Saturday, December 01, 2007

Are Book Tours a Waste of Time?

From The Christian Science Monitor comes an interesting article about the way that modern media techniques are supplanting the traditional, usually more expensive, book tour during which authors hit the road for a few weeks of meeting and greeting that both publisher and author hope will move a nice number of books from the warehouse.

(Jenna Bush on tour)

The author tour, with its accompanying readings and signings, has come to be the quintessential tool for promoting books. It is a chance for writers to charm their readers and for readers to glimpse the person behind the words. At its best, the meeting can be electric. (At worst, nobody shows up.)

But in the past five years or so, observers say the traditional author tour has been in decline: Fewer writers are being sent out, and those who do tour make fewer stops. Among the many reasons for this shift are marketing tools that have made it possible to orchestrate a virtual encounter, without the hassle or expense of travel. Publishers and authors are now touting books through podcasts, film tours, blog tours, book videos, and book trailers. In fact, it's unusual for a book not to have some sort of Web presence.
These days, a book tour by a well-known author usually travels to just a handful of cities. Chances are, even the most ambitious promotional treks won't reach a small bookstore in, say, Dubuque, Iowa. For that reason, those involved with online marketing suggest that virtual events are actually reaching people who wouldn't otherwise come into contact with big-name authors.

"It's an interesting paradigm," says Mr. Weich of Powell's Books. "People tend to ask, 'Isn't this just going to replace the author tour?'
At this point, I don't see that book tours are in any danger of completely disappearing. I think there will always be a place in big city bookstores for face-to-face meetings between authors and readers. There is, and always will be, something special for readers about getting to shake the hand of a favorite author and walk away with a personalized autograph in that author's latest book.

But readers in small towns and rural areas seldom get that opportunity, so the new recorded-media book tours will actually offer them a glimpse of their favorite authors that they would never otherwise get. In a perfect world, the publishers will save a little money, the authors will actually be exposed to even more readers than is now the case, and readers will love the additional opportunity to "meet" their favorites. True, this isn't a perfect world, but I think that this trend is a good thing for most readers.

Link to the entire Christian Science Monitor article


  1. And maybe if publishers pay attention to the metrics all this new web marketing generates, they can be smarter about where their authors visit and the eliminate some of the risk of "no one showing up".
    Or even skip Miami and LA if they know the author has a large saturation of fans in Atlanta and Boise.
    I agree there will always be a place for a face to face event.

  2. Great points, Trav. Personally, I hope that book tours never die (at least before I do) because I really enjoy them. They are seldom boring to me and I enjoy the fact that most of the authors really seem to appreciate the readers who show up at the events.