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.)
— 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?