Greetings from the road! I’m out on book tour promoting Girl in Disguise, skipping around from the very north (Minnesota) to the very south (Alabama) of the country, filling my days and evenings with readings, signings, panels, book clubs and keynotes. Other than forgetting to pack my makeup remover, things are going pretty well so far.
Like most of publishing, book tours aren’t what they used to be. Which doesn’t mean they’re worse – or better – just different. From an economic standpoint, spending money on plane tickets, hotel rooms and car rentals for absolutely no guaranteed return on investment is, well, not entirely sense-making. Which is why book tours are the exception these days and not the rule. (“We’ll be leveraging your social media presence” is an oft-heard substitute, and perhaps I’ll write a different post about that.)
But visiting bookstores, libraries and other locations to talk about your book is an experience like no other. Those face-to-face interactions with readers are precious. I still regret not getting a photo with the reader whose boyfriend drove her three hours each way to bring her to my bookstore event in Toledo as a surprise. And while there are just as many ways to plan a book tour as there are ways to write a book, I thought I’d gather some tips from the pros – other authors who are out on tour with their books this spring – to provide some guidance.
Pam Jenoff, on tour for The Orphan’s Tale, suggests:
Take a sign-up sheet to collect email addresses for your mailing list. Some savvy writers bring an iPad and just have attendees type their addresses right in. Another thing is to bring postcards so that e-book readers can take them and download later.
Christina Baker Kline, on an extensive tour for A Piece of the World, knows all the practical things to bring:
Take a zippered pouch with those Starbucks Via packs plus little creamers. Small folding scissors that can go through airport security. Buy your own nailpolish for pedicure and bring the bottle for touchups. Bandaids for walking around. A swimsuit because you never know. Kind bars. Crest makes a toothpaste that’s 2.8 oz, just under the limit. Fluffy socks for the hotel room — sometimes it’s cold. A little zippered pouch in your handbag with phone charger and two tiny cords for it, plus regular iPhone charger. And since even some new hotel rooms often have limited outlets near the bed, a travel power strip with USB ports is really useful.
Randy Susan Meyers, on tour for The Widow of Wall Street, solves the ever-puzzling question of shoes:
Doesn’t it always come down to clothes? (Is this more for women authors than for our male brothers?) And in that clothes category, aren’t shoes the true bête noire of packing—especially when you’re headed to more than one destination? Dresses that only seem right with heels if you want to command a room (even if the audience is only six people seeking free cookies); jeans for running through airports; sophisticated black slacks (with waistbands meant to accommodate the cookies); pajama pants masquerading as go-to-the-hotel-breakfast pants . . . how can one accommodate all these styles with two pairs of shoes? Say hello to foldable, fashionable (and vegan!) Arcopedico boots and shoes. You get form and function, and they fit into every category above. What else could you ask for (other than HBO on the hotel cable?)
Susan Meissner, on tour for A Bridge Across the Ocean, contributes three ideas:
This one might seem like a given but just in case, pack light and go with carry-on luggage. It’s much easier to negotiate the travel details if you have just one roller bag for clothes and such that the airline can’t possibly lose because you have it with you.
Make notes of all the bookstore staff you meet within minutes of meeting them, (sending a quick text home with the names is a good way to do this), so that you can write a thank-you note when you get back home and mention everyone.
Some authors like to come out from a secluded place when they are introduced at bookstore events, but I always mingle with the people who’ve come to the event before I am called up to the podium. They are always happily surprised when I spend time chatting with as many as I can before it’s time to be introduced.
So I’m taking these experts’ advice as I travel on the Girl in Disguise tour. And I’ll add my favorite tip: joint events, joint events, joint events. When it’s possible, either put together your own pairings or ask the host store to pair you with another author. Being “in conversation with” someone else takes the pressure off and keeps things flowing. Panels are even better. The more authors you bring together (within reason, of course) the more you’re able to offer to readers.
Q: Do you have your own tips to suggest?