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How To Set Up A Book Tour: Part I – Preparation

Thanks to Where Writers Win for posting this on their blog on July 19, 2016

“There’s only one thing more frightening than being asked to do a book tour, and that’s not being asked to do a book tour.” —Gerald Petievich

This is the first of a three-part series on setting up your own author tour. I almost included the word “offline” in the title because so many tours these days are blog tours where the author participates in question & answer sessions, contributes guest blogs, or publishes an excerpt…and never has to leave his or her seat.

For the publication of my most recent book on writing, Finish Your Book in Three Drafts: How to Write a Book, Revise a Book and Complete a Book While You Still Love It, I did all of these things, and I had a terrific experience with each one. But I also like to leave my desk. So here we won’t be talking about the safe, comfortable online tour, but a road trip tour, a spotlight on stage, face-to-face book tour.

And you don’t need someone else to set this tour up for you. Since the publication of my first book, Blueprint Your Bestseller: Organize and Revise Any manuscript with the Book Architecture Method, in January of 2013, I’ve been on tour throughout North America. I have covered over 75,000 miles and just completed Tour Spot #72, setting up every venue appearance myself.

You may still be skeptical. That’s okay. Throughout this series, I’ll invite you to ask critical questions such as:

  • Who is paying for all of this?
  • How many books do you sell on average?
  • Isn’t this a lot of work?

In exchange, I’ll ask you to be honest about some of the questions that you might prefer to leave unspoken, like:

  • What if I’m terrified to present my work in front of other people?
  • How would I even begin to set up an author tour?
  • What if no one shows up?

And let us see if we agree on one thing before we begin: There is sometimes a magic that happens from being in front of other people that could never be replicated online, with benefits for both the audience and the performer.

Your Launch Kit

Let’s break up the steps to prepare for your book tour in order to prevent overwhelm, and start with the Launch Kit, which includes:

  • author bio: long & short
  • book description (elevator pitch): long & short
  • headshot!
  • notable blurbs/endorsements
  • presentation or workshop description

Author Bio: I like to have two versions, one that is 200 words long, and one that is 100 words and retains the highlights. Actually, I have (19) bios, but that is not ideal. Bio maintenance isn’t something anybody wants to do, like updating your LinkedIn profile when you’re not looking for a job. But knocking these two versions out and the outset can make your life much easier.

Book Description: Just like the Author Bio it is good to have this in two versions, a longer one that can function as a press release of, say, 600 words, and a shorter one of 200 words that can be taken from your back cover copy.

Headshot: If you are in the writing game for any degree of personal glory you will probably relish having this done. I know I did. But I have also seen a painfully shy author get beautiful photos done because the people taking her photo liked her book. This is not a self-indulgent step you should talk yourself out of doing. Also for this item, I would hire a professional ($). Note: throughout this series I will identify the amount of money you are likely to spend by the number of dollar signs present.

Notable blurbs or endorsements: This can strike fear into one’s heart, because everything is relative, and you never know if the people you know are “big” enough. For Finish Your Book in Three Drafts I solved this by simply going to three people who I knew really understood and appreciated my work. Two of them were published authors in my genre and one of them was an award-winning coach…but you still may not have heard their names (yet!). I went to them for a different reason than their name recognition though. I chose them because of what they would say.

In my opinion, that is the most impactful part of a blurb or testimonial. Whenever someone says something good about you that is called a “third-party recommendation.” Any blurb will have that covered, and then people go on to see what your recommenders had to say. Okay, maybe if I had landed Anne Lamott for my cover page, the needle would have flickered a little more. But as my old editor at Penguin used to tell me, “Blurbs don’t sell books.”

Presentation or Workshop Description: You will need to have a description of your presentation. And before that, you will need to actually have a presentation. Don’t just show up and rely on the skill of your host (or expect that there will be a host) or the good graces of your audience to come loving you and wanting just to ask softball questions. Have something to say; have a beginning, middle, and end; and know who might like to attend.

Also, keep your options open. Be flexible about length, format or content. Communicate that willingness to meet a venue part-way, and they will love you forever.

Customizing Your Outreach

The best thing about creating your launch kit is that you can combine these elements into any of the following, with even basic design skills:

  • sales sheets
  • flyers
  • posters

You can also hire a graphic designer ($$) to do some of this work for you. Click here to see a sample of a sales sheet that we put together in-house at Book Architecture, so no $, besides salary. You can also send a fully designed poster to a venue to print for you in advance of your arrival (no $)—and it can be the same poster as last time, just with a few changes to the venue, date/time, and other relevant information which can vary, like whether there is an admission charge.

Your Boilerplate Outreach Email

Now we have climbed to the pinnacle of your preparation efforts: the outreach email. Fortunately, it will be made up of everything you’ve already done, so you are already there. I have put the purpose at the beginning of each paragraph in bold, and followed the sample writing with some additional observations in ALL CAPS.

I hope this email finds you well!

connection: As a veteran of the Bay Area where I lived for 5 years in the previous decade I know that if you want to bring an event to writers, aspiring and accomplished both, in the East Bay you start and end at (Name and address omitted.) And thus I am getting in touch to see if we might partner on an event on Tuesday, July 29th when I will be on a West Coast leg of my book tour. SH: YOU GOTTA ASK. REMEMBER VENUES ARE LOOKING FOR CONTENT.

book description: In brief, my book, “Blueprint Your Bestseller: Organize and Revise any Manuscript with the Book Architecture Method” came out from Penguin/Perigee and has been getting raves from both readers and reviewers, including being chosen as one of the best books on writing for 2013 by The Writer Magazine.

event: I am happy to report that my multimedia presentation on revision is totally unique, featuring a series of stop-motion animations to demonstrate some of the aspects with which writers struggle. You can see some of the highlights in this two minute video I have recorded here: Welcome. SH: WE’LL TALK ABOUT TOUR TRAILERS IN THE NEXT INSTALLMENT OF THIS SERIES.

notable social proof: In 2013, I completed (20) stops on the first year of my two year North American tour. Some highlights have been solo presentations at the Writer’s Digest Conference in NYC and the Tucson Festival of Books, and standing-room-only workshops in San Diego, Boston, and Taos, NM. The tour is now rolling strong into its second year; more information about it (and about my work in general) can be found on my website: www.bookarchitecture.com/tour.

what you’ll do: As I mentioned in the first graph I have plenty of “peeps” SH: NOTE CASUAL SLANG who will want to turn out to see me at (Name and address omitted.) In addition, I will gladly work with you to determine which newspapers (especially arts sections), listings, local blogs, patches, and writing groups (including genre groups), colleges and universities, libraries and other organizations with listserves I should contact – and follow-up exhaustively. My turn-outs have been routinely excellent, and attendees leave inspired and re-dedicated to their craft.

attachments and be polite: I have attached a press kit (READ: LAUNCH KIT) to this email, can you let me know what other information you might need?

Looking forward to the possibility!

I sent this email to the best store in my genre in the entire Bay Area. I actually used to dream of being in their Writing Reference section. Their answer came back in four hours. Sure. Love to have you.

In other cases I received a no, or no answer. In the next installment in this series we’ll go over uncovering leads and locating venues in more detail, but the theme will be this: If you don’t hear no every now and then, you’re not trying hard enough.

Pitching the Indie-Published Book Tour

One word on independently, or self-published, books. This is changing so quickly (just last month, Barnes & Noble announced they would begin carrying self-published books), that my advice may already be out of date. So I will just say, it can be a dance.

Being independently published should not be a deal breaker, if you can demonstrate enough other professionalism and enthusiasm. And always make sure that your book is bookstore friendly: i.e, you offer a 55% discount, not 40%; your books are returnable; and they are available via a major distributor such as IngramSpark and not exclusively on Amazon’s Createspace. My first book was published by Perigee/Penguin, and my second and third books were published by my company (Book Architecture, LLC), and I saw no change in the number or quality of venues who wanted to work with me. In fact, the tour has only grown in the stature of opportunities.

Performing Your Own Work

Some people hate to perform. I tell them that, while being able to present your work in public is great for building your platform, a lot of performance is actually for your own benefit, to improve the writing in the first place…it seems to make them feel better. In that spirit, I have put together a list of nine things you might learn about your writing when you make that dark walk to the stage.

Read more