Armchair Book Tours: Getting Yourself Out There Without Leaving Home

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 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, 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.

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  • Jane Arie Baldwin

    Thanks Caryn. Really good information. I'm finishing my first memoir - Divine Amnesiac: Love, Cancer, and Killing the Crazies and I'm enjoying finding other memoirists. I cannot wait to read your book and I really appreciate all the information you have shared.

  • Laura Brennan

    Lucinda, what fun!  I am so new to Twitter... I've just followed you and I'll try to join in on Thursday am - a bit late, but I'll be there.

  • Lucinda Cross

    FYI: I decided to do a Twitter Party, maybe this can be beneficial to some of you as well to include in your book marketing. Here is a link to mine ad you can join in to see how it operates.

  • Laura Brennan

    This is such wonderful, practical advice!  It can also be fun to make videos that spin off from your topic somehow, or ones where you are being interviewed by someone else.  And I had no idea that blog tours were purchased and arranged - I thought you pitched yourself to various blogs and they were interested or not.  Fascinating!

  • Thanks so much for commenting, Beth, Jolie, Catherine, Julie, Suzie and Melva. Marcia, if you scroll down, you'll see my reply to someone else about finding bookclubs (it's hard to see because of the amount of comments, but keep going, and you'll find it).

  • Beth Lane

    Love the Skype and Book Club idea - any suggestions on how to find book clubs?

  • Marcia Fine

    Love all your suggestions! How do you find the book groups?

  • Jolie du Pre

    Excellent article.  I'll be promoting this article at LL-Publications blog.  I agree 100 percent about Facebook.  As an author, I can't afford to NOT be involved in Facebook.

  • Catherine McNamara

    Great post, also wild coincidence! I am currently promoting my novel 'The Divorced Lady's Companion to Living in Italy' - a slightly kinky story of rebirth in Milan with espresso and linguistics! I'm a disorganised FB user, Twitter novice, blogger maniac. Not all armchair however - I'm off to London for the launch for me that means eating Asian food instead of Italian for a week! Good luck, cat

  • Julie Golden

    Thanks Caryn, for your concise post – packed with good information. The blog-tour price is something not so widely shared. It's so helpful that you included numbers/facts instead of just promotional concepts.

  • Melva Sue Priddy

    Caryn, again thanks for even more timely information.  It's nice to hear from one who has experienced the work.

  • Suzie Grogan

    Really useful and timely post as I have a book out in the next few months. Really nervous about the marketing side of things. Thanks for this!

  • Lucinda, I also second Nancy's advice to create your own fb page for the book. As for contacting bookclubs, I plan to put together a flyer and then write a personal note, mailing sets of these to various bookclubs, but I'm guessing I'll get more invitations simply through facebook and the blogtour.

  • Natasha Bauman

    Thanks again, Caryn.  I can't wait to see how it works out for you! 

  • Lucinda Cross

    Thank you so much, time to create the page...thanks

  • Nancy Miller

    Lucinda, I've been strongly encouraged by my agent and publisher to create a special FB page just for the book, although I haven't gotten around to doing this, either, but am looking into it. It makes sense, though, as you will be driving potential readers to your book directly. It's a place they won't have to navigate around as much because it's devoted solely to your book.

  • Lucinda Cross

    This book is right on time. Although I have several fanpages on FB should I still create one just for the book? I have also searched google for book clubs do i send them a letter about the book for them to review and a free chapter or just a letter stating why my book is a good read for their club.

    Thanks for book Road to Redemption is coming out next month and I am behind time but i will start my couch potato book tour without spending a dime on travel. thanks

  • Thanks so much, everyone! Angelina, I appreciate you taking the time to comment, and you too, Eunice and Joanne. Nancy, I've been learning the hard way when to say yes or no, and sometimes I still show up places where I wish I hadn't. Natasha, as far as how to find bookclubs, stay tuned! I plan first to contact book clubs connected to my local bookstore, which is in touch with several. I think many local or even Barnes & Noble stores keep lists of book clubs, and then you could get hold of those lists and contact them. i also plan to list my willingness to visit bookclubs (from a distance) on facebook, my blog, and in the blurb about me that will appear in all my blog tour bio on those 12-15 blogs I'll be visiting. But I'll let you know how it goes. It's all a happy experiment!

  • Excellent post, Caryn. Thanks for telling us about your experience and for the information.

  • Eunice Boeve

    Thanks Caryn. Sounds like great information. I'm going to go back and read it as often as it takes. :-)

  • Nancy Miller

    This is really great advice, Caryn, and something I've been wondering about in light of several invitations I've received to read or do signings. Love the idea of synchronous meetings or phone conferencing. I use these VOIPs in teaching and they are a great way to save time, money and still be accessible and promoting your work. Thanks!

  • Joanne Orion Miller

    More great ideas! Thanks again, Caryn.

  • Natasha Bauman

    Hi Caryn,

    This is a very helpful post.  Thanks!  I have a question about the bookclub tours.  How did you find the book clubs?  I tried to do that with my first book, and didn't have any success at all.  I think it's a wonderful idea.

    Natasha Bauman