Mark Terry

Thursday, August 17, 2006

De Tour or Not De Tour, That Is The Question

August 17, 2006
I'm on a "professional" writers listserv via Mystery Writers of America. Yesterday--and I wouldn't be surprised if this continued for a while--somebody mentioned that they were hoping to "break out" their new book and whether people thought book tours and book signings were worth it.

This inspired quite a bit of activity on the list by a number of writers including Rhys Bowden and PJ Parrish and David Skibbens and quite a few others.

The consensus?

Wait for it. It's coming...

Nobody knows.

PJ Parrish notes that she's been sent on a tour and she's done them herself and there doesn't seem to be any correlation between book sales and the tours.

Rhys Bowden (and I'm not sure I've got her last name right) says she's done a little bit of everything, and there are times in your career when some things seem more worthwhile.

I'm guessing it has a lot to do with who you ask. Joe Konrath, who is wrapping up a 500 bookstore mega-tour would probably argue--and does on his website--that of course it's worth it. Of course, everybody who knows Joe agrees that he's insane. I interviewed Barry Eisler a while back and he tours a lot, too, and he put it something along the lines of:

"I have a promotion schedule, not a writing schedule. I wish I did have a writing schedule. How much promotion is entirely up to each individual, but I'm confident in saying the more promotion you do the more books you sell."

I'm gearing up for the publication of THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK on October 1, 2006. Part of that was the complete revamping of my website by Heidi Mack of I'm also doing around 3000 mailings of a brochure a graphic artist friend of mine designed. It'll go primarily to bookstores and libraries. My publisher flipped for AuthorBuzz, which sends out e-mail things to a ton of people, supposedly around 100,000 total. I'm doing a contest on the website and I'll be doing an e-newsletter.

Last year I hired a publicist and did some book signings at stores. I also did library talks and a lot of Rotary Club luncheons. It was probably a big money and time waster, but it's hard to tell. It definitely sucks up the time and the energy.

Will I do that this year? I'm not planning on it, although you never know. What I do plan to do is pay a visit to most of the bookstores in my part of the state and introduce myself to the managers and make them aware of my book. If they want to do a signing or something, fine, I'll do a signing. But in my experience signings aren't amazingly useful.

I'll hopefully do some interviews. Already have one tentatively lined up for a local cable access show about local writers. I imagine the local papers will do something. Although it looks like Bouchercon and Magna are out this fall, I'll probably do something next year along the conference line. I'm expecting to travel a bit this year and I'll try to drop in on a couple bookstores in whatever area I'm in and introduce myself and sign stock if they have it.

Will it work?

Damned if I know. I keep trying different things. I've more or less decided, for now, at least, that I have more money than I have time. My wife might not agree with that, but the way my writing business has been this year, it's true. So instead of traveling, I'm using the U.S. Post Office and the Internet. Of course, that might change. Things might take off. I might get invited to talk or sign. In which case, I will.

Mark Terry


Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

One factor that seems to get overlooked in discussions of touring is the size of one's publisher. A small publisher simply cannot get the sort of distribution a larger publisher can. I expect Joe Konrath is signing more books in stores than Poisoned Pen Press would typically print. You certainly wouldn't find any PPP book in Joe's 500 different stores. So while it might make sense to expend time and effort touring if you're with a large publisher, where the sales ceiling is high, it doesn't make as much sense touring if you're with a small publisher. Sure, maybe you can increase sales enough to get someone's attention, or maybe grab someone's interest by your efforts, but you're not going to increase sales enough to recoup the cost of the tour I'd think. And if you're really more likely to get a big publisher interested by touring as opposed to writing a book -- well, then I guess I'm in the wrong business.

12:50 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

It's been a very interesting discussion on the MWA listserv. PJ Parrish commented again today that she had dinner with Joe Konrath last night and referred to him as Dead Author Walking. He claimed to her that he wouldn't do it again, but he felt it was worth it.

He's been hitting chains, predominantly from the lists on his blog, and no, I wouldn't guess PPP has a huge presence in Borders & B&N, but probably does quite well with indies.

PJ mentioned that when her (their) publisher sent them on a tour, it was to indies because they didn't have as much of a presence at the indies. (Which is interesting, because the claim for so many mysteries is the indies make or break them, but, well, there's mythology in the publisher world, too, isn't there?)

PJ also noted today--and obviously I thought her post today was interesting--that she and several other writers discussed this with some publishers & bookstore owners and that none of them could agree on whether any of this was worthwhile to any of them. She also noted that there are plenty of writers who seem to do just fine staying at home, and possibly because there were so many authors touring or making visits that it was all getting sort of blase, which has always been my take on things.

In other words: Nobody Knows Anything.

1:31 PM  
Anonymous Dory said...

It would seem there are numerous variables; I'm not surprised.

A writer must take them seriously.

The bottom line IMO, is: The more you tour, the more your name gets out there.

And if your book ain't that great, the more folks will know NOT to buy a subsequent work.

A waiting game; only time will tell.


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