For authors on book tour, one event per city or many?
A fellow emailed in yesterday, calling it a “missed opportunity” for an author to be speaking at only one event in a city, when he could be speaking at five or six. But what this reader calls a missed opportunity is what book publicists might call avoiding disaster: unless you happen to be touring J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyer, more events in a city aren’t necessarily better. Here are a few reasons why:
— Geography. Some cities are pretty spread out — most notably San Francisco and Los Angeles — and can easily support more than one event. In other cities, it’s possible to do an event in the city proper (in Boston or in DC, for example) and another in a suburb (in Cambridge or in Arlington) since urban and suburban audiences tend not to overlap for the most part. In many cities, however, it’s standard practice to hold only one event, since venues tend not to be far apart and multiple venues only cannibalize each others’ audiences. Some lecture venues even have authors sign contracts stating they will not give other public talks in the city in the same time period for this reason.
— Genre. All chain stores and most independent bookstores carry a wide variety of genres. This does not mean they sell a wide variety of titles equally well. When it comes to author events, many stores find that certain genres are more successful than others in drawing crowds.
— Author availability. Authors have a myriad of commitments and many simply don’t have the time to spend multiple days in multiple cities. So an author who gives us two weeks for a book tour isn’t going to spend five days each in two cities; they’re going to spend one or two nights each in eight or 10 cities.
— Media interest. To make the best use of the author’s time and our money, we try to schedule as many media interviews as possible when an author is in town for an event. Depending on the author, we can fill one day with interviews (although realistically, sometimes an author may only do one interview — or none — in a city). If five events are scheduled over several days, that leaves a lot of thumb-twiddling time.
— Logistics. Five events take five times as much time to schedule as one. Five nights at a hotel cost five times as much as one. We need to weigh the potential audience and sales of multiple events against the time and money it takes to schedule them. Sometimes it’s worth it; sometimes not.
This post deals specifically with the issue of scheduling multiple author talks in a city. For more information in general about how and why author events are scheduled, click here.
And for some happy news about bookstore events across the country, check out this story in The Boston Globe tweeted by Wendy Hudson of Nantucket Bookworks and this one in the The Seattle Times sent along by media escort Joy Delf.
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Fall 2012: I’ve really enjoyed writing about book publicity and meeting (0nline and in person) writers, publicists, editors, agents and others in the publishing industry, but I’ve — reluctantly — come to the conclusion that I just don’t have the time to maintain this blog.
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