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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

March 2015

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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

Lessons Learned: The Book Tour

028MagersQuinnWell, I’m back home and have weathered the Northwest Bookfest. I took a couple days off just to reorient myself to family and home-life and now I’m ready to put together some of the lessons I learned from this adventure.

My book tour was great! I traveled 7,500 miles in 30 days and then did a 2-day event back home, so a 32-day adventure in all. I appeared in 17 different venues and had 12 guest-posts on book blogger sites. In all that, I sold nearly 200 books. I saw 4 sisters and 12 of 17 nephews and nieces, parents-in-law, sister-in-law, and uncounted great- and great-great-nephews and nieces. I saw numerous friends from high school and college, presented in bookstores, coffee-shops, homes, and schools. I listened to 1 John Grisham  and 7 Sue Grafton audio books. I was reviewed six times for an average of four stars +.

037BookmamasAnd if I were starting it all over again, I probably wouldn’t.

Truly, this trip was worthwhile for me because I was able to plan my route in such a way that I could visit people who were important to me as I went. But from a purely “book-tour” perspective, the trip can’t be considered a financial success. It cost nearly four times what I sold. And while my standings on Amazon and BookScan crept upward, I didn’t become a best-seller in any category.

051CaryBut I would, and probably will, do other book tours. These tours, however, will have to be profitable. Here are three things that I would do for my next tour.

1. My next tour will be focused on salon parties. While I hope to make more appearances in bookstores, those appearances are far less profitable than private parties with invited guest-lists. Just from the perspective of how much money is made per book sold, the salon party is vastly better. In the bookstore, the book sells at the cover price of $12.79 plus taxes. Of the $12.79, I typically receive $7.67. The books cost me $4.21 each and an additional $0.83 shipping. So my net receipt per book is $2.63. That’s not bad when you consider that the same book sold at the same price if published by a major publisher would net me only $1.02 in royalties at 8%. And if the book sells through Amazon or Barnes & Noble on-line, I get just $1.58.

075SteamboatI sell the same book in a salon party for $15.00 including tax and shipping. Of that $15.00, I net $8.66 after book cost, shipping, and taxes. The decision seems obvious, but there are trade-offs. Most notably, my book does not appear where casual browsers will see it, and my sales are not recorded in Bookscan, so no one will ever know how many copies I’ve sold.

079SLC2. Every appearance will be focused on a presentation. This is another big advantage of salon parties over bookstores. When given the opportunity in a bookstore to read from The Gutenberg Rubric and intersperse stories about printing and book arts with a demonstration of actually printing a bookmark from lead type, people always bought books. Most bookstores, however, don’t do presentations and readings. They do signings. In a signing, the author sits at a tableful of books and waits for random passersby to ask about the book and hopefully to buy and have one autographed. Unless you are a known and popular author, that kind of forum is less than ideal.

080wallawallaAnd having a great presentation that goes beyond actually reading from your book is a draw that gives you a broader market of venues. Civic clubs, churches, professional organizations are all in need of speakers on a regular basis. And the same presentation can be simply repurposed for different kinds of groups. My presentation on the history of printing for a civic group with readings from the book is scarcely a step away from my presentation on the creation of  the Gutenberg Bible for a church. I can make the presentation even more compelling if I make the printing demonstration a hands-on experience.

084WallaWalla3. It will be a regional tour, not a national tour. Obviously, my sales map on Bookscan now shows pockets of sales all across the country where on previous books it showed only sales in the Pacific Northwest. But it is very difficult to profit from a trip when your venues are a minimum of 300 miles apart. That means another night of lodging, meals, and gas. I will be focusing now on presentations in the greater Seattle area. Then I’ll pick areas where I can do multiple presentations within a 50-mile radius over a period of just a few days. Spokane for a weekend. Portland for a few days. You can’t profit from the sales of your book if you are spending everything you earn on travel. And certainly, I will consider a return trip to Minneapolis where friends might be willing to hold salon parties in their own homes, or to visit classmates, schools, and relatives where multiple events can be held. But not all on one trip!

086NWBookfestI’ve written a full article for my quarterly “Publish or Perish” column in Line Zero magazine on “Organizing the Author Tour.” It goes into a lot more detail than I’ve suggested here, but these are the top three things that I’ll be doing for my next book tour. I’m already thinking about how I’ll be promoting my Fall 2012 release of the new Dag Hamar mystery, “For Toil and Trouble.”

This is cross-posted at “The Rubricant” where you can also read about my entire book tour adventure!

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