Book publicity FAQ: book events
Last week I posted about book publicity FAQs that pertained to the media. Of course, book promotion also involves scheduling author events, which is another area in which book publicists often get questions. Here are a few of the most common.
Can you add [city(s)] / [bookstore(s)] to the book tour?
Sometimes it simply isn’t possible to make changes to a planned book tour; in cases where it might be, we need to approach additional opportunities strategically. (You may have heard that Seattle has great bookstores, but that doesn’t mean we’re automatically going to add Seattle to a book tour — or that you would get a good crowd at a Seattle bookstore.)
What you need to know: First off, book tours are scheduled after very careful consideration about whether a tour will help sell books (or whether this is a media-driven title), potential local interest in an author / book, a store’s / venue’s history with a certain type of book / author, media possibilities in the market, budget (of course) and with input from sales representatives and from stores themselves. Second, book tours are typically scheduled three-six months in advance of the book’s publication. If you have any questions about the tour (or if you are wondering whether there will be a tour), your best bet is to ask about it early. If you’ve been assigned a publicist, talk to them; otherwise ask your editor. (A month — or even two — before the book’s publication is really too late in most cases.)
Sometimes authors do a fair amount of traveling on their own. If it happens that your personal travel will take you to certain cities at certain times and you’d like to see if a bookstore talk can be arranged at the same time, talk to the publicist as soon as you can. Keep in mind that bookstores are most inclined to host signings for authors with recently-published books (“recent” being in the month or so before the event) and will want to know if an author has local connections — friends / family in a city who will attend an event (and buy books) — or if the book would otherwise be of local interest. Stores spend time and money promoting their events, so they really need to be selective about scheduling author talks. Do keep in mind that even if it’s not possible to schedule a book talk, you can always stop by stores to sign copies of your book(s). Signed books, particularly hardcovers, always go over well with readers, and some bookstores may order additional copies of a book (assuming they think they can sell it well) if they know in advance that an author will sign copies.
Can you arrange for books to be sold at an off-site event?
Possibly, if we find out early enough.
What you need to know: Rule of thumb — most booksellers will ask for an anticipated audience of at least 100 people in order to consider selling books off site. Arranging for books to be sold at off-site events can be time consuming for the book publicist and unless an event is expected to draw hundreds of people, selling books off site often isn’t particularly lucrative for the bookseller. (The bookseller needs to send at least one staff member to the event, which means they’re now shorthanded at the store and people who buy books at lectures don’t browse and make additional purchases at the store.)
For details about off-site book sales (including options for selling books if it’s not possible to find a bookseller), check my post What you need to know about off-site book sales. And again, contact your publicist early so they (and the store) have time to make arrangements.
How do virtual events work?
With 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 conversations.
What you need to know: Being something of a technogeek myself, I’ve talked to a number of bookstores about the possibility of them hosting virtual events. For the most part, stores have found that while virtual events can be successful for big-name authors, it can be hard to entice a large audience to interact virtually with lesser known authors. (Truth be told, it’s hard enough enticing people to interact IRL.) Which doesn’t mean that it’s not possible if you target the right readers for the right author, but generally speaking, stores seem far more willing at this point to experiment with virtual events with known quantities.
Needless to say, virtual events will be much easier for authors with some technical savvy, but most people with a computer and the ability to follow instructions can probably muddle their way through. (FYI regarding Skype events — Macs have built-in webcams; otherwise you can find one at an electronics store for under $100.)
As a book publicist, author, agent, or other publishing industry professional what other book event questions come to mind?