Last week, Levy Home Entertainment sent 19 African-American authors to 12 Wal-Mart stores between Indianapolis and Chicago. Over the course of four days, the authors—from a variety of publishing houses—traveled 560 miles by bus, gave away about 1,200 tote bags to all shoppers who bought a book and came close to selling some 6,000 books total.

Levy usually organizes one major bus tour annually, rotating among the retailers it services, including Kmart, Meijer, Kroger and Stop & Shop. This year's tour was the first to exclusively highlight African-American authors, and Pam Nelson, Levy's director of advertising and sales promotions, said crowds exceeded expectations.

Among the authors on the Soul Expressions tour were bestselling stalwarts Donna Hill, Brenda Jackson, Beverly Jenkins and Francis Ray; as well as up-and-comers Tracie Howard and Trisha R. Thomas. The authors spent at least an hour at each store, signing approximately 40 books each and meeting fans, many of whom brought along battered old copies of the authors' works for autographs and purchased new books, too. Nelson said most customers made multiple purchases: “It's nearly impossible to be around such a diverse group of authors and only buy one book.” The authors represented an array of genres—Christian fiction, chick-lit, romantic suspense, historical fiction, young adult and even memoir—and Levy promoted each signing event three to four weeks in advance through store signs and local radio and print media.

Pamela Spengler-Jaffee, director of publicity for Avon, which sent three authors on the tour, was impressed with the results. “We are strong supporters of the Levy author promotions: these tours are targeted to specific stores in specific markets that do the targeted genre or genres exceptionally well. It gives authors a great way to build awareness and cross-promote across fan bases.”

Secrets and Lies author Selena Montgomery said, “It was an incomparable experience to travel with some of the most talented writers across the several genres and to get a deeper understanding of how the mechanics of writing to publishing to sales work.” Montgomery said she sold out of her books at a few stops and came close to selling out at the others “more often than not.” For more on the tour, visit