DL: Why does a Book Tour work? It does so because it allows people to know, like and trust you—essential characteristics of any selling and buying relationship. The following is about some of what I have learned about book tours.
That fall evening in 1992, there were no parking spaces along the town’s Main Street as I approached the library, a copy of my recently published book, Turning Memories Into Memoirs / A Handbook for Writing Lifestories, lying on the passenger seat, its width thickened by slips of paper to indicate places from which I wanted to read at my program.
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As I drove up to the site of my first outreach since the book’s publication, incredibly, I had been beaten to parking spots by dozens and dozens of cars that now lined the town’s Main Street.
Well! How exciting could that be! This was my fifth book and my first how-to. I had great hopes for it. I had been leading memoir-writing workshops for the previous four years, and Turning Memories Into Memoirs was the summation of my teaching and coaching. It was truly a compendium that covered memoir writing from A to Z, and any writer making use of its many suggestions and guidelines was likely to succeed at undertaking and finishing an interesting and meaningful memoir.
The publicity—press releases, calendar of events, posters—was what was available at the time (1992), and I had, as they say, “covered my bases.” And now, it was the moment of my big launch at the local library—from which I had launched my four previous books—and that evening, I was apparently doing so to a full house! How exciting to have every available street parking space taken.
Not only do I always enjoy going up and down the rows of seats at the beginning of a program to ask people where they are at in their memoir-writing project but I feel it is important for establishing rapport with the attendees. Now, keeping my excitement in check, I knew I had to focus on finding a parking spot so I might rush into the library to be there not only on-time but to be there to “work the crowd.”
So, it was with a solid sense of anticipation that I found a parking spot on a side street and rushed to the library, joining the line of people streaming into the building.
Dashing inside, I entered the room where I was to read. It was sparsely filled!
Clearly, there were, by far, not as many people as the number of cars along Main Street had suggested.
Soon, the librarian came toward me, grinning, extending her arms to encircle the room of thirty or so people. “I’m pleased with the attendance. Aren’t you?”
Not to be ungrateful for her hospitality, I answered, “Oh, my! Yes, this is lovely.”
We chatted a bit and then, as nonchalantly as I could, I asked, “Is there something else happening in town tonight?”
“Yes,” she said, “a regional Alcoholics Anonymous group is meeting in our function room downstairs.”
It was then that I heard the din of a crowd arising from below.
Why Book Tours Can Sell Books—And Ancillary Products
While, that evening, I did not draw the crowd I had anticipated as I had driven by, I did have, if I remember right, some 30-plus people in attendance. I don’t know how many bought a book, but I do know that, over the years, I have found readings and short seminars—usually an hour long—do attract an interested crowd that buys books.
Notice the operative word: “interested.” People come to a specialized program because they are interested in the topic. The attendee who attends for a social event is rare.
Over the years, I have gone from my home in Maine to places as far-flung as Missoula, Montana, St. Paul, Minnesota, and Miami, Florida, to present book-centered promotional programs. Book tours have been a successful outreach both to sell books and to introduce myself as a coach and an editor to an audience.
While my reading for Turning Memories Into Memoirs at my local library those many years ago was not as well-attended as I had presumed when I drove in that evening, my strategy to promote books and my services via readings and programs—whether physical or (now) virtual—has been one that I continue to implement. These programs invariably lead to hundreds of dollars in sales per event and often to coaching and editing clients. (Once in Minneapolis at a conference at which I was a featured speaker, I collected $29,000 in book sales. I thought I was in heaven—well, of course, I wasn’t, but it felt pretty darn close!)
Programs / presentations work because they are a prime opportunity to acquaint an audience with your work, to develop rapport (also known as “they like you”) and to develop trust that your books will deliver what you promise.
These three ingredients —”know, like, and trust”—are at the core of every successful selling—and buying—relationship.
Book Tours Are Essential To My Day Job
Most writers, myself included, depend on a “day job.” For some, this may be teaching or medicine or sales. For me and many other writers, my day job is coaching and editing.
I cannot tell you how many people have approached me at a book promotion program saying, “I only came to check you out, to see if you were the real thing.” (Another corroboration of “know, like, and trust.”) In one short four-library tour, I generated almost $25,000 dollars of book production services from people who had already written their book and were looking to turn it into an attractive self-published book.
I have a website that attracts national and international attention, but I have found that local can be well-paid. It is locally, after all, where most of us can develop a solid reputation. One year, I tabulated that 40% of my income came from my home state of Maine. One way to see this is that 60% came rather passively through an internet search. Wonderful indeed! The fact is, though, that the 40% who found me locally did so largely via my programs. They were not looking for me on the internet. They found me in press releases, newsletters, posters, calendar of events. 40% is not an insignificant portion of an income.
While I wrote about programs I delivered far from home, I believe the local market is probably best for those of us who are not famous. Invest your energy in programs that you can drive to easily.
The Virtual Tour
In the old days, there was only the physical tour—today there is the virtual tour. I have engaged in virtual tours. I promoted a short-e-book series which was packaged under the label The Memoir Network Writing Series. Each 60- to 90+-page e-book tackles one, and only one, problematic or challenging area for the memoir writer.
There is not enough space in this post to cover the topic of e-touring adequately. I will do so in a subsequent article.