As I plan for my Adironack-chair-on-the-porch portion of promoting my novel, The Divorce Girl, I'm excited about the possibilities of being two places at once without leaving home. Yes, I will actually go many places and do readings, talks or signings, but it's likely I will reach more than half of people who will buy my book by doing virtual touring.
Why I'm doing some touring from home is because it makes sense, saves money and time, and can be a far more effective way to reach an audience. I remember driving to Oklahoma City a few years ago -- a six-hour drive from my home -- to read in a bookstore, only to discover the book did no publicity about my reading, and the only people who showed up were related to me. Having had many such unfortunate experiences, I've been researching ways to truly connect with readers without wiping myself out, having to fill the gas tank on my own dime, or arriving at places caffeine-and-driving-jittery only to find no sign whatever (literally at times) that I'm supposed to read there.
So here's four ways to tour from home, and three out of these four are free (except for the time involved, by driving to places to do readings often takes more time). These four armchair tours are all interlocking pieces too: the more you put yourself out there via facebook, the more opportunities you'll have for skyping into bookclubs, which can lead to more people hearing about you through word-of-mouth, then looking up your videos or reading some of your blog tour columns. Marketing is like that: it's cumulative, one thing not simply added to another but multipying the effect of another if done well and thoughtfully.
- Blog Tour: I did a blog tour with http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/ for The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community and Coming Home to the Body in 2009, and I loved it. The blog tour this site offers gave me exposure on 12-15 high traffic websites focused on people who would value my book. At the same time, it's a lot of work to write 12-15 columns and/or interview responses and also line up my publisher mailing some of the sites free copies of the book that could be given away for further promotion. The Women on Writing blog tours start at about $350 and go on up from there, and I just purchased the lower end one for my novel. The people are easy to work with, understand the importance of matching you with with the right sites, and answer emails promptly. There are other blog tours available (just google "book blog tours"), but check out any site you're considering with great care. Make sure they do tours for your kind of book, and look at examples of previous blogtours they hosted. Beware promises of thousands and millions in booksales for hundreds and thousands of your dollars, and beware people who put down "traditional blog tours" in favor of something akin to you winning the lottery.
- Armchair Bookclub Visits: I'm about to pilot joining bookclubs via telephone (put on speaker phone, of course) or skype on the basis of the bookclub purchasing seven or more copies of my book. Why seven? It's simply my favorite number, but it's also seems to me to be a reasonable amount of books for a bookclub to buy. My publisher is working with me to sell these bundles of books to participating clubs with the added incentive of no shipping costs. Once everyone gets and reads the book, the fun begins: I join the bookclub for an hour to do a short reading, discuss aspects of the book, answer questions, etc. I've found that reading to even a small group can be the most rewarding way to read my work to people, so I believe doing these visits will lift me up. These visits also give the bookclub something special. I'm hoping to visit at least a dozen and as many as 50-60 bookclubs, starting in July (when the book is released) over the year. If, for example, I connect with even 40 bookclubs with an average of seven people each, that's 280 readers who, having met the author, may be more prone to suggest this book to their circles of friends and family. Shall I sip iced tea and eat a cookie while I visit some bookclubs? Certainly, especially since I'll be in the comfort of my own home.
- Beam Me Up, Scotty: As just about any book publicist will tell you, getting yourself on video -- via vimeo.com, youtube.com or facebook -- talking about your book is key, but what to talk about and how to do it? Make sure you can either put the video camera (or any camera that does video) on a flat surface or tripod because it's too easy to make a bad looking video if your kid or non-video-shooting husband is holding the camera, trying to stay very still. Then aim for short samples: two-to-seven minutes of you reading an expert, talking about why you wrote this book, what you hope this book gives to readers, some geographic or historic aspect of the book, a particular character, how you came up with this book in the first place, what you learned from a characters (or your characters in general), what some of the themes of the book are (e.g. love heals all, healing through the arts, etc.), and any other little tidbit. Sit or stand in a well-lighted place, wear just a few colors (too many patterns and pizzazz don't translate well on camera), and talk in a conversational voice, as if you're simply telling a friend of about something related to your book.I plan to make six to ten little video spots, and then distribute them via facebook, my blog/website, twitter and other sites that might feature them, and also list the URLs in any press material that goes out (also a great thing to share with potential bookclubs).
- Facebook Page: "The single most important thing an author needs these days is a facebook page for her book," a former publicist told me on a plane when sat next to each over over five hours of travel delays. "Really?" I asked. "Really," she affirmed. Facebook does seem to have a bazillion users, and so it's a good place to promote what you're doing with your book. First start a page for your book, and then ask all your facebook friends to "like" it and to post it on their friends. You can challenge people to help you reach a goal ("Hey, I'm almost at 200 likes for The Divorce Girl -- please help me by passing the word"). Once you find followers, you can post on your page any readings, give-aways, special events, news, links to reviews, photos and videos that relate to your book, kind of like a mini booktour diary. It's also good to ask your facebook friends, perhaps every month or so, to like your book page if they haven't, and also post the link to your facebook page on their page.