Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.
They say book tours don’t sell books. In fact, they can actually cost authors a lot of money. So why bother? Well, you’re making connections with readers and building your brand and a bunch of other slick-sounding, unquantifiable marketing-speak. If you want to be a big-shot author, you need to act the part, and that means taking your show on the road. Think of a book tour as a tax-write-off-able vacation where people tell you how awesome you are every night. Plus, you have a few days away from your family and those brats of yours, so you can hear yourself think for once. For that kind of payoff, you can’t afford not to go. Here’s everything you need to know to book your own book tour.
Six Months Prior to Tour
- Set a budget.
- Ask your publisher about kicking in some money for—wow, that was a faster rejection than when you sent that butterfly erotica story you wrote to the New Yorker.
- Adjust budget, start buying packs of ramen noodles.
Five Months Prior to Tour[pullquote]Sure, library patrons love books. What they don’t love is paying for books. You’re far too busy for those moochers.[/pullquote]
- Choose cities. Do you mention any cities in particular in your book? Make sure to hit those. If you set your book in a faraway city, maybe ask your publisher one more time for—okay, still no, that’s fine.
- Contact venues and explain to them that you’re a famous author who wants to have a reading/signing in their establishment. Tell them how many people will be there. You’re not lying when you say fifty people, you’re demonstrating the power of positive thinking. Besides, you’ll be long gone before they can do anything to you. Contact the following types of venues:
- Bookstores. Duh.
- Schools. Kids have disposable income, and best of all, it’s a captive audience. They literally can’t leave! Also, they’ll find your unremarkable adult achievements like owning a car and wearing a sport coat as the hallmarks of a successful author.
- Libraries. Just kidding! Screw them. Sure, library patrons love books. What they don’t love is paying for books. You’re far too busy for those moochers.
- Disneyland. Shot in the dark. Maybe they’ll let you in free? I dunno, worth a shot.
Two Months Prior to Tour
- Rope a friend into being your tour manager. You’ll immediately seem more important—it’s the makings of your own entourage! Choose your tour manager carefully. It should be someone who has good people skills, or a really nice car. Make it clear that you have full control over the stereo at all times on account of your creative process.
A Week Prior to Tour
- Think back on all the stuff you forgot to do in the last few months.
- Start packing. Check the weather and carefully plan the outfits you’ll wear at each reading. Plan inexpensive meals like sandwiches and trail mix so you can have maximum energy on a minimum budget.
- Maybe finally get around to telling your boss you’ll be out for a couple weeks.
One Day Prior to Tour
- Realize you put off packing all week. Grab whatever clothing is within easy reach and stuff it into a plastic garbage bag. Buy whatever chips and Little Debbie snacks catch your eye at the gas station.
- Maybe finally get around to telling your kids and spouse you’ll be out for a couple weeks.
- Have a signing at your local bookstore  to kick things off. Feel a sense of smug superiority to all those poor suckers who have to get up and go to work tomorrow.
- Have drinks with friends and well-wishers to celebrate a great reading, and weeks’ worth of great readings to come.
- Wake up two hours late, panicking that you’re already behind schedule.
- Cajole your tour manager into driving faster than advisable in order to make your next tour stop on time.
- Kick yourself for scheduling your next reading 400 miles from home the very next day.
- Show up at the bookstore seven minutes late. Give your reading in a cold sweat. Have your tour manager smooth things over with store management.
- Sign books, receive congratulations from attendees.
- Go out for drinks with your new fans, toasting a great night, and even better nights just down the road.
- Damn it, not again.
Day Four and Beyond
- Notice that you’re spending money faster than you thought you would—you’d counted on more sales and more fans buying you drinks, rather than having to bribe people with drinks to get them to go to your reading.
- At each reading, have your tour manager quietly ask around about couch surfing at a fan’s house. Remember there’s an unspoken expectation that if a fan lets you into their house, they’re tacitly approving a party, and giving you full run of the fridge. Don’t worry about mentioning this to your hosts, they already know. All they ask in return is that you leave a signed copy of your book next to your pile of wet towels and soiled sheets.
- Fight off encroaching depression over returning to your daily life and obligations.
- Apologize to your tour manager. Trust me, you’ll need to.
- Notice how many unsold books you still have. Wince as you look at your credit card statement. Buy mouth guard to prevent grinding your teeth.
And that’s it! You’ve done your first book tour. Time to start work on that next book, so you can go out and do it all again!
What are your bright ideas for planning a book tour? If you’ve been on tour, what are your survival strategies? Let us know in the comments!