Four debut authors. Three book signings. Three states. Twenty-four hours. What a trip!
This past weekend I had an excellent opportunity to take Bumpy Landings on a summer book tour with Tamara Heiner (Perilous), Lynn Parsons (disAbilities in the Gospel), and Cheri Chesley (Peasant Queen).
Tamara and Cheri came to Dallas on Friday, where Lynn and I met them for an evening signing at Moon's LDS Bookstore. Then, bright and early Saturday morning, we drove to Hastings in Duncan, Oklahoma, where Cheri is visiting family. After our morning signing there, we zipped across the state to Springdale, Arkansas and Beehive Mercantile, which is Tamara's hometown bookstore.
The tour was fun and extremely valuable, although maybe not financially profitable. Was a trip this size worth the time, cost, and effort? I think so, if only because of the people met and lessons learned.
As we sat down to breakfast yesterday, we talked about what worked, what didn't, and what advice we would give to someone else planning a similar tour. Here are some of the things we came up with:
- Two of our stores had several months to prepare, although only one actually put together an "event". This was a much better signing.
- One of the stores was a last-minute replacement, with only a week of preparation time. This signing was good, but could have been so much better with a month or more to prepare and promote.
- Signing with other authors is awesome! When the signing is slow, there is good conversation to be had. Travel time conversations are great, and it's nice to split the gas costs.
- Two to four authors is a good number. It's not so many that it intimidates customers, and "unknown" authors still get some attention (unlike, perhaps, mega-signings with dozens of other writers).
- Summer is a convenient time for authors to travel, but may not be the most optimum time for bringing in customers. Check with the bookstores to find out when their busy times are.
- Traveling to multiple locations in a day is fun and would seem to be an efficient way to work. However, it forces compromise on the schedule. Our morning Oklahoma signing would have been much better in the early afternoon, but then we would not have had time to make it to the signing in Arkansas.
- This kind of signing is like a business trip, and the planning and coordination need to be professional.
- This kind of signing is like a vacation (or writing conference), in that (especially for 4 debut authors) the only thing you can really count on is meeting new people and getting to know the other authors really well. Most vacations don't turn a financial profit, either. The real value is time spent with others, learning and growing.
- Get the word out! Relying on walk-in traffic is courting failure. The most valuable customers are the ones the authors bring in themselves. Also, this kind of book event is an opportunity for you to crow about something. The publicity the tour itself generates may be the most valuable return you get.