David Hicks published his first novel, White Plains, last year and then proceeded to launch a whirlwind tour of the USA to promote it. This he did on his own with very little support from his publisher and was basically accomplished by sheer determination and a whole lota gumption (yes, I used the word “gumption” and I stand by it).
David has been chronicling his journey and the lessons learned from it over on his author site: david-hicks.com. I highly recommend heading over there and reading the whole piece (part 1 is here) but some of the highlights are below:
After the main part of my book tour ended—the string of southwest, Midwest, and East Coast visits that included a run of 34 appearances in 34 days) I came home, spent some long-overdue quality time with my wife, set about making up for my neglect of the yard, and reflected on the highlights and lowlights of the tour thus far. I then finished up with readings in the northwest (Seattle and Portland), Chicago, western Colorado, Flagstaff AZ, and Port Townsend, WA. Since then, aside from some random invitations to read/sign elsewhere, I have since been focused on finishing my next novel.
So: after fifty appearances at a variety of venues (independent bookstores, libraries, pubs, and even a diner in Binghamton) and 8000 miles of driving, all organized by yours truly, I feel as if I may have gained some wisdom as to how to go about publicizing one’s book, and may therefore convey some sage(ish) advice for those of you who are about to (or hope to) publish your first book someday. Because it’s not enough just to publish your book these days. The main reason why we want to publish out books, after all—whether subconsciously or consciously–is so that others may read it. And how can others read it if they don’t know it exists?
So you have to promote your book.
And one way to do just that is to go on a book tour. (There are other ways, of course, including online, which I will leave to my friend Rachel Weaver to tell you about; Rachel has sold over 20,000 copies of her small-press book, mostly by way of her persistent research and online connections.) Whether you publish with a small press (as I did), are mid-listed at a big publishing house, or self-publish, if you want a big book tour, it’s up to you. Fortunately, the Events managers at bookstores across this great country are, for the most part (with a few cranky exceptions) kind and wonderful, and, if you can guarantee an audience, they will help you to plan and promote your reading.
Unfortunately, they are also very busy people, so you still have to do most of the work yourself.
David then goes on to list in detail the top ten tips for being on a book tour. This list is filled with practical advice that will be invaluable to the independent or self-published author or someone working with a small press that may not have the resources to devote to marketing or sending a person on a cross-country tour. And then gives his final thoughts on the experience:
My Final Takeaway
The old-fashioned way still works. There are effective ways to use social media to promote your book, and there’s plenty of advice out there about how to do so. But it certainly does NOT work to spambot-bombard people with ads about your special giveaways or to push the book. I have seen hundreds of these, and I have never bought a single book, not even for 99 cents today only. But I have purchased many (over twenty, I’d estimate) books written by friends I’ve made over Twitter or Facebook—books I would likely never heard about had I not (very grudgingly) opened a Twitter account and Facebook account and come to know these wonderful folks. And that happened simply by way of conversations, not by “likes.” “Likes” are nice, but they do very little to cultivate relationships. It’s when I’ve commented on a stranger’s post, and that stranger commented back, that that stranger became a friend. And one of the great joys of the book tour was when I would meet someone in person whom I had “friended” on social media.
Remember: Your friends are your friends—they really want to help you to sell your book.
These are of course only snippets of a much longer piece and you owe it to yourself to read the entire two-part chronicle. Aside from having great advise it is also filled with David’s trademark charm and humor. Basically the guy can write so do yourself a favor and read it.