would be fun to do a tour - even if it's at libraries and schools, or bakeries and ice cream shops. And if I am the writer, I'd like to look into the eyes of the people that bought my book. This was an excellent article - I'm sharing it all over the place.

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  18. The day might come to one of us and we'll have decisions to make and techniques to perfect.

    I would have loved to know what the old way of the city-by-city book tour actually did accomplsh. Certainly it differs from the blog tour since writers used to meet the people who were buying their books. But what were the percentages and how many mega-best-sellers became so becuase they traveled the country for months like gypsies? It is more likely in this day to have the tail wag the dog and mega best sellers like Stephanie Myers does did book tours after a couple million kids fell in love with vampires.

    Out with the old and in with the new may not apply in our changing world ... still the fact remains one thing has not changed.

    The only things that sell books are "luck and word of mouth."

    Blog tours are done on writer's blogs. Every month a new writer visits a dozen or more of her fellow writer's blogs. Who reads the fellow writer's blog? More writers. How many books can our community actually purchase or how effective is this new tool when in reality we are talking to each other and not our readership?

    A mystery writer in one of my writer's groups met someone on an elevator who worked at Midnight Ink. They are crazy for the cozy and her pitch garnered her a request for the MS. They introduced her to her agent. She published and is now in her fifth book of the series.

    This same writer's husband works on the Today Show in its Miami Affiliate and she's been flown to NYC to appear live for each book; going from 7:30am with Al Roker to 8:30 with Anne Curry and although I've gone to her local book signings and I've seen her on facebook ... I would bet anyone who is reading this today to guess who she is???

    Anyone today who can tell me her name or the name of her series should get a prize. Not from poor little me, of course, but I'll send them a virtual prize. Or the next pub'd author among us can take my virtual prize on a virtual book tour through the blogesphere and count among their buyers a few dozen sales.

    The answer to this dilema is that there is no pat answer. What drives the sale of an obscure book from ho-hum publisher and last-ditch agent to the little gal who wore her fingers to the bone sending out hundreds of queries?

    Maybe the reason publishers are reluctant to give tours to Miss Obscure who may one day make mega bucks, but who knows, go with Mick Jagger ... is because if HE wrote a story on toilet paper while relieving himself at least a thousand would show up to buy an autographed piece of it and perhaps never read the darn thing.

    To the other extreme, depressing fact you can add the dozens of authors who have won a coveted National Book Award and still have to survive university politics for twenty years to retire Amerita, with a pension and no mega million dollar deals in their coufers.

    You do this on purpose, Anne. Both of you with intelligent humor and angst present us with the hard boiled, oft impossible to digest truth.

    The lady is right ... and what might be worse is that even word of mouth isn't as profitable as pure dumn luck :)

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  19. I still haven't been able to figure out Twitter although I've been blogging once a week for several months now and enjoy that and also am on FB every day. I will have to start following @BKyle... right away.
    I loved this post. My e-book won't come out this year probably but I will be armed with a ton of information from reading this blog when it does.
    Thank you.
    Patti

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  21. I am a too low level writer of cozy mysteries to warrant a tour, but I have to admit to getting a rush from some local signings. I'll miss that; there's nothing more fun than talking one-on-one to someone who has read one of your books and is happy you have a new one out that they haven't yet read.

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  22. Brilliant post, Anne. I'm realizing more and more how important social networking is, and am amazed how many people (and potential readers) I've "met" this way.

    While it would nice to be sent on a 50-city book tour, I have to admit, staying home enables me to write, and for me, putting out the next book is just as important as promoting the current one.

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  23. When I thought of writing a book, I did not think of doing a tour. I thought, I have things to do. I may not do as well as those who do tours, but I'll have to take what I can get without one. When I finally stepped up to bat and wrote a book, I was somewhat surprised to learn that most people were doing their promotions just the way I planned on doing it- through social media. It only makes sense. If I take a plane somewhere, it will be to lie on a beach, see some ancient sites or museums. I'm glad book marketing became practical.

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  24. Fois in the City made some good points. A lot of the blogs are writers talking to each other. I want readers. I use all the social media, but I've given talks about the story behind my novel at libraries and museums (It's a historical) and have worked hard to get noticed by book clubs. Two have it read it so hard. Two more coming up. I'm going to be visiting with one this winter after they finish. I may Skype with another. People tell me the most wonderful stories. I'll be at a book fest this weekend with two national names and I intend to have a lot of fun and meet the readers. These are mini-tours. I set things up when I go on trips. Books are starting to move.

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  25. This post is a gold mine for links and quotes! Thank you Anne!

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  26. Your posts are always so fascinating. I hope the blog tours are still around when I finish my novel!

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  27. Social media is a great way to connect with readers, but I don't think it'll ever be the same as meeting them personally. Who knows, though? We'll just have to go with the flow eh?

    Fab post Anne! :D

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  28. I hope many aspiring (and working) writers find this post and pay it heed. I think it is spot on, and the quote from Donal Maass is spot-on. If it isn't a good book, no amount of marketing will move paper (or digital ink).

    Now it's another subject to look objectively at what constitutes a good book, and a difference between a good story (i.e. one that many readers connect with on an intimate / enthusiastic level), good writing (which may or may not be a component of a good story), and the balance required between them in order to achieve success.

    But, as I said, that's a different point. Back to praising this particular post: I will re-read it a number of times (as well as the links it references) to make sure I can take it all in!

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  29. I like the traditional brick & mortar book store (or other business)book signing. I've met many interesting characters during the few hours spentin these places. However I can see the problem with expense versus sales potential. My publisher suggested a 10 hour drive and weekend at the Arkansas Literary Festival. Large expenses and two days with VERY minimal sales. I had seen bigger crowds of book buyers at yard sales.
    For a technophobe, my first virtual book tour was a bit hectic, but very interesting and it proved to be great exposure.

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  30. I just finished my first book tour. My novel is with a small (and wonderful) press, and as such, I did most of the legwork and set-up myself, with some help from my editor/publicist. As a Southerner who now lives in the mid-west, I travel back to SC every summer to visit family. This year I drove instead of flying, and stopped at bookstores, coffeeshops, and an art museum on the way. I really enjoy interacting with readers, and I sold a fair number of books. But it only works for me if I'm doing an actual reading--the one signing-at-a-table was torturous (and I only sold a single copy). But I love to read out loud, and I find that if I can perform part of the book, folks will buy it. And that does create word-of-mouth buzz.

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  31. Excellent thoughts here. And good news for the introvert writers! I always dreaded the thought of readings and speaking engagements, though I'm sure they have helped get the word out, too.

    But compared to the power of social media? I'd rather do a guest post on someones's blog and reach 1,000+ potential readers than 5 at a bookstore reading.

    I love the power of the blogging medium. Targeting the appropriate blogs is hugely important. I'm working on my first "non-ebook" book, so this conversation is very helpful.

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  32. Great points here! I've enjoyed, as a reader/fan, going to see some writers during their book tours. However, with so many writers taking to social media, it really does seem like that's a better vehicle for that sort of interaction.

    I imagine this also works well for people who haven't yet quit their day job. No need to take a month off work to travel, just allocate time for blogging/twitter/etc.

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  33. Bookmarked to read it again. There is a lot of insight here.

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  34. Did anybody else see the postings about Anton Chekhov's book reading back in 1994? It's at http://improveverywhere.com/2004/02/29/anton-chekov/

    Something I didn't see in this excellent article (though I may just have missed it) is a discussion of subscribing to blogs. I find it hard to become a regular commenter on blogs, because I just don't visit many of them often enough. Since I began subscribing and made google reader my home page, I hope I will improve.

    However, so far my attempts on social media have not been very successful. For my money, creating a blog or a twitter account just means I have to try and drum up a following for the blog and the twitter account, as well as the book! I'm within an inch of saying to heck with marketing entirely, and just letting the books fend for themselves.

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  36. I've said so many times that social media is simply ENGAGING WITH OTHERS. That's what makes books sell, that's what makes connections and relationships. I can't understand why people give me blank stares or silence when I say those words (engage with others!) unless perhaps it's that some people don't WANT to engage with others. Because, like everything, it takes work.

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  37. Renee—Fan pages are great, but it’s important not to start one too soon—like before you have a publisher. As Jane Friedman says. “The point when you need a fan page is when you have actual fans.”

    Alex—Yeah, but you have over 1000 hits per week. This is a weekly blog, so each post gets more hits.

    Karen—It is nice to have local events to meet and greet fans (once you have them) But sitting alone in a bookstore half way around the world—not so much.

    fOIS—It’s good to remember that writers are also readers. Voracious ones. In fact, I think a huge percentage of readers also write. I’ve never met a bookstore clerk or librarian who didn’t have a few manuscripts stashed in a drawer somewhere. Also, not all blogs are writing blogs. It’s important to participate in more than one type of blog in order to reach an audience.

    Patricia—Blog tours are obviously ideal for ebooks. They’re one of the reasons self-pubbers are doing so well.

    Nancy Lynn—As I say, even big stars aren’t getting tours anymore. But if you can stage local events yourself that don’t cost more than you’re going to make in sales, they can be very exhilarating.

    Jennifer—From what people like Catherine Ryan Hyde and Ruth Harris say, the 50-city (or even 15 city) tour was a pretty good approximation of Hell. Lost luggage, missed flights, skipped meals, dingbat interviewers, and empty bookstores weren’t all that much fun. And spending $10,000 to make $500 in royalties—not so smart, either.

    Debbie—I’m with you. If I’m going through the hell of 21st cent air travel, I want to have some relaxation time.

    History—Ditto what I said response to fOIS: writers are also readers, so if you reach 1000 writers, you’ve also reached 1000 readers. But your blogfriends shouldn’t be limited to writing blogs. It’s great to get into local book clubs and make a visit, though. That creates some nice buzz. But if travel expenses exceed sales numbers, then I’d think twice. That means you’re paying for the privilege of being the center of attention. It might be worth it to you for that thrill, but it’s not about bookselling.

    Farthest and Ellis—thanks!

    Spook—Nothing better than meeting readers in person once you have them. But flying to places where you don’t have readers is more than depressing.

    Rick—Oh, yeah—the question of what makes a “good book” will never be answered, but everybody has an opinion. I guess in Maass’s terms, it’s a book that resonates with a large number of people.

    Wayne—Signings can be a thrill, if you’re surrounded by fans and already have some buzz. But sitting alone in a store begging people to buy your book is only humiliating.

    Jamie—Congrats on your tour. If you were going to travel anyway, so you can ignore the travel expense, it may be worth it. Especially if you’re a good performer, offering free entertainment in order to sell the books. The main thing is to look at the bottom line.

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  38. Judy—This is soooo true “ I'd rather do a guest post on someones's blog and reach 1,000+ potential readers than 5 at a bookstore reading.” Especially if you’ve spent a lot of money on travel and maybe goodies for the reading.

    Michael—Good point: since 99% of writers can’t afford to quit their day job, the cost of a tour would have the added expense of lost wages. I enjoy going to hear readings by favorite authors, too. But bookstores are charging admission for those these days.

    SB—thanks!

    Pat—Social Media isn’t something you can jump into right away. I did a whole series on blogging last year that I’ll be running with updates later this fall. Can’t all be covered in one post. Some people like to subscribe, others like to follow and drop in at their leisure. Either way, it takes time. No doubt about it. I’ll have to check out that reading by Chekhov’s ghost. Sounds fascinating.

    Sierra—You’re so absolutely right. Social media is SOCIAL. If you’re just blogging to nobody and not engaging with people, you aren’t involved with social networking. It’s like sitting in your basement waving a sign. Doesn’t matter how great the sign is if nobody’s reading it.

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  39. Great post. I did a very mini book tour of four towns when Love in Mid Air came out, totally organized by me and financed by me. It was reasonably successful, I guess - they never sell as many books as you hope they will - and I met some nice people. But when I got home on the last day and walked into my house after a mere three days on the road I broke into big, hacking sobs. And I am not a weepy person by nature. Book tours are SO tough on the author, the absolute antithesis of glamour. Whether no one shows up or everyone shows up or somewhere in between it's tough to be that public, that charming, to smile at every person that comes through the bookstore door and watch them quickly look away rather than make eye contact and get trapped into conversation with the pathetically lonely author. Give me the blog tour any day of the week.

    And thanks for the shoutout on Your Path to Publication. I love talking about writing so I'm pretty psyched. The intro is available as a download at the Press 53 website (www.press53.com)

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  40. I'm not so sure commenting on other writer's blogs is all that great for spreading the word about your book though.

    Twitter is best, because there you can develop relationships with readers, not just writers who blog.

    I know writers are readers first, but there are a lot more readers on twitter, most of whom don't have blogs of their own.

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  41. Book tours sound expensive and I'm not sorry to see them go. Although it's another thing about writing I find myself explaining to almost all non writer friends: book stores aren't so psyched to have little me sitting at a table.

    As for blogs, I like writing my blog, but cannot bring myself to blog about writing. It's like my eyes glaze over just thinking about it.

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  42. Anne, you're so right about comments being a good place to start. Long before I started a blog or joined Twitter I was a blog reader and participator. By the time I joined Twitter and much later started my own blog, I didn't have to beg people to visit my blog. I'd already built up the online relationships to have a readership. Of course I have no book to peddle yet, but I'm hoping I'll find the same is true there.

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  43. I would love to go on a book tour as an author but I'd never go as a reader. You get to talk to the writer for about 4 seconds but can talk for longer with one over the internet.

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  44. Kim--Thanks for that heartfelt comment. Everybody who thinks an author tour is fun and glamorous needs to read that.

    Suz--I'm talking about how to have a blog tour. You need to make friends with bloggers first, and commenting is a good way to do that. It's not about saying "buy my book." It's about saying "be my friend."

    Mari--Good for you for NOT blogging about writing. Too many of us are already doing that. You're so right that booksellers hate having signings--unless they sell coffee and make money on that.

    Nina--Didn't we first get to be friends in somebody else's comment thread? I think that's where I first noticed you.

    Ghostie--You're so right about not getting to talk to the writer at a signing. Send me an email and we can chat back and forth. Stand in line with 12 people behind you and I'm going to smile and say, "Is that Ghostie with a "y" or an "ie"?

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  45. I am not so secretly relieved! Not that there was a big danger of it, but I have kids and one of the reasons I picked writing as my "second career" was so I WOULDN'T have to travel! (and it's worked; I travel mostly from my computer to my mini-laptop and back)

    Great post! And I'm off to check Gravatar! (I've got a Blogger profiled, but Wordpress doesn't always love me).

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  46. This is a great post, and I am not at all surprised to find out that the book tour is dying. Put me in the secretly relieved camp. All I hear about anymore are blog tours, and I wondered how helpful they were. Thanks for that information. There aren't many bookstores left to hold a signing in, so something different had to happen. It really makes sense that a signing wouldn't help an author reach that many people, unless they had a huge name and following. The number of people who would show up to a signing of mine could probably fit in my bathroom;)

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  47. This is a really good example of how to attract people. It is subtle, to the point and well-written, chatty and engaging! Thank you for such a helpful post. To be honest, I would love some help beginning a blog tour. Since I began this new adventure of trying to promote my own title: Orange Petals in a Storm, I have been so busy visiting the sites of other authors to leave some love and tweet, Like etc., that I have completely forgotten myself. In fairness, I have just launched a new page to promote Indie authors, which is garnering lots of Likes and response. Perhaps, by default, it will help me also....http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amrita-Publishing/184725818262525?sk=app_129982580378550 Come and visit!

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  48. Thanks, Anne. I have a critique partner going through this right now. Am sending her your post!

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  49. I'm actually relieved. Just the thought of doing this sort of thing terrifies me. Of course I'd do it if I needed to, but....

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  50. Excellent post. Gave me a lot of ideas and helped shift my thinking about book signings. There's nothing worse than spending an hour at a bookstore and selling three books (if any). Blog tours sound intriguing and a better use of time.

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  51. Def. secretly relieved. I can't leave my family for that long. And unless you're already famous, you have to bribe all your friends to come. :)

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  52. To all the secretly (and not so secretly) relieved: I'm not surprised. Air travel is grim these days, and writers all have to have day jobs (and lots have families) Plus most writers are introverts. After all, our job description is "sitting alone in a room listening to voices in our heads." If we were good at meeting bunches of people we'd be selling cars, or something (which is pretty much anything) that earns more money.

    Niamh and others who asked--I know there is an outfit that plans blog tours for YA writers, and I'll bet there are others for each genre. You might want to Google around.

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  53. What a great, informative post. I really appreciate it, plus the links to the Writer's Guide to Social Media. I have a Facebook page and things for myself, but when it comes to blogging, unless it's about personal things or short stories, I'm never sure what to blog about.

    As someone who loves to travel, I am somewhat saddened by seeing the Book Tours diminishing, though.

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  54. I'm very pleased by this, the idea of going around actual places and signing things leaves me cold! I met a lady once, sitting alone in Waterstones with piles of her book around her, and she looked so glum that I didn't want to talk to her in case she burst into tears. Online stuff I should, in theory, be ok with! As long as I don't keep neglecting the online world the way I have done recently!

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  55. For those who may be interested in publicists who conduct VBTs, here are a few I know of. Decide what you want to spend and check them out.
    www.pumpupyourbook.com

    www.nurtureyourbooks,com/website/

    or a mini promo tour with:
    www.authorgeriahearnsbookreviews.blogspot.com

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  56. Steven, that's such a sad story. And so common. Honestly, I don't think anybody would have come up to me in bookshops except I was serving some very nice Belgian chocolates.

    Wayne--GREAT links. Those should be super-helpful to all the readers here. Thanks so much!

    Jack--thanks. You've got a great blog too. Just checked it out and you're hilarious.

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  57. Great article! I have been booking author's blog tours for about eight months now, and have gotten positive responses on how much they have helped. Times are changing!

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  58. Anne:Your wonderful Blog came just when I need it. My book tour was going to be up the West Coast, LA. San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, so I could visit friends and relatives and charge the gas to writing expenses. But now I can't. Did someone say, "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans"?

    So on Monday I posted the first in a series of six weekly blogs on my website about the fascinating stuff I learned while researching for my novel, COLD APRIL, which is a love story set on the Titanic. With the 100th anniversary of the sinking coming up next April, I hope Titanic "buffs" like me will take a look. No selling, "just the facts, ma'am.

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  59. I'm not sorry to see it go. I think each evolution of publishing brings changes, some good, some painful and some downright necessary. There are so many authors not choosing the traditional path with the money to fly all over the country and make sales(hopefully) and this gives us hope that we can make sales right form our living rooms. IF we work smart enough and hard enough.

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  60. Honestly, just the idea of doing a Book Tour gives me anxiety, and I haven’t even published yet! Then again, any sort of self-marketing makes me queasy. I know it’s a hurdle I need to get over, and having a blog already set up will help. What I really need to do is attract more ‘readers’ than ‘writers’ to my blog…I’ll have to check your trove of older posts to see if you have some advice for building ‘general’ (potential novel reading) readership for my blog…

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  61. Lauren and jb--I think I need to write a blogpost about things to blog about besides writing. Kristen Lamb touches on that in her blog today.

    Samantha--Wow! Just checked your site and you're a fantastic resource for chick lit and romance writers. I've subscribed. What a great site--full of reviews, interviews and news as well as all sorts of writer services from editing to blog touring. <3

    Phyllis--sorry about your tour. When a "tour" incorporates visits to friends and family, it can be fun. But staying home and writing blogposts can be better for the bottom line. Your book sounds very timely. I'll check it out.

    Karyn, I do see more of us publishing, which means splitting up the reader "pie" into smaller slices. Instead of one superstar making enough money to justify a million-dollar tour, a whole lot of us can make enough to earn a nice little side income, and stay home.

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  62. Great post - and I, for one, am pretty pleased. A book tour does not sound like much fun to me. Social networking, however, I can do ...

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  63. Anne - Thanks for the mention! Holly's last name, btw, is Watson. And I didn't know that BookTour.com had shut down. Guess I'd better remove that link from my blog. About tours - I'm a huge fan of blog tours and love that authors can do them from the comfort of their own homes, but I still do attend quite a few readings given by traditionally published authors on book tour - Samuel Park and Colleen Busch Morton in the past month alone. So I'm not convinced it's dead. I won't be sad to see it go - I've heard horror stories like those that surely prompted Catherine Ryan Hyde's comment - but I would consider doing my own if my publisher didn't provide one for me. As I mentioned in an interview I did with Graywolf Editor Ethan Nosowsky, Stephen Elliott financed his own couch-surfing book tour, and it was a huge success. I do think there is some value in meeting readers face to face. Thanks, always, for a great post!

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  64. I love book signings, always have. I hope we authors can continue to have them.

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  65. That quote from Donald Maass is gonna be my mantra when I start thinking about marketing and such for the book I have in the pipeline. I wasn't very fussy about doing blog tours and such, but I've seen the response from people who visit my blog when I have guests and it's time to sit up and start taking notes. Definitely will check out Ms. Lamb's book.

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  66. Excellent article, very good point. I have had success doing local signings and have met some wonderful people. There is something to be said about face to face communication, but at the same time there are so many people online and you're more likely to reach more readers that way. A sad but honest truth.

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  67. Simon--I'm with you. I think a lot of writers are introverts. Face to face stuff leaves me tongue-tied.

    Meghan--I fixed Holly's name. I don't know why I decided to make you related :-) I think the rules are a little different for literary fiction. Often readings on college campuses are a good way to get litfic or poetry noticed. So a "couch surfing" tour may do very well for a literary or academic book.

    bob--If it's fun for you and you can find bookstores where they want you, great! But when you factor in hotel and air fare, a tour usually costs upwards of 10 times what you take in.

    J.L. Kristen Lamb is my guru. Saffina Desforges credits Kristen's method for getting to #1 book in the UK.

    Collette--Local signings are a whole different thing. I think it's wonderful to get known in your hometown and get on as much local TV and radio as possible. That costs very little and people will want to support you as a hometown hero.

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  68. I rarely do book signings any more. The best part of them was meeting readers. The worst part of them was the expense and the anxiety tied up in expectation. Once I said I wasn't going to do them, I felt a weight drop off my shoulders - and my publishers are behind me on it.

    If not for social networking, I'd never have dropped booksignings. But fortunately, I interact with readers through facebook, twitter, my blog - pretty sweet!

    Comprehensive article here- thank you!

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  69. My first reaction to book tours going away is more of relief than of "Aw, man." Still, I'm guessing I'll do as many IRL events as I can within driving distance, mostly to get to know the booksellers, and because I like hanging out in bookstores.

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  70. Kathryn--Your feelings seem to be echoed by most of the multi-published authors here. It's just an awful lot of work for very little reward. Maybe every author has to do it once, just to live the fantasy and find out we don't get to be Sara Jessica Parker wearing couture clothing while 100s of adoring fans stand in line to bask in our wonderfulness.

    Jeanne--I'm still planning local bookstore signings, too--as long as there are local bookstores. I hope that will be for a few years longer.

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  71. Thanks for this valuable information and advice, Anne. It really confirms that writing really is a lot of hard work... but totally worth it!

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  72. I've been blogging for 7 years and the best thing I learned is to go to other blogs and comment. Join the dialogue! And it's so fun. I've made countless good friend through blogs.

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  73. i think its sad that author tours are decreasing because time blogging means less time in the 'real' world meeting people.

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  74. Here's one institution I'm glad to see vanishing. I'm physically disabled with some mobility limits. The idea of a grinding book tour combined with the dread of my symptoms flaring at the table made me nervous for years.

    It would have been a logistic nightmare for me to do those old fashioned tours. The amount of time I lost to decompressing emotionally and recovering physically from stress and exertion would be enough to write several new novels.

    I read on another blog that one of the best ways to market a book is to come out with another title.

    So the blog tour, Facebook, Twitter approach seems like it's a lot easier to manage. If online time starts eating into working time, it's much easier to cut back without being rude to anyone. Close the browser, work on the book, come back at chapter end with a progress post and none of the regulars mind or thought they were being slighted.

    Author tours cost publishers money but they cost authors time and emotional stress. The blog tour brings in new readers who enjoy all the little free samples you're giving out and will be looking for your books later on. So it's clear to me which is a better idea.

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  75. Alan--It is hard work. And after you've finished writing is when it gets hardest!

    Sex Scenes--I've loved seeing your comments all over the blogiverse!

    Anon--Sitting at a table signing books isn't the best way to interact with people, anyway. Neither is standing in line at the airport.

    Ron--You bring up such great points that I'm going to use them in a class I'm teaching this weekend. There is a huge toll on the writer because of the emotional stress of traveling. Especially these days, when the customer is always wrong. Also yes, writing another book is essential. In fact, it's best not to publish until you have 3 or 4. Thanks!

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  76. Anne, this tells you how backlogged I am in my blog reading, but I am glad I had earmarked this post for careful reading. It is an excellent primer for the new environment facing authors. Thank you.

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