Before I started scheduling my book tour, I read many blogs claiming that traditional book tours are passe or, worse yet, wastes of money that don’t produce sales. In this digital age, many people say, go on a “blog tour” instead!
Well, I ignored that advice and booked a good ole-fashioned physical book tour through Portland, Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, DC, both Carolinas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Texas to promote my debut novel, Oil and Marble.
I’m currently in the middle of said book tour (about a month in, two months to go), and I will admit I am completely exhausted — can’t think, can’t stand, can’t even talk to my mom on the phone exhausted — but I already know how I feel about this book tour:
It is 100% worth it.
First, my publisher sold out of the first edition within the first week, and I made the Los Angeles Times bestseller list within the first month of publication. Those are near-impossible feats for a debut novelist. I owe all of that success to straight up hustle on the road. I can attest: book tour = book sales.
But beyond physical sales, there are many other reasons — long-term career and more spiritual reasons — why book tour has been worth all the trouble. And my event at the Hudson Library and Historical Society on Monday night is the best example of why you, dear author, should go on the road, too.
1: Connecting with Readers
In Hudson, I met a woman who, when she finished Oil and Marble was already ready for my next novel. Another woman was running home to start the book that evening. A man thanked me for my passion… Knowing you aren’t writing into a vacuum fuels the writing. Seeing “likes” and “retweets” doesn’t work the same way. Plus, I know I am building a long-term fan base by communing with those readers in person.
1b: These are Real readers, not just your friends and family
I’ve had a lot of fantastic book events packed with friends and family, but up in Hudson, I was in a room full of strangers. They all attended because of an interest in the subject matter or because they’d read the reviews. To know it’s not just your mom, husband and best friend who are interested, that’s a gift the internet cannot give you. Only flesh and blood bodies in seats can show you that.
2: Meeting Booksellers and Librarians (you know, the people who buy and sell your book!)
In Hudson, I met Gwen who makes a habit out of cultivating strong relationships with authors. Alison who has built a bubbling art community. Kate from the independent bookstore The Learned Owl. I cannot express how much I value these relationships — these are the librarians, event planners and book sellers who will be buying and selling my books for the rest of my career. I could tweet them, but it isn’t the same as sharing a moment along this creative journey… As an author, don’t trust your publisher to go out and make these relationships — build them yourself.
3: Speaking at Cool Venues Surrounded by Cool Things
One of the reasons I loved Hudson so much was because the library and historical society are housed in a grand building filled with books, archives, study spaces… If I were on a “blog tour,” I would never leave my own living room; I would have missed out on this experience. Plus, as a historical fiction writer, I was positively giddy to be surrounded by so much history and so many books. Authors, book tour is your chance to get out of your house and into the world!
4: Talking About Something You Love
I’m a writer, so I get to write about the things I love, but I don’t usually get to talk about them. But once the book is written and out in world, it’s nice to be able to talk outloud about your passion. And it’s nice to see your words land on people’s faces… Especially when those faces are as engaged as intelligent as those in Hudson.
5: Facing Tough Questions
Readers ask the darndest things… Sometimes I know the answers, sometimes I don’t, but those questions always make me think. After my event on Monday night, I had to go home and look up the history of the replicas of the David and remind myself of the year when the original was moved indoors. Good questions push me to think, research… and write more. How boring would I be if I only answered my own questions? Audiences help me grow.
6: Hearing Their Stories Inspires NEW Stories
This is my favorite part about book tour: hearing other people’s stories inspires me to go home and write more. One woman had me sign a book to her granddaughter, an 11-year old aspiring writer; she told me all of the little ways she tries to help encourage her to follow her dreams. Then there was the seventy-year old reader who begged me to write quickly, so she could read more. The couple on their way to Italy in a week… All of these people — by sharing their own stories — gave me the fuel to go home and write more. When we writers sit in our own heads, with only our own stories, we get stale. It’s our job, as fiction writers, to bring the human experience to light… You can’t do that if you never interact with humanity. After being with the people in Hudson, I feel inspired to write new stories, and hopefully return to this lovely spot with my next novel. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
Another book tour benefit: recommendations of places you might not hear about otherwise. While in Hudson, the library’s archivist recommended I stop at the Frick in Pittsburgh on my way through…
Inside was a jewel of a collection inside of a Gilded Age mansion. Of course my favorite part was the Italian Renaissance room:
I was touched by the room’s intimate beauty. By these lovely paintings tucked into a small museum. By the sweetness of the collection…
The point is, without getting out of my house and going on book tour, I might never have known this place existed, but now I will carry it in my heart forever.
And I have book tour — and Hudson, Ohio — to thank for that.