Today while sipping on an eggnog latte at Starbucks and putting off writing my finals, I came across this article in the Atlantic on the death of the modern book tour.
In it, the author details the cutbacks publishing houses had to push through after the 2008 recession, including shortening book tours, replacing touring publicists with local “escorts” who show authors around, and nixing the book tour entirely for most first-time authors. It appears the days of running down Harper Collin’s company credit cards while traveling all over the world, if they ever existed, are coming to an end. While its true that lengthy book tours don’t always translate into booming sales, the author is quick to point out that the sort of intimacy and loyalty fostered between writers and their fans on tour is something that can’t be duplicated anywhere else.
I’m a big fan of the book tour. I’ve fumbled over my words while the amused and handsome Reza Aslan autographed my book, driven myself two hours across Jersey to talk spirituality and The Raven Cycle with Maggie Stiefvater, and have been comforted by Catherynne M. Valente on Twitter when I had to bail last-minute on a signing. I’ve also been introduced to the wonderful writing of Joseph Bathanti and Lauren Winner because someone took me with them to a reading.
Tours may be expensive, and they might not translate well to the number-crunching bottom line, but I’m not ready to give up on them yet. Yes, book tours aren’t always sexy, and every author has read aloud to a conference room with four people in it. But for authors who know how to create hype on social media, events can be much more well-attended and, in turn, well documented on Twitter, Tumblr, and all the other places readers go to find the Next Big Thing.
And on the note of the internet, one critical issue the author didn’t cover is virtual tours, a publicity move that I think is quickly gaining traction and credibility. In this model, publicists assemble a squad of book bloggers and booktubers who release promo material, reviews, and maybe even author interviews over a series of days or week. It’s an amazing way for bloggers to connect with new authors and boost their own visibility, and for authors to promotw their book on grassroots level to a diverse audience. Still, that’s not quite the same experience as shaking an author’s hand or passing them a letter about how much their work has meant to you.
What are your thoughts on book tours? I’m wild about them, but maybe they are falling out of favor after all. But, as the chyerti of Valente’s Deathless would say, life is like that.