Please welcome the awesome and very talented Jenny Milchman! She’s doing something truly incredible in my eyes: an extensive book tour with her family and paid out of her own pocket. I’ll let her tell you why she embarked on such a brave journey!
Let’s get something out of the way first, and that’s the fact that I am nuts. You don’t have to go on book tour for 7 months. Nobody goes on tour for that long. Heck, you don’t have to go on book tour at all.
But you might want to consider it. If not for 7 months, or 7 weeks, then how about 7 days? After all, 60-70% of readers like to buy books by browsing in bookstores. That’s a lot of potential fans for your work. Recent figures have digital book sales flattening while sales of hard covers are up, and trade paperbacks are holding steady. It’s really not clear which horse we should bet on.
Why not bet on them all?
Incorporating a real time, face-to-face dimension to your word-spreading efforts isn’t as difficult as you might think. And it adds something unique. As wonderful as the virtual world is—as much as it’s allowed us to spread our wings and “meet” people in places we could never reach—nothing quite duplicates the experience of hearing an audience member quote one of your own lines back to you. Or show you the page that got crinkled because what you wrote made her cry.
Taylor Swift says that one of her dreams was to stand on a stage and hear people singing her own lines. Here are ten tips that may lead you to your own Taylor Swift moment. And, if you’re not a fan of Taylor, no worries. Go out there and create your own dream.
- Even if your book comes out from a major house, it may very well not wind up in a particular bookstore. Going to the store ups the chances that your work will be read—and hand sold for months or even years to come.
- If you are self-published or published by a small press, learn the basics of the economics of bookselling. This won’t take long (I can even try and tell you). And it will allow you to offset some of the difficulties of having your book carried.
- Just because they call them readings doesn’t mean you have to read. I have a suspicion that no one except our own children really likes to be read to for more than five minutes. If you do read, find a choice excerpt that shows your writing in its best light. A stylistically beautiful or suspenseful and grabby passage. But keep it brief. Audiences are more interested in the story of how you got published, or the Q&A portion of the night. If you have an interesting day job, hobby, or pursuit, tie it into your talk.
- Consider pairing with another author. Joint events work double duty. Authors can combine their outreach efforts, and more than one author is often more fun for the audience. There’s a zing to an author give and take. Plus, if no one comes to your event, you can always buy each other’s books.
- Book events don’t have to take place at bookstores. Consider libraries, schools, and book clubs, then get really creative. Have you written a historical or family saga? Genealogical societies are proliferating these days. Do you write a cozy mystery series? Craft shops and cooking classes might offer a great venue. Religiously-themed books may lend themselves to events at houses of worship. I’ve heard of writers planning events at quilting bees—or political protests.
- Don’t forget that writers are readers. Writing organizations such as SinC, MWA, ITW, and SCBWI, as well as smaller, local writers groups and societies may be interested in helping to promote your event and in sending members to it.
- Consider hiring an independent publicity firm. Although this will require some financial investment on your part, it can maximize the impact of in-person events. The right firm can get you dates at places you couldn’t get into on your own and garner local media coverage to bolster your time in any given area.
- Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all feature ways to determine where your connections live. Why not let them know you’ll be coming to town—or even plan an event based on where some of them live? One of the most joyous experiences for me on the road was seeing virtual friends become real ones as well.
- Don’t underestimate the legs that simply doing events will give you and your book. Blog about your experiences, use them to connect to another interest of yours that your readers might like to know about. Take photographs of scenery, explore hidden road food joints. Getting away from our computers can open up a literal world of possibilities connecting us to readers.
- Finally, be a good guest. Bring a small gift for whoever is hosting you. Be lively, engage with your audience. Remember that you’re not just making fans out there—you’re making friends.
Jenny Milchman’s journey to publication took thirteen years, after which she hit the road for seven months with her family on what Shelf Awareness called “the world’s longest book tour”. Her debut novel, Cover of Snow, was chosen as an Indie Next and Target Pick, reviewed in the New York Times and San Francisco Journal of Books, won the Mary Higgins Clark award, and is nominated for a Barry. Jenny is also the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day and chair of International Thriller Writers’ Debut Authors Program. Jenny’s second novel, Ruin Falls, just came out and she and her family are back on the road.
To purchase Jenny’s books (highly recommended), visit her website!