Sunday, October 2, 2011

Crap shoot

by: Joelle Charbonneau

As you read this, I am in the upper peninsula of Michigan for the first out of town weekend on the SKATING OVER THE LINE book tour. Before I started writing, I thought book tours sounded so glamorous. The idea of people standing in line for hours waiting to get a book signed by an author was pretty cool. Of course, that is before I got to know the business a bit better and learned that those lines are the exception to the rule. More often than not, an author on tour hopes he or she won’t be sitting alone in the bookstore when the signing starts. You hope someone – anyone – will come, talk to you and hopefully buy a copy of your book. If not – well, that’s the way it goes sometimes. Even for the big names. Some days the line is around the block. Other days there are crickets.

So why do it? Well, in my case I am lucky that the stops on my tour will hit places where I have friends and family. Thus, I will just about guarantee that I will have at least one or two people to talk to in case a stampede of clamoring readers doesn’t arrive. (Ha! A girl can dream, right?) But besides visiting with family and friends, the tour will allow me to talk to and get to know booksellers.

Getting a bookseller to carry your book even if it is published by a big publisher is a trick. Some bookstores or chains don’t like carrying books by authors who don’t have a strong sales history with them. Well, if you are a debut, or in my case a sophomore, author you haven’t had a lot of time to develop a sales history. They only have so much shelf space. They want it dedicated to books that will sell. If you don’t have a sales history or you don’t live in the region – they don’t trust it will sell.

Tricky, right?

So paying a visit to the stores, meeting the booksellers and letting them know you are more than a name on a page is important. Since you can’t do this for every story in the country you have to pick your battles and know that most of the battles will never be fought. You can only hope that a reader who wants your book will go into those unknown stores, ask for your book and order it thereby getting your name in front of the person who places the orders for stock. Maybe they’ll decide to look your book up, think it sounds like something their other readers might like and order a few extra copies.

Or not.

It’s all a crap shoot. Physical touring, blog tours, advertising, tweeting, Facebook posts and everything else done to promote books are all crap shoots. Some might work some of the time. Others might not work at all. And no one can tell you when and where those things will work for you. Fun right?

That’s what’s nice about this blog where I can ask the authors reading this – what touring/promotional stuff do you do for your books. And for the readings – what book promotions draw your attention? I’m dying to know!

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