Many authors promote their books through book tours. Author Michelle Cox gives MapYourMystery an idea about how she organizes her book tours.
How did you decide which places to visit?
The first “tour” that I did around the release of A Girl Like You was set up by my publisher, She Writes Press, though the authors did have input into the cities we were assigned. They highly encouraged us to choose places where we might have friends or family to come out and support us, so I chose Chicago (of course!), Boston, Seattle and Los Angeles for that reason.
The other “tours” I’ve done have been organized by myself and/or other authors banding together. Usually the location was simply based on where my collaborative authors were located, such as the little mini-mystery tour I did in San Francisco.
I’ve also spent a lot of time traveling to conferences in different states and even in Canada in the last year or so because I was either receiving an award or because it seemed like a good venue at which to promote my books or network, or both. The first year, especially, I devoted a lot of time to these because, as a newbie, I was trying to meet other authors, editors, readers, agents and just trying to learn more about the industry in general.
Other times, I’ve chosen places because a bookstore or library reached out and invited me or because it was at the special request of friends, family, or fans asking me to come to a particular city. I usually go wherever I’m asked to go, especially book clubs! Hint, hint . . .
How many states have you been to?
Specifically related to the book, I’ve been to: Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona, Minnesota, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Canada. This year I’ll add Florida, Indiana and possibly New York.
Who is your audience at the events? Mystery readers or your fans or both?
My audience is usually a mix of both fans and mystery readers, though sometimes there are other writers in the crowd, too, who’ve come out to add support. And usually, depending on the event, there are people in the crowd who might be there to get advice about writing or publishing.
How did you promote the appearances?
Good question! I’ve tried many different methods as time has gone on. I used to create a Facebook event, but I’ve found that those don’t seem to be as effective. Also they’re a little annoying. I mean, I don’t like getting constant pop-ups on FB reminding me of events, so I assume others might feel the same way. I seem to have a better response by simply boosting a post from my author page and making sure I target people who live in the area I’m going to be traveling to.
I also put it up on the events tab of my website as well as my newsletter and twitter. Also, the bookstore that is hosting me usually does a little PR on their end, too. In some locations, I’ve also added the event to the online or print editions of the local newspaper or journal event calendars, but I’m not sure how effective that really is these days.
I do have a contract with a PR company, Booksparks, out of Arizona that I can turn to if I really need some help. Often times, especially with my first book, they reached out for me to various bookstores that I wanted to go to and made all the arrangements. I’m more than capable of doing that now on my own, but if there’s a bookstore that’s really hard to get into or there’s a special panel spot at a conference I really want, I might ask them to step in for me—they’ve got more clout than I do! Usually, though, I try to save my budget dollars with them for other things.
What is your favorite experience from these trips?
That’s a hard one! I think Bouchercon 2017 in Toronto was definitely a highlight because I got to personally meet and talk with so many of the mystery greats! – Rhys Bowen, Hallie Ephron, Hank Phillipi Ryan, Deborah Crombie, Louise Penny, Karen Robards, Charles Todd, Charles Finch, Simone St. James . . . the list goes on and on. That was a real treat, and I really learned so much.
A close runner up experience, though, was being interviewed on KPFA radio in Berkeley for Women's Magazine. We recorded in a very old art deco building, which was right up my alley, and it was a very fun, relaxed interview to do with Kate Jessica Raphael, who asked some great questions.
How did the tour impact your book sales?
Who knows? Since I don’t have access to my sales data, it’s hard to know what the long reach is for these types of events. I certainly don’t usually sell a lot at the events themselves, but bookstore owners have told me that they have residual sales long after the event. The best events in terms of sales are usually when I speak to a particular group, like the Nineteenth Century Club in Oak Park, Il. or when I did a panel event for the AAUW at the Budlong Woods Library in Chicago. Both of those events were very well attended by women who love to read and who like to buy books! A great combo!
What would you do differently?
I’m trying to get away from solo events. It’s really hard to get people to come out to any event at all these days. I myself have attended several bookstore or library events of some rather big-name mystery authors and was shocked to see such a small crowd even for them. It made me feel better, however, about some of my more lack-luster events. I really try to do panel events now, which can sometimes draw a bigger crowd, either at bookstores, libraries or conferences. Meanwhile my publicist is urging me to do more “live” events on FB and Twitter rather than bookstore appearances. That concept makes me a little nervous, but it might very well be in my future. We have to keep changing, I’m told. So, stay tuned!