When Ron Tanner decided to promote his book, he really went for it. He didn’t go for Twitter and Facebook like everybody else. He outfitted a camper van and did a self-funded forty-state, sixty-city book tour .
He was promoting From Animal House to Our House: A Love Story. It was about how he and his then-girlfriend (later his wife) restored an old fraternity house to its former Victorian grandeur. His girlfriend didn’t want to go on the tour so his only company was his basset hound, Cleo.
In the recent issue of “Poets and Writers” magazine Tanner recounted some of his experiences and what he learned about face-to-face book marketing. Here are some of his key findings and advice.
Find local partners
At least six months in advance, for each city you are visiting find and contact an organization that connects to your topic or theme in some way. Offer to speak at a meeting of their members or some other event. Make no demands (in other words, don’t expect to get paid).
There are friends and there are “friends”
Don’t count on your Facebook friends for help; only your real friends and relatives are likely to come through.
The sad truth about book stores
Some book stores now charge non-famous writers to do a signing or a talk. Some ask for a co-op fee, meaning they want you to split the cost of publicising the event. Tanner's publisher took this on in some cases.
Although you’d expect independent book stores to be welcoming, many are feeling the strain and can’t be bothered with events that don’t result in much benefit to them. Tanner says bookstore appearances were the least beneficial of his activities. Instead, he suggests, hold your own event at a friend’s house or library.
Help get the word out
Offer to help with the publicity for each appearance on your tour. This means contacting newspapers, online events calendars, radio and TV stations. Have an online press kit they can access. Mention your local partners.
Don't just read
Instead of a reading, make a presentation. Tanner used a slide show with lots of humor. Use graphics, props, artefacts , anything relevant that keeps the audience entertained.
A tour is hard work
Tanner had assistance from an intern provided by the publisher, but he says he really needed at least two helpers to manage the bookings, confirm appearances, etc.
Touring the country by yourself, even with a basset hound, gets old pretty fast. Tanner called his girlfriend every day and met lots of people but it still was lonely work at times.
Did he make any money? Was it worth it? The answers will be in the next post. There I’ll also tell you the story of another author. This one did something similar and managed to turn his book into a best-seller that made him rich.
(You’ll find a chapter on traditional marketing and another on guerrilla marketing, in my book, “Your Writing Coach.” It’s published by Nicholas Brealey and available from Amazon or your other favorite book seller.)