When I decided to organize a book tour to promote my memoir, Getting Naked for Money: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All, I worried that self-publication might work against me. This was all terra incognita. I'd done signings and readings for my four previous books, put out by traditional presses, but never planned a book tour for a self-published title. Now I was planning an ambitious trip covering four states.
Self-publishing wasn't really an issue, I discovered. Bookstores are more concerned about your book bringing in an audience than how it was published.
These tips for planning a book tour apply not just to indie authors but to anyone looking to hit the road in support of a new title.
1. Target indie bookstores—and not just because of good publishing karma.
Small local bookstores have devoted followers and mailing lists tailored to promoting intimate author events. You can expect social media love and personalized attention from them, too.
2. Contact bookstores as far in advance in possible.
I started sending out emails in late February for a book tour starting in mid-June. Not only was I able to get the initial dates I wanted, but starting early gave me the time and space to juggle the schedule.
3. Give bookstores both general and specific reasons to host you.
I sent out detailed pitch emails, individualized for each bookstore. I included an up-to-date press release, a picture of my book cover, and—assuming my press release might not be opened—a few blurbs and a link to Amazon, where I have many five-star reviews. I then emphasized that, as a humorous memoir about travel, my book was a great summer vacation read—thus perfect for a June or July event. Finally, I leveraged ties to individual stores and cities. For example, as the author of Frommer's San Antonio and Austin, I promised potential hosts in both cities behind-the-scenes information about the writing of that guidebook.
4. Promote creatively.
After I'd pinned down dates and locations and started promoting them on Facebook, I noticed that the pictures I posted of my dog, Madeleine, got far more "likes" than status updates about the tour. Then I had a eureka moment. Many people know my writing from my last book, Am I Boring My Dog: And 99 Other Things Every Dog Wishes You Knew, and from my dog blog, WillMyDogHateMe.com. I'd been planning to take Madeleine on the book tour anyway, because she's excellent company. Why not capitalize on that?
Thus the Author & Her Dog Book Tour was born.
This sparked ideas for related cross-promotions, including one with a pet-friendly hotel in Austin, and another with a humane society in San Antonio; I pledged 15% of all book sales to the rescue. This also helped nab me a spot on a San Antonio morning TV show. When your book has the word "naked" in the title, it doesn't hurt to include a cute dog and a family-friendly topic like pet rescue in your pitch.
5. Keep on top of your tour dates and publicity.
I didn't hire a publicist for my tour. I couldn't imagine that the cost would have been offset by additional sales and no one knows my book and my social media strategy better than I do. But sometimes I did make mistakes—for example, I gave a local reporter who wanted to cover my reading the wrong date for it.
Nevertheless, I consider my tour a success. I had fun seeing old friends and making new ones; I learned a lot; and, most of all, I gained confidence in my book—and in myself.