Book promotion…and the fun of an author tour

author tourWhen I think back over the years through all of the books that I’ve published – of different genres – it occurs to me that I’ve learned a lot about book promotion.  There are lots of things that authors themselves can and should (and need to) do to promote their books, but I’m here to tell you that since that first book of mine was published over 20 years ago, everything has changed.  With the advent of social media and online conversations, all bets are off and the tried and true methods for book promotion will never be the same.

That said, at the time when my first book was published, I had a romantic notion of the author tour.  And when my publisher told me that there would, indeed, be a tour, I was delighted – my 15 minutes of fame if Andy Warhol was right.  So, off I went to points west (since I live on the east coast everything is west) to be wined and dined and toured.  Okay, there was actually no wining and dining, but there were publicists who picked me up hotels and took me to media interviews.

I talked to print journalists who took photos and wrote bits and pieces; I did live television interviews; I did remote television interviews (where you talk into a camera lens as if you were really talking to the interviewer all the while with an earpiece that threatens to fall out); I did radio shows.  And, I might mention, I did all of this while increasingly pregnant.

Finding the appropriate and TV-friendly maternity wardrobe was something of a challenge I have to say.  Remember, if you’ve been reading my blog you realize that this backstory is about my first book which was published over 20 years ago – so we’re talking about the late 1980’s.  When it comes to fashion, need I say more?

I flew to Vancouver first and was immediately whisked to two television interviews.

life without end
My First Book

You may recall that the book was about organ transplantation and was actually a bit controversial since I didn’t just worship at the feet of the transplant surgeons whose God-like presence saved lives.  The book asked questions about the ethics of some of the decisions that were made and how they were made.  It made for great television to pit this lone health writer with real experience in the business against the powerful medical establishment.  (I’ll tell you a bit more about how even unwelcome controversy can promote a book in a later blog post.)

Then I was off to Toronto for more television, radio and print interviews.  Notice how the smaller media markets were skipped: all of this to save money on the author tour for which my publisher (and the Canadian government grants) paid.

But the question we need to ask today is this: was it useful to do this (fun  notwithstanding)?  I’m not sure.  There’s little doubt that publicity for this kind of non-fiction book can be generated this way, but this does not necessarily translate into sales, and the publicity machine has changed dramatically since that time.  All the rules and vehicles have been transformed.

In a piece written last year by Carolyn Kellogg for the LA Times book blog, she says this: “As the business of publishing changes, book tours increasingly look like bad risks.” She goes on to say that people these days are less inclined to be drawn to books via the “hype machine” rather they rely on recommendations from others, and we all know where these increasingly come from: our “friends” on social networking sites and searches we do for ourselves online.  This way, our book choices come from
custom-made recommendations for us.  And you know that in these days of social media – it really is all about “me.”  For better or for worse. The latest buzz on the author tour scene is what is referred to as the “blog tour.”  I’m currently researching
this for my new book due out in about six weeks.

An author can set up a blog tour through some blogger link-up sites or through what are now known as blog tour companies (who knew?).  A blog tour is simply a strategy whereby an author “visits” appropriate blogs (book blogs, blogs on the conten
of your book etc.) and either “guest blogs” or provides answers to questions posed by the blogger who owns the site and then this becomes a Q & A blog post for that blogger.

As one book publicity blog I like suggests: “A blog tour is simply one type of online publicity.”

I’ll let you know how the blog tour works out since it’s unlikely that there will be a real tour for this one!

FYI: Read about one author’s blog tour in the New York Times.