Eight Reasons Why I Built My Own Book Tour – Write Now Columbus – October 2019
There are many reasons not to build-your-own book tour. But when Mango Publishing released my running and mental health memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink, I chose to create one anyway. Here’s why:
I had the money. Publisher-funded book tours are few and far between. Most authors who want a book tour must cough up the money themselves. And, those travel dollars might be better spent in other forms of promotion. Gratefully, by the time Depression Hates a Moving Target came out, I still had a few dollars of the small inheritance my mother left my siblings and I. Mom, a shining star of a person, would have loved a book tour. If she were still alive, she would have insisted on traveling with me and likely found a way to share the spotlight. I used her gift on airfare, hotels, rental cars, and food, and thanked her when the credit card bills rolled in.
I had the time. I haven’t had a “day job” since 1994. This has not been a “vacation.” My depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder required hospitalization, intensive treatment, and medication to keep me alive. But not having a job allows me the freedom to travel. If I had to coordinate a book tour around another occupation, I might have made a different choice.
I had the focus and the energy. Travel is exhausting. Add to that the pressure of talking about your book to strangers. Even the best-organized book tour is no small feat. It might make more sense for an author to spent that time doing online marketing. For decades I was on medication that saved my life, but dulled my thinking and sapped my energy. Exercise has allowed me to stop taking the more powerful drugs. As a result, I have the energy and focus to write articles and send out marketing pitches from a hotel room when I might otherwise need to sleep.
I had help. Ed, the #onehundredpercentgoodhusband, is a master at logistics, and my sister, Amy, also helps with marketing. Without them, I would have lost precious time coordinating events, time I needed to use for online marketing. If you don’t have an Ed or an Amy, perhaps you can find an intern. Some colleges offer credit to interns looking to learn from “real world” experience. And if you have an Ed or an Amy, thank him or her every single day.
It allowed me to support independent bookstores. While I don’t shy away from appearances in chain bookstores, most of the readings I’ve done on my book tour have been at independent, local booksellers. Indie bookstores are the heart of a city. I’m sad every town doesn’t have one. And many of these lovely shops struggle to meet the bottom line. Attracting readers to their stores by giving a reading or a book talk feels tremendous. It’s a win-win, of course, but it feels like the best kind.
It gave me an excuse to see friends and family. You’ve probably figured out by now that what you see on social media is ever-so-slightly contrived. We scheduled book tour stops in places we wanted to go. Los Angeles Times Festival of Books? A visit to see Ed’s 102-year old mother, Ed’s son, other members of both of our families, and some friends. Cleveland? Seven friends were running their first marathon. Lancaster, Pennsylvania? A Dead Runners Society gathering. The Bay Area? Ed’s Berkeley fraternity reunion and the possibility of meeting my editor. Lexington, Kentucky? Time with Goddard classmate, author Lisa Haneberg. New Mexico? Natalie Goldberg and too many other friends to name for fear I’ll forget someone. Yes, I sometimes stay in a friend’s guest room, but for the most part I’m using it as an excuse to see (and thank) people I love. We would have taken these trips at some point. We probably wouldn’t have piled them all together, but hey. It’s been lovely.
It looks good on social media. Success begets success. Social media images matter, so I used my desire to see family and friends as a way to shape my online image. I want my social media followers to ask, “I wonder where Nita is today?” I’m grateful because Mango shares on their social media accounts nearly everything I send their way so my marketing posts serve double duty. This is the world we live in. A book tour looks good!
It was my dream. But the main reason I decided to arrange a book tour was because it was my dream. I’m old enough to think that a book tour is a hallmark of success and mature enough to know that if I want that, I have to give it to myself.
When your book comes out, examine your priorities. An honest self-appraisal will help you decide if a build-your-own book tour is for you.