Thursday, June 26, 2008

Blogs and Book Tours

Slow on the posting lately, mainly because I've been caught up in two different writing projects on top of work, and my writing comes before my blogging. So, no apologies.

If you have guest blogged for a well known publisher/ editor/ writing celeb or other notable, is it ok to include that under your writing experience?

...Not really? I would say you're grasping at straws here. Unless it's directly related to the manuscript, don't include it in the query.

On the further subject of blogs, I was compelled to start an author blog by the company publishing my first book (no, I won't tell you where the blog is). So far I've used it to post reviews as they start to come in and really nothing else. The publicity assistant also talked about a "blog tour" as opposed to a book tour, which benefits the company because it doesn't cost money, and benefits the author in that it doesn't take as much time.

This is not to dismiss the traditional book tour, though publishers are increasingly turning against them. The reasons are obvious: they're costly, they're inconvenient, and the book store has to order in the copies themselves sometimes and if they don't sell the bookstore gets mad at the publisher (which is never good for the publisher, which needs the bookstore to buy the books to sell them in the first place). Most of all, unless the author is a celebrity, people don't go to the readings and not only does it not sell books but it can turn into a very depressing experience for the author. Rarely do publishing companies make a huge effort to shield their authors from psychological trauma (especially as mild as facing an uncomfortable amount of empty chairs), so it's nice to hear them being altruistic like that.

In the movie Capote, Truman (Hoffman) gives a reading of his then-unfinished manuscript of In Cold Blood to a packed theater of New York Literati. It does make for a lot of nostalgia, and I just found it funny because he's reading from an unfinished manuscript, and later has problems finishing it, so I thought the reading was a bit premature, even for those days. But anyway, nice scene. Slow movie.

The truth is that the art of the book reading, while not dead, is certainly in some kind of state where IV fluids might be required. The only readings I've ever been to were ones I was dragged to in college or grad school because my professor knew the writer, plus one reading because it was between me and the history section at the Union Square Barnes and Noble and Jimmy Carter was the speaker so the Secret Service guys wouldn't let me through. And I didn't stay for the whole reading. Oh, and once in high school because I had nothing better to do.

It was actually a great presentation. Anne Rice was speaking the following week at the same Borders (I believe The Red Violin was coming out), and this author was a run-of-the-mill fantasy author who had written a Forever Knight franchise novel. For those of you who don't remember or never knew because you have a life, Forever Knight was a show about a vampire who was a cop and the whole show was ruined by its really, really terrible ending. Possibly the worst ending for a series ever if not for Sopranos. Anyway, this author realized there was no reason to talk about the book, as we were either going to buy it because we liked the show and showed up or we were there because that's where all the chairs were, so instead she gave about an hour presentation on the history of the vampire myth, and how it entered pop culture. It was one of the most interesting explanations of how we went from burying comatose people at crossroads to Count von Count. I was so impressed by her sheer historical knowledge that I bought the book to compliment her. I never read it. I don't even really remember why I was there in the first place; maybe we just went to the bookstore to kill time before a movie or something.

The point is, if you're a first-time author, or even just an author who is not a former President, you're probably not going to draw a crowd. I like George R. Martin but it doesn't mean I necessarily want to listen to him read a Sansa chapter. People go for autographs, but the modern autograph market has kinda bottomed out thanks to eBay. So, not going on a book tour is probably not just the publicity market being cheap (though they are undoubtedly doing that) but saving you from hassle and time that you could be spending writing your next book.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

How funny that this actually relieves my mind. I've got 4 kids at home and can't imagine going on a book tour.

Kizmet

Anonymous said...

I just came back from a book tour and to be honest I wish my publisher had spent the money on marketing instead. I probably sold 25 books in three cities. It was really depressing. And now there's no marketing money.

inherwritemind1 said...

saving you from hassle and time that you could be spending writing your next book.

Amen to that. And like Kizmet, I'm hugely relieved.

Sheila Lamb said...

So I probably won't be like Carrie on SATC and be flown all around by my publisher (as of this point, imaginary)to read chapters to large crowds??? :-)

I've gone to several book signings, but don't think I've heard an author read there (maybe I showed up late). They read at workshop, but not at the signing.

numdlmom said...

How does one go on a blog book tour? Does the publisher provide you with a list of blogs that you can comment on? Do you cold call on popular agent/author blogs?

This sounds infinitely more valuable for exposure than some poor author sitting at a table while customers pass by without a second glance.

R. A. Mare said...

If you can find some other way to make a "reading" interesting, just like your example, I think that's the way to go. I went to see YA author Libba Bray at the end of her tour for The Sweet Far Thing; she spent most of her time on stage telling funny stories about things that had happened while she was on tour, and then she did an impromptu song & dance of "Total Eclipse of the Heart." It was lots of fun.

Etiquette Bitch said...

the other problem with author readings is that because writers are not actors/speakers, they can be so abysmally bad.

As a writer and actor, I've offered classes and sessions to coach writers on how to deliver good, interesting readings, and, the funny thing is, no author thinks he/she needs to know how to engage an audience, or present their work well.

One writer, who didn't think she needed said skills, was given a 10-minute reading slot at a reading series; she took 30 minutes, and told a long, painful story of her time as a Victoria's Secret associate. Half the audience was asleep.

ignatius said...

don't mean to be all cranky, but if you have so little time to post on your blog, i suggest next time you spare all the hoo-hah about bad tv-show endings and being roped into readings as if it were a chore. i would've preferred hearing how the whole "blogging tour" thing works and if it sells books.

Adrienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
georgiam said...

I’d never really had the chance to attend a reading until this year, but from what I’d seen online they seemed to be fun. Of course, all those readings were of famous authors and mostly taking places at cons so I guess that just adds to your point.

Elrena said...

On the subject of blog book tours, I've participated in several now for MotherTalk (http://mother-talk.com) and had a blast.

Just thought I'd throw that out there for people who are interested....

And Rejecter, if you're giving away your author URL to people who ask nicely... elrena [at] elrenaevans [dot] com. :)

The Rejecter said...

Cons are a totally different animal. If you can get yourself into a con, do it. People will show up because they're killing time before the next panel and your room is on the way.

And no, not handing out the address, thank you for asking. And it's not an interesting blog.

Sera Phyn said...

I am definitely curious about the "blog tour" idea. It's a concept I haven't heard of before. How exactly does it work?

Anonymous said...

So basically what you're saying is that Paul Krugman (NY Times op-ed article Bits, Bands and Books, June 6, 2008) is pretty much not the publishing Messiah ushering in a new world order of author branding and ancillary revenue?

Cause, yanno, I was all ready to get rich selling t-shirts and hats, and touring like Gerry Garcia.

*sorry, don't know how to make a link to the article, my bad*

The Rejecter said...

I guess he isn't, because I hadn't heard of him. I mean if he was some kind of Messiah, surely someone would have told me. And then I would have been all disappointed that it was a PUBLISHING Messiah and not just a Messiah.

kitty said...

Don't forget that even Carrie's book reading was a dud, because just about everyone who attended was there to see Mr. Winkle the dog.

...

Adrienne said...

There is one exception to this. Being a children's book author is awesome because you have ready made audiences for you. School visits. I've read to auditoriums filled with up to 200 kids and their teachers.

Corner your audiences in classroom settings, that's the way to go my friends!

(reposting old post that I deleted above)

pegasus358 said...

Not to digress, but I adored Forever Knight, and deeply mourned the ending of it.

Jana Lubina said...

Ah, Sex and The City. Can't escape those references anywhere, can I?

Regarding book tours -- I have never gone to an author signing/reading and many of my favourite authors have been in town on several occassions. They just don't interest me. And unless someone like Gabriel Garcia Marquez ever commits to doing something like that, I'm not changing my mind anytime soon.

I've always wondered at the marketing genius behind these events. I've passed by many of them, and the author's sitting ackwardly in front of a pile of books with no one stopping by.

I'd rather crawl into a pit and die than be in that situation.

OH and the dreaded accidental eye contact with the author in those cases.

Just horrible. In every way.

Blog tours on the other hand -- that has potential. That sounds interesting.

The Rejecter said...

Pegasus,

I thought parts of it were great. It didn't deserve that ending.

Kimber Chin said...

Not a fan of the 'in person' book tour either.

However, I LOVE blog tours. I find it is usually a place for authors to shine. I mean... it is the written word, right?

Annelisa said...

Following a link from the NaNoWriMo site to Writer's Digest, I've just spent a very enjoyable hour or two, whiling away my 'draft editing' time, reading through your many useful and informative posts.
WD was right to put you in top 101 websites...I've got a lot out of visiting here - thank you!

Alice said...

I'm in YA fiction and, like Adrienne, I do a lot of readings at schools.

Love them! They are heaps of fun and totaly interesting! Not one is like the other - but so far I've been enjoying myself tremendously.

Public readings are more difficult. I'm lucky if 10 to 20 people turn up - but here again, I always have fun and enjoy the readings.

Alice

Anonymous said...

WHat is the rejecter afraid of? Why she no say who she is so we can check out her booK and buy it and review it? The book could be in a pen name, anyway, right....

Kanani said...

Over on The Writerly Pause, we've spoken to many authors --both first timers and others who've published a lot. The coverage and mileage an author can get over the blogosphere can't be overlooked. We had a blast working with Pat Woods and Adrienne Kress, and we also got to understand blog traffic as well.

But the caveat is really with the author. The author has to show a willingness to hope on and help drive traffic to his or her site by posting on well trafficked blogs.

Anonymous said...

"But the caveat is really with the author. The author has to show a willingness to hope on and help drive traffic to his or her site by posting on well trafficked blogs."

Which is why there's really 2 kinds of posts on these blogs: posts from normal people like me who say whatever they want, and what they really feel, and posts from authors using the blogs as a promotional platform, which are really just advertisements from branded (or hopefully so) names who cannot afford to let their real feelings show lest they offend someone necessary to their success in the industry, resulting in a sterile, canned atmosphere...much like a workplace, where everyone is afraid to offend anyone and they always want to appear like they are super-productive while retaining that but-I'm-still-having-so-much-fun-even-though-I-get-tons-of-work-done mystique.

Whenever I see a blogger name with a real first-and-last name link to a promotional web site, I immediately ignore whatever they say from that point on, because I know it's fake and only for the purpose of sales. I'm not here to buy stuff. If I wanna be sold to I'll go to Amazon.

kirsten saell said...

posts from normal people like me who say whatever they want, and what they really feel, and posts from authors using the blogs as a promotional platform, which are really just advertisements from branded (or hopefully so) names who cannot afford to let their real feelings show lest they offend someone necessary to their success in the industry, resulting in a sterile, canned atmosphere...

Oh sh*t, opinionated hag that I am, I've been doing it wrong this whole time. Will stick to sterile self-promotion from now on....

Bernita said...

Me too, Kirsten.
Guess I've screwed my career before it's even really begun.

Anonymous said...

Conventions are great as well as festivals. I live in Charlottesville, VA, which has the Festival of Book every year. I go to at least one event each year, and it is usually packed and the books sell out. Mid-list authors are usually put on panels with other authors talking on a similar topic and the attendance is usually packed. If you can make the trip, I think it would be an excellent opportunity for any author.

http://www.vabook.org/index.html/

Neil Plakcy said...

There is a Yahoo Group called Blog Book Tours (but all one word) which is run by a wonderful writer named Dani. There's lots of information there about blog book tours.

In short, you find people who have blogs with readership by people who might be interested in your book, and then you ask if you can be a guest blogger there some time.

The key is to write something specific to their audience that is also representative of your voice and style. You're entertaining their readers, and hopefully a few of them will be interested in your book.

This is very prevalent in the mystery community. I did four or five different blog visits in support of my most recent book, and it was fun and also got my name out to readers.

(And I guess that person who ignores everything with a person's real name will ignore this post, too.)

Sera Phyn said...

Thanks for that explanation. That makes sense (so much sense I'm hitting myself on the head for not figuring it out myself) and seems pretty awesome. Not only is it cheap and easy, it's as permanent as anything could be. Even years down the line, someone could still stumble across a guest blog post you did. That seems like such a huge bonus! Book tours definitely have nothing to compare to that.