by Nicole Riley

I am often asked if author tours are successful.  We are very honest with the folks we have worked with on what a book signing might look like, yet there are still a number of authors who think there is going to be a line wrapping around the building to purchase their books at every event no matter what we say.  Although we would love to see that happen, I would like to provide a more realistic view to the process, and help you define the word “successful” for yourself.

Before going any further, I would like to say that this is my opinion solely based on my experience with booking author tours for the last couple of years.  I too often receive feedback that an event was just okay, or the author hoped that more people would have attended, or flat out that this was a waste of time!  I would like to add that we have had several clients we have booked extraordinary author events for that have had success written all over them!  Many of which have used these events to graduate into another phase of their career development.

Before booking an author tour, ask yourself…

  • What makes an author tour successful?
  •  What defines the word success for you?
  •  What are your expectations?
  •  Most importantly, what strategy are you using to reach that definition of success in promoting your tour?
  •  Do you have a publicity campaign going on in conjunction with your events that includes radio interviews or major network television?
  •  Have you sent a press release to the local newspaper?
  •  Have you taken out any ads where your event will be taking place?
  •  Are you promoting your book on your own website?
  • Is the store hosting the event promoting the book on their website prior to the event?
  • Are you aware of how much a display and prominent positioning of your book would cost without an event?
  • Do you want your book to be in a store weeks prior to an event, being displayed when it might otherwise get lost on a shelf?
  • Do you want your book to remain in a store and potentially be reordered because of a connection you may have been able to make with the buyer?
  • Do you realize that by having an event you give journalists a great reason to write about you?
  • Are the amounts of books you sell at your event defining your success?

I think it is very important to think about these questions.  In my experience the most successful tours are those that are synchronized with a publicity campaign of some kind.  I have seen author tour sales figures range anywhere from 3-100 books at a signing.   If you sold 5-10 books at your signing would you deem your event “unsuccessful”?  Of course the goal is always to sell as many books as you can, but I think we should remember that these book signings are equally about selling yourself, as it is about selling books.  They are a perfect opportunity for you to promote yourself.

Invite anyone who will listen.  Word of mouth is powerful! Piggybacking off of  my hometown book sales blog post when I said there will be no one more interested in you and your book than your hometown, I believe the same holds true for the start of your tour.  I often will refer to this type of an event as a Book Launch Party.  A date that is close to your pub date, premiering in a local store, surrounded by family, friends, co workers, etc. are great ways to jump start your tour!  I also suggest finding a store that hosts Local Author Festivals.  This MAY bring in an extra book sales for you, but if not wasn’t it still nice to meet other local authors in your community while practicing your self -promotion skills?  Successful?  Only you can answer that.

If an event is not in your hometown, you will not have your local support system. If you have no media hits, and you factor in the genre of your book and pray that you have been able to reach your target audience through telepathic waves, would it be semi-delusional to think that there will be a line of buyers extending out the door?   Is that expectation you set to high?  For example, let’s say this is your first book, you have no publicity to speak of, and you just drove many miles to be at your 2nd event on your tour.  There are 3 lucky shoppers who run into your table by accident and buy your book, and 2 customers who came in to see you because they saw the in store signage last week.    Was this event unsuccessful?  I guess it would be if you went into it expecting that you were going to sign 50 books that day.  Again, what were your expectations?  Are you being realistic?  I guess my point is that you will get out of your author tour what you put into it!  At the same time I say this, there are times where authors are doing all of the right things and the number of attendees is still low.  Maybe it was a beautiful day, or it ended up snowing in June…. I don’t know.

So are author tours successful?

I believe they most certainly can be.  This is your opportunity to meet potential buyers face to face and captivate them and your audience.  Plus it adds a personal touch to your book promotion efforts.  Not to mention, prior to the author event your book is given free display that without the event is otherwise extremely expensive!   Drive a crowd, smile, talk to people, have fun, share the message your book was intended to send.   Be realistic and define your own success!

Nicole Riley has been selling books to Barnes and Noble as well as the national and specialty book buyers since 2009.  Riley uses her remarkable attention to detail and focus to keep NSD books moving briskly through retail and wholesale channels.  An experienced and highly-respected sales rep, Riley has an over 82% success rate at getting books placed in the bookstore and library market.

Image courtesy of Daniel Kwok.