Five states, thirteen stops, and a lot of Hilton points later, I've learned a few things about being a new author on a book tour.
I used to think all book signings looked like this:
For a new author, it's more like this:
Yep. This is the glamorous reality. No lines out the door. No readers clutching dog-eared copies of your book. You're working retail for royalties. And, if you start doing the math, you'll realize you're making a dollar or two an hour. So, don't do the math...
It's easy to sink into discouragement when you're on your first book tour—especially if you envisioned lines out the door and "standing room only" at your readings. So, before you go too far down that path, here's what I learned in my five months on the road.
Tips for Surviving your First Book Tour
1. Shift your focus
Use these events to practice for the next level—superstar best-selling author. Think of each signing as a safe place to craft your public persona and experiment with different ways to connect with people. Get comfortable signing books without hundreds of people in line. Make these events less about selling your books and more about practicing.
2. Set reasonable expectations
Unless you define reasonable goals up front, you're going to have a lot of disappointing events. My definition of a successful event? Connecting with one person. If I sold one book an event was a wild success. It turned out every stop on this tour was a wild success.
I had a few "womp, womp, womp"signings due to weather or bad timing. Let's face it, there's no way to compete with the first Penn State home football game in State College (unless you're signing books at the stadium or a bar). But, because of my expectations, I was never disappointed. Even when store managers apologized for low turnout, I could genuinely smile and thank them for the opportunity.
3. Adapt and experiment
You're a writer. By nature you're observant. Use your powers to analyze what's working and what's not, then make changes.
When my table was in the back of the store, I'd stand at the entrance with a copy of my book. When I noticed people seemed hesitant to approach me, I wore a name tag. When I felt awkward standing alone near my table, I'd greet people walking into the store. By the way, saying you're the "celebrity greeter today" is a really good icebreaker.
4. Fake it 'til you make it
Perception is a powerful selling tool, especially when it's combined with product scarcity. I learned it was best to keep two, uneven piles of books on my table to make it look like I was selling out. And, I never displayed more than ten books at a time.
I also made sure my table looked professional. I bought a branded table cloth and a mounted poster of the book cover. I always brought along a few of my own display stands to showcase my book on my signing table. Another great prop? A laminated copy of 4 and 5 star reviews.
5. Make it your job
Remember, being an author is a job. And, for most of us, not our only job. Unless you're doing a reading (and are afraid no one will show up), it's better to fly solo at signings. It might be tempting to bring a friend or family member for moral support, but it can be distracting.
My husband came to the first events with me and I spent most of the time hoping he wasn't bored. When I finally decided to go alone, I sold almost twice as many books.
My first book tour wasn't anything like I expected, but I'm grateful that I had so many opportunities to practice. Best of luck on your author adventures!