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Planning, Executing, Recovering FromA Book Tour
by Willma Willis Gore
“Thanks,” I say, “but I can’t attend your
dinner party. I’ll be away all month on a book tour!”
Ah, the glamour! The strokes to ego! The looks of awe the announcement
I just came off my latest tour--eight appearances in five cities.
Away from home a month; bedded in five different cities, on seven
different mattresses (one requiring a ladder); transported by train,
bus, four Hondas three Toyotas, one Lincoln. I ate at more than
a dozen different tables in homes and restaurants.
Of course, I had a “hot off the press” book to sell.
In fact I took along three of my titles published since 2003. Yes,
I sold all I took—a total of about 50 books. Audiences ranged
from five at one retirement home to about 25 at each of three established
I have been writing and selling for more than 65 years (sold my
first article at age 19) and have led writer workshops for 40 years,
so I have had long experience speaking before audiences. (Did I
mention the slogan by Billie Burke I now quote on my Blog? “Age
doesn’t matter unless you’re a cheese.”) Get me
on my feet talking about writing opportunities and it takes a fire
siren or a couple of scowls from the program chairman to shut me
- Due for release in September 2007, my new book, Long Distance
Grandparenting, was not available until November. I began
planning the tour long before the book was published—allowing
a couple of months of leeway--because I know from experience that
due dates and publication dates do not always match.
- Dedicated to planning ahead, I made my first inquiry to a program
chairman ten months in advance of the spring 2008 tour. Through
the years I have kept in touch with members (and program chairmen!)
of writer clubs throughout California (where I’ve lived
in six different counties—did I mention that one of my books
is about moving?)
- When you make your first inquiry—make it sound like the
tour is an accomplished fact: “Hi Carol, I’ll be in
California on a book tour in April. Would there be an opening
in the club schedule for me to speak?” (Of course the truth
is, at that point, I’m merely contemplating the
spring tour). Make it sound as though--with your tight
schedule--you may be able to fit in an appearance for
the club’s monthly meeting. Of course, (because you keep
up with such things) you know that the monthly meeting is the
third Saturday, and you’re hoping they have not already
booked a speaker for that date.
- Then, because it would be too expensive to rent a car for the
trip, you call an old friend. “Hi, Ann, I’ll be there
on a promo tour for my latest book and am engaged for the third
Saturday in your city. Can you meet my bus? And if you can drive
me to my next assignment in Ridgecrest (100 miles distant), the
gasoline is on me.” Ann replies that she’s overjoyed
to house me as needed and to drive me to the other city because
she has friends there (something I knew) whom she has not seen
in years and would love to take advantage of the trip.
- How do I have the nerve to tap into the good will of these
friends of many years? All are also writers and because I have
helped them in various ways—with market suggestions, manuscript
tweaking, other writerly boosts, (and because I have not seen
them for more than three years) they welcome me.
- As “escorts” for the presenter at these meetings,
the friends reap small benefits—which I always mention.
(Ann has recently launched a poetry workshop that I was able to
plug in thanking her.)
- Crass, you say? It took me many years to learn to be “pushy.”
You have to “toot your own horn” because few publishers
these days will do so, and your dedicated writer friends are too
busy writing to push for you. I’m grateful to Quill
Driver Books/Word Dancer Press that has released two of my
nonfiction books. This publisher has an active promotion department.
They have even provided the fee to enter my latest book in a national
contest. Here’s a direct quote from the head of their promo
department: “I wish all of our writers were as diligent
as you in promoting their books.” (Diligent or pushy?)
- Make no mistake, I have not taken advantage of all the on-line
promotion that I’m still learning. And book tours are hard
work! I came home very tired. Tours take dedicated preservation
of past contacts, advance planning with numerous e-mail, snail
mail, and telephone contacts. Establish a blog (any kind of on-line
promotion) for every book you have written. One much-published
friend offers perks via her Blog to fellow writers who refer her
books to their friends and workshop members.
- Enter your published books in contests. Excerpt them to create
articles for special interest magazines. My article, “Shared
Housing—Is It For You?” is a direct take-off from
my book, Just Pencil Me In—Your Guide To Moving &
Getting Settled. The article sold to Plus, a journal
- Was my book tour profitable? The best I can say is that I broke
even with about $100 “profit.” However, and this is
the “plus” not represented in dollars: more than 150
people know about my books, and me, than knew these factors before.
I was given great write-ups in newsletters following my appearances.
You never know where the “seeds” you drop will take
root and result in a harvest of book sales. I won’t know
until the fall royalty report from Quill Driver how many books
have been sold from headquarters—but I brought home orders
for six additional copies.
© Copyright 2008, Willma Willis Gore
At age 87, Willma Gore is still writing daily (having sold her first article
at age 19) with her most recent book Long
Distance Grandparenting, released by an advance/royalty publisher in
Nov. 2007. She welcomes visits to her blog and website: http://willmagore.com/blog/
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