3 Key Lessons of a DIY Book Tour
It’s fall, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what I was doing 4 years ago. I’d had a few dates with Brad by that point, but I was largely preoccupied with my DIY book tour. I certainly had no clue we’d own a home, he’d graduate and land a job in my home state (not his home state), and we’d have a child…in rapid succession. And I hadn’t realized yet that I was learning essential practices of a working writer that I’d later turn into an ecourse. Looking back, when I try to put words to what 4 weeks, 4 flights, 11 events, and 2700 car miles did to me four falls ago…and the events that came after, totaling 52 in 52 weeks…I sort of disintegrate. But if I take a deep breath, a few kernels is wisdom rise to the top. Here’s what I know now about how to do a book tour:
The best moments of the book tour were when I was in the moment.
At a bookstore, at a university, in front of people and engaging with audiences that care. During these events, sometimes only 15 minutes long, other times as long as 2 1/2 hours, I got to learn about how my words landed on people’s ears. Their responses always taught me something. From the man who started weeping mid-way during the Q&A in Davis, to the woman who kept looking away in LaGrande, to the college student (also a vet) who nodded at every slang word I threw into my stories, to the mother of an Iraq war vet who came home with several missing limbs…I was so moved to meet these people and share the space with them.
I learned that even though I was frequently asked the same questions in different cities, I had to resist the temptation to pick up my answer where I’d left it off the last time. The guy asking the question in Ann Arbor, MI hadn’t heard what I’d said in Enterprise, OR. The challenge was that my brain naturally wanted to continue the conversation, amend a response, or go deeper with an idea. To avoid the trap, I had to train myself to hone in on conversations I care about , and to deliver my message authentically.
I also learned that no matter what, an author must triple check with a bookstore several weeks before his/her arrival, to see that they have ordered the books and included your event in their newsletter/announcements. With several weeks, there’s still time to fix any glitches or deal with rush orders. That sounds intuitive, but it’s a rule that must be stuck to. Even bookstores that had me scheduled for months and months in advance, and who said they would do their own PR, and who said they had all the book ordering under wraps…still occasionally failed to turn out a crowd and get books in a timely fashion.
People often ask me when is the right time to start engaging with booksellers and I tell them right now, regardless of whether or not you’re published. In fact, better yet to start genuinely investing before you start “asking” and expecting. Who runs the bookstore? What do you like about their offerings? How can you connect in ways that feel good to you and are useful to them? When you sign up for the Complete Literary Stewardship ecourse you’ll be able to download sample letters for setting up interviews and reading. You’ll also have the opportunity to correspond with me via email on key book tour concepts. In the Premium course level we can work together to create your personalized Stewardship plan and book tour. Or you can DIY-it with a quick audio download and worksheet to get your gears turning. Whatever you choose, you’ll be surprised–the tasks are NOT numbing. They are NOT impossible. In fact, they’re fulfilling.