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The demise of the book tour and the rise of its replacement

The Los Angeles Times published a piece on how book tours have transformed over the years, and especially now in this economy. 

Author Carolyn Kellogg writes:

“As the business of publishing changes, book tours increasingly look like bad risks. ‘In 99.9% of cases," says Peter Miller, director of publicity at Bloomsbury USA, "you can’t justify the costs through regular book sales.

Book tours used to be about local media. "You would go to these places to get reviews, interviews, TV and radio," Miller explains, but with print outlets closing down and cutting coverage and new technologies enabling long-distance video interviews, "it is becoming less important to do that kind of tour."

I’ve heard this sentiment echoed by at least two novelists who told me that they didn’t think their national book tours did much in terms of generating sales.  Instead, it would seem that well-placed, positive reviews, an adept use of digital media and some good old fashioned luck play more important roles in the success of a book.

Of course, writing a great book helps, too.

While a whirlwind national book tour sounds fun for someone like me who enjoys speaking to large groups of people, my obsession with my daughter and my desire to spend more time with her and my wife has me somewhat pleased that the book tours of the past have been scaled back.  As my publicist and I begin planning appearances for the release of UNEXPECTEDLY, MILO this summer, we’re limiting them to New England and New York.  While there are bookstores around the country who have inquired about my availability, the cost of such a book tour, in combination with my desire to remain close to home, have forced us to politely decline these requests. 

But in place of the old-fashioned book tour is the Internet.  This blog, in combination with my Twitter account, my Facebook page, my Flickr feed, and even the Android app that I designed to compile my online content have all helped me reach more readers in a week than your average book appearance.

This week alone (and eight months after the release of SOMETHING MISSING), I was contacted by seven different readers, three booksellers, three librarians requesting appearances, and two bloggers, one of whom I am sending a galley of UNEXPECTEDLY, MILO to so she can review the book and conduct an author interview. She loved SOMETHING MISSING and has been kind enough to say (more than once) that the book did not receive enough attention from the blogosphere upon its release.  She wants to change that for my next book (provided she likes it, of course) and I’m thrilled to help her in any way possible.  

I also picked up half a dozen Twitter followers this week (including two booksellers) became friends with three new readers on Facebook, and was invited to attend two different book club meetings about my book.    

All of this in one week, and this week was not unusual. 

Compared to the book tours that have been described to me, this week was much more successful in terms of reaching out to readers and building a brand. 

Sure, it would have been nice to appear on The Today Show or Oprah (are you listening, Ms. Winfrey?), and yes, I would love to travel the country someday, meeting with scores of readers and talking about my book and the process of writing.  But at the same time, I also love coming home each afternoon to my wife, my daughter, my pets, and the all-too-short evenings that I spend writing.

For now, a local book tour and a strong online presence is just find by me.