The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

Book tours for the 21st century

Book tours really hit big shortly after Jacqueline Susann drove across the country to promote her hit Valley of the Dolls.  Today, some authors still draw large crowds while on traditional book tours; a lot of others, not so much.

As a book publicist, I do hope that bookstore events thrive (and I continue to schedule bookstore events with authors) but realistically, there are fewer events — and, unfortunately, stores — than there were before, so I think it’s important that we try new ways to get readers to stores.  Enter the virtual book tour.

Facebook is an obvious application to utilize for a virtual event given that it’s free, easy to use and a lot of bookstores, authors and readers already use it, but the downside, of course, is that you can’t see or hear the author.  Virtual author events could be conducted via Ning, Skype, Twitter or other applications too.  A virtual event could be a stop on a book blog tour in which the publicist has made arrangements for the blogger’s local bookstore to sell signed copies of the author’s book.  Or it might be a book club gathering at which an author is Skyped in.  Here are some examples:

— Back in July, Barnes & Noble hosted its first Facebook “event” with an author, with author and readers trading comments on B&N’s wall and they recently hosted one for Sophie Kinsella.  (I tried something similar with an author last month.  We did tour him, but the Facebook chat gave still more readers a chance to interact with him.)

Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists hosts Tweet the Author sessions with clients.

— Sometimes, the “new” way of touring is sort of like the “old” way but with a 2.0 twist: Stephen Elliott, the founder of theRumpus.net whose memoir The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir of Moods, Murder and Masochism, is just out from Graywolf, has been going on a reading tour (as in, reading in people’s living rooms) to about 20 cities in addition to where Graywolf was sending him.

The tricky part of the virtual book tour is making sure there’s a bookselling component to the event in addition to the conversation part of it.  This may mean having a bookstore host the virtual event on its Facebook page.  Or it may mean that a store makes some sort of arrangement with an author to make sure books (preferably signed) are for sale.

What do you think about the virtual book tour?  Would you “attend” a virtual event with an author in whom you were interested?  What kind of events do you envision?  As a bookstore, would you host a virtual event?

October 1, 2009 - Posted by | Book Tour, Online Marketing |

19 Comments »

  1. Yes! When I tried to get people to buy Nothing But Ghosts this past year, I asked Beth (the author) to do a “reading” via vlog and also hosted a live chat on my blog. I actually really want to do more of these types of events but have been trying to figure out how to get the signed books for sale to be a part of it. And I will obviously only do it for authors and books I really support.😉

    Comment by Amy @ My Friend Amy | October 1, 2009 | Reply

    • I do think integrating the book sales aspect can be tricky (and from the store’s end — are they set up to sell books online and ship them? Or would they need people to pick up the books in person?) and that’s where the publicist needs to step in since we’re accustomed to working with the stores and can help out with those logistics. I’m hoping we can all work together to put all the pieces of the puzzle together! If you’re inclined, please spread the word — the more authors and bloggers (and booksellers and publicists) who are interested, the more we can all do to get more readers to more books.

      Comment by Yen | October 1, 2009 | Reply

  2. My book club had author Katherine Center video skype into it and it was SO MUCH FUN! Nobody wanted it to end. It has been the highlight of our book club. Best part. It was easy and Katherine didn’t even have to leave her house.

    Comment by Natasha @ Maw Books | October 1, 2009 | Reply

  3. Sure, I’d at least give one a try, both as a reader and as a (pre-published) author. I enjoy chat sessions with writers and reporters, and this sounds like it would be similar in many ways.

    Comment by Dana King | October 1, 2009 | Reply

  4. I get incorrect credit for inventing the thing. I think its a great idea. The key for book and authors in the 21st century is ubiquity, to be part of the culture instead of separate from it.

    Comment by Kevin Smokler | October 1, 2009 | Reply

  5. I forgot to mention — and this is what happens when you’re rushing to post — that one way to request a virtual event is on the site booktour.com. If you click on an author’s page, you’ll see a “Request an Author” button on the upper right side and you can check a button to request a virtual event. For example: http://www.booktour.com/readers/request_form?author=3368. (Of course, you could also contact the author and / or publisher directly, but it’s always nice to have options.)

    Comment by Yen | October 1, 2009 | Reply

  6. This seems to me to be a massive simplification of “book tour” simply by virtue of adding “virtual”. It’s like watching CNN commentators say “This next viewer comment came from Twitter.” Where it comes from doesn’t matter. What matters is: What does it mean, what is the weight of it, and what is the content?

    A truly multi-dimensional, layered book tour is both virtual and real-world, because the two aspects feed off of one another, and support one another. It is a complex *organism* that at a certain point becomes less a “tour” then a branching series of opportunities for visibility on platforms, be they virtual or not. These opportunities create not only PR and potential sales, they feed into brand identity and, more importantly, creative opportunities.

    The perfect book tour focuses not just on the current moment and the current goal–it has a multiplicity of purposes that feed your career and creativity both short-term and long-term.

    I’m going to write about this more when booklifenow.com goes live, but the point is: don’t think in two dimensions and don’t think tactically.

    Comment by Jeff VanderMeer | October 1, 2009 | Reply

  7. “then” should be “than” above, in the second paragraph.

    One last point that may seem nonsensical at first: a book tour that focuses just on selling books may not advance your career at all. The decision-making and the strategy has to come from a higher level than that.

    Comment by Jeff VanderMeer | October 1, 2009 | Reply

    • #*@&!–my day for typos. “…strategy have”

      Comment by Jeff VanderMeer | October 1, 2009 | Reply

  8. I love to listen to authors read from their books and discuss their motivations for writing. For this reason, I’d be likely to tune in to a virtual book tour, but perhaps only for an author I already admire or a book that sounds very interesting (or I have already bought or plan to buy). You wouldn’t need to worry about my motivation to find a copy to buy, because I’d be hooked beforehand. Can’t imagine tuning in to a reading by someone I don’t know anything about on a book I know nothing about just because I have nothing better to do…

    Comment by Mara Feeney | October 1, 2009 | Reply

  9. So many readers don’t even have a physical bookstore near them, let alone are on the book tour route. Virtual tours open the event up to people not in big cities or near where authors live. Plus they reduce costs and hassles for the author. Ten years ago when technology was unevenly distributed, it wouldn’t have made sense. Now it’s an easy win-win for everyone. The most challenging part is redesigning the presentation and the publicity to make best use of the new medium.

    Comment by Cassandra Vert | October 2, 2009 | Reply

  10. Jeff,

    I’ll be interested to see booklifenow.com. However, I think you’re overreacting just a bit. I thought this was a good post about the virtual possibilities out there vs. a traditional bookstore signing.

    And, re: thinking tactically, if you’re assigned with generating publicity for a stack of books each month, you’ve got to think tactically or you’ll just spin your wheels, spend a lot of time talking pie-in-the-sky, and have nothing to show for it.

    I’m all for authors and publishers rethinking the entire idea of book publicity and author platforms, but until the future arrives, you can’t ignore what’s working now.

    Jeff Rutherford
    http://www.readingandwritingpodcast.com

    Comment by Jeff | October 2, 2009 | Reply

  11. […] Book tours for the 21st century « The Book Publicity Blog “The tricky part of the virtual book tour is making sure there’s a bookselling component to the event in addition to the conversation part of it. This may mean having a bookstore host the virtual event on its Facebook page. Or it may mean that a store makes some sort of arrangement with an author to make sure books (preferably signed) are for sale.” […]

    Pingback by APFOL: Sept 27-Oct 3 « Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog | October 4, 2009 | Reply

  12. As a very small independent bookstore, we are often left off the list of big author book tours, but it would definitely help us generate sales to participate in video conferences and/or live twitter discussions. We participate in the twitter book club, and really enjoy it when the author gets online and tweets back. An author might not have time for yet another Chicago area book signing, but they might have time to tweet/Skype for an hour from their hotel room!

    Comment by Margie | October 7, 2009 | Reply

  13. We wonder if there is going to be a change in how virtual blog tours will be administered with the new FTC ruling coming out on Dec.1st.

    Comment by Reader Views | October 10, 2009 | Reply

    • Good question. Will have to see how this one plays out …

      Comment by Yen | October 12, 2009 | Reply

  14. […] fewer authors traveling on book tours, more bookstores are trying out virtual book events these days, for example Skyping in authors or having authors participate in Facebook or Twitter […]

    Pingback by Book publicity FAQ: book events « The Book Publicity Blog | February 18, 2010 | Reply

  15. Wow!! its a very useful information and shearing a good knowledge with u

    Comment by Seminar Projects | March 3, 2010 | Reply

  16. […] Book tours for the 21st century « The Book Publicity Blog “The tricky part of the virtual book tour is making sure there’s a bookselling component to the event in addition to the conversation part of it. This may mean having a bookstore host the virtual event on its Facebook page. Or it may mean that a store makes some sort of arrangement with an author to make sure books (preferably signed) are for sale.” […]

    Pingback by APFOL: Sept 27-Oct 3 - Here There Be Books | September 13, 2014 | Reply


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