Sunday, September 12, 2010

Book Tours, The Downside of a Shoestring Budget, and Hiring A Tour Manager

I'm thinking about hiring a tour manager. It's partly because I'm guilty of scanning details for book tour events, and because I never gave much thought to things like mileage, food and lodging expenses when I signed the book contract. Those new to the publishing world take note: deal with these cost issues early on because if you can take care of petty things like mileage etc, you'll have a less stressful booktour. One idea is to clarify exactly what the publisher will pay for on book tours when you sign on the dotted line.

Try to bribe your agent and get a bigger advance of say $400,000 or more, then your book tour is a snap and every stop you'll be all smiles. Just ask Sarah Palin how she's enjoying the ride. Since I don't have a jet or a bus funded by a big fat advance plus contributions from right wingers who hope to get into the power spot next election, I brooded about tour expenses on the drive home from my last stop at Bellewood Acres near Lynden, Washington. It was a fun, crowded event but I paid my own way, paid full price for all the apples I ate while I was there and it was a 180 miles round trip. Whine, whine, whine-- but I've driven to Bellingham twice in the past few weeks for book events and I don't have anyone picking up the tab at the gas pump or the lunch counter.

So what's an author to do when most or all these expenses fall on their shoulders?

It's time to get creative, that's what. I started searching the Internet the other day to see what other authors have done to fund their book tours and here's what I discovered.

The cost of a book tour is the gorilla in the room that not many authors talk about. Google book tour expenses and you'll see, not much has been written about this shadow in the room other than the vague idea that authors mostly fund their own tours, no one ever gives a break down of things you spend money on.

One author raised money for his book tour by getting various levels of backers. I laughed out loud when I read that he had a $2,000 level where he will go to your town with one or two commedians in tow. Justin got 77 backers who met his goal of $5,000 for his book tour. I love his creativity.

Another author partners with Ethiopian charities and is committed to raising $500,000 dollars for wells in Ethiopian cities. The tour boasts "meet-ups not lectures," it's collectively organized and it's all self-funded. Chris is stopping in a number of cities in Canada and he is visiting a city in every state and at each stop he requested volunteers to host, contact media and provide cupcakes. I say not only does this fund the book tour but it's great way to give to other communities and create community around your book. This is a feel-good we are community approach.

If those ideas aren't quite your cup of coffee, check out this book I found about promoting your book on a shoestring budget. Or to cut down on expenses you can do a blog book tour. But you still have to get out and acutally connect with some stores and people who will also pass the message of your book along.

You can also talk to other writers and get the details of their tours. The editor of my book told me that for her tour, she stayed with friends and in really cheap lodging in various cities and looked at it as a vacation. That's not really my idea of a vacation. Another friend only books events in towns where she has family or friends that can attend those sometimes lonely book events. Another friend urged me to do a virtual book tour instead of hitting the road.

Even in the virtual world everybody's trying to make a buck these days. I think I'll just stay the course, try and get my publisher to kick in for some mileage and overnight stays, and who knows maybe my cooking assistant will consider signing on as my tour manager. Oh wait, he clearly wants a cut of the action too--some of those Honeycrisp apples I paid full price for no doubt.

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