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Congratulations, so you’ve published your debut novel and you’re getting ready to go on your first book tour. Exciting, isn’t it? Then you panic, because if you’re like me, you’re used to the solitary task of writing, not touring around and speaking in front of others. Having recently returned from my first book tour for my debut novel DOLLBABY, I’m here to relate a few things I learned along the way:
1) No two books tours are alike
I don’t know about you, but I’m not the kind that likes surprises, so I queried other authors about what to expect on my first book tour. What I found is that there’s no simple answer to that question. I had what my publisher called a Southern book tour due to the equivalent theme of my novel, but different genres travel on different types of tours to different cities that attract different audiences.
So bottom line: don’t try to compare your scheduled book tour, whether paid for by the publisher or DIY, to others. You can always supplement it later at your discretion, which I will discuss more in point number 5.
2) Be flexible
There were many last minute additions to my tour, such as radio and television interviews, which necessitated a change in travel plans. I was given the option to say no, but that wouldn’t have been wise.
If the media wants to interview you, set a good precedence by saying yes and showing up with a smile on your face and not looking as if you just crawled out of bed.
Which brings me to another point. Several times when I showed up at the hotel before noon, I was told that check in time wasn’t until 3pm (even though my publicist assured me they always ask for early check-in time), so don’t be surprised if you have to lug your suitcase into the lobby bathroom to change clothes for an interview or lunch program. Just go with it.
3) Be professional
When I asked a fellow author the best way to handle my book tour, I was told ‘just be yourself’. That’s good advice. It dictated what I was going to wear (pants or dresses?) and what I chose to speak about (my writing experiences or the theme of the novel?).
But here is one thing that is universally expected on a book tour: be professional, not only in your attitude, but your appearance. Look sharp. Look alert. And look pleased to be there, even if you’re dead tired and didn’t get any sleep the night before. Be gracious, and don’t forget to thank them for having you.
4) Continue to promote yourself once the tour is over
I was urged by my publicist to become active in social media, and these days, unless you’re Donna Tartt, this is a must. First I developed a good, clean website. Then I created a Facebook author page, learned Twitter from the ground up, set up profiles on Goodreads, LinkedIn, Amazon, Instagram and Pinterest. And I’m getting ready to have a book trailer made.
Sounds like a lot, right? It is. Unless you want to spend every hour of the day trying to manage these, pick the ones you think either fit your personality or will do the most for you. I chose Facebook and Twitter as my two main sources of social media. I don’t currently have a blog, but I may add one to my website in the future.
5) Don’t expect your publisher to advertise and publicize your debut novel like they do best-selling authors
Sorry guys, but this is just the plain truth. You’re not there yet. So, if you can, find out what the publisher plans to do for you. And after the book comes out, set aside a little of that advance and do some promoting of your own. Even best-selling authors, I’m finding out, do this.
(Hint: You don’t know who really paid for those big ads in the New York Times.) So, if you have the time and money, do a little research and find some avenues that will create the presence you need in front of critics and readers.
Then, when you have time, start writing that next novel!
Laura Lane McNeal is the author of DOLLBABY, published by Pamela Dorman Books/Viking July 2014. Visit her website at www.lauralanemcneal.com. Ready for an author website? Learn more HERE. Need help deciding which social media and how to find YOUR readers? Learn more HERE.