Saturday, April 18, 2009

Planning a Book Tour

I've been busy this week planning my two-week book signing tour for the May release of my second mystery book, To Hell in a Handbasket, through the northwest US in June. I've arranged signings, or hope to finalize them soon, in the following locations:

6/6: Fort Collins, CO and Cheyenne, WY
6/8: Spokane, WA
6/9 or 10: Seattle, WA
6/11: Portland or Salem, OR
6/16 or 17: Bend, OR
6/18: Twin Falls, ID
6/19: Salt Lake City, UT
6/20: Grand Junction, CO

Why the gap in the middle? It's the real reason for the whole trip, for my husband and me to watch our daughter graduate from the University of Oregon on June 13th and to spend time with her, her boyfriend, and his family. We'll be staying with relatives in Seattle and Bend, so that's why we have a leisurely two days in each of those locations. I'll be blogging on May 1st about how to plan a book tour on the cheap, using this trip and the 2007 one I did back east for the release of my first book, A Real Basket Case, at: Hey There's a Dead Guy in the Living Room.

Today, I want to talk about contacting bookstores and arranging events. I'd forgotten how much time this takes! First is the process of figuring out which store in each city I should contact first. I'll often use recommendations from other mystery authors for this, or I look at stores' event schedules to see if they host mystery authors and/or have a mystery book club.

I usually start with an email to the bookstore owner, community relations manager, or whoever arranges events. The email briefly describes both books and the series and requests a signing event on the date when I'll be in town. Usually, I get no reply from these emails. However, I feel that they put my information in front of the event scheduler's eyes, so when I call later, my name is familiar. I follow up the email in a few days with a phone call, and sometimes there's some phone tag before I catch the event scheduler in person. Then, I run through a short spiel identifying myself, my books and mentioning my good Kirkus reviews and my Best First Novel Agatha Award nomination to get their attention. Lastly, I ask if they might be interested in hosting me for a signing on the date when I'll be in their city.

If the store is booked up on the date that I'll be in town, I ask for recommendations for other bookstores in the area that host events, fold that into my existing information about stores in that city and start anew with choice #2.

If the store has the date available, what follows is a process of determining how they can get copies of my books. If it's an independent bookstore, this involves an explanation of Five Star's distribution policy and sending them a copy of the order policy and contact information. If it's a Barnes & Noble, it involves searching for my titles in their computer database to be sure they can order them. Then we discuss the best time window for the signing given traffic patterns at the store and pick a 2-hour window. If the event scheduler is not the store manager, they often have to get approval from the store manager, which involves follow-up phone calls and/or e-mails.

After the event is finalized, I try to obtain local radio/newspaper/etc. media contacts from the event scheduler and discuss promotion opportunities in their area. I ask if a mystery book club meets at the store and might want to join me for a meal or drinks before/after the event. All of this involves even more effort and time! However, just scheduling the event is not enough to make it a success. Partnering with the store to promote the event through different means is needed to bring in as many interested customers as possible. Maybe that will be a subject for another blog post.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Move fast - most stores need 2-3 months warning!

And enjoy Oregon - it's my home state. Had several cousins graduate from University of Oregon.

L. Diane Wolfe

Chester Campbell said...

Sounds like you're going to be busy, Beth. Good description of the process for book signings. I do something similar, but you sound better in the follow-up phase.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Beth, I thought this blog was very helpful, thanks. Best of luck on your tour and congratulations to you and your daughter.

Jane Kennedy Sutton

Beth Groundwater said...

As Diane said, most stores need 2-3 months warning, and popular stores, such as those in book-loving Seattle and Portland need even more leeway. My hands were tied until a book-listing glitch was cleared up between my publisher and Barnes & Noble, though. I was the one who discovered the glitch when I started trying to schedule signings, and I was sending anxious emails every few days to my publisher saying "the clock is ticking!" until the problem was solved. Once it was, I immediately got on the phone to bookstores. I'm now talking to my third choice locations for Portland & Seattle and am hoping I find stores with time in their schedule. Plan ahead, authors!

Helen Ginger said...

Very informative post, Beth. Thanks!