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Planning, Executing, Recovering From—A 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 brings!

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 writer clubs.

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 up.

Tips:

  1. 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.

  2. 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?)

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.)

  7. 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?)

  8. 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.

  9. 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 for Seniors.

  10. 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/ www.willmagore.com

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