Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Group Tour

Question of the Week: "There are many different ways to promote a new book. Which do you feel is the most effective?"

I've tried some fun promotional ideas for books. I interviewed the mayor who inspired my first murder victim in Dead Politician Society. I made playing cards to match the cover of Death Plays Poker. My very favorite promo tool, though, is the group tour.

In June, 2012, three talented friends and I plotted a tour around the Vancouver area. (Hilary Davidson, Deryn Collier, and Ian Hamilton.) We called ourselves Three Hip Chicks and One Old Fart. (One guess who came up with that one.) We all stayed at my place while it was under heavy renovations (we were cooking dinner in the makeshift laundry room kitchen), and it was like a five day camping trip where we bonded and drove around and ate and drank a lot. The smallest crowd we spoke to was 6 people (counting the drunk guy, the self-promoting aspiring author who kept plugging his own book in the Q&A, and the lovely older woman who nodded off about a quarter of the way in) and our largest event was packed with standing room only. Because we were hanging out and enjoying each other's company, how many books we sold (or how many people were awake in the audience) was immaterial. But we did all sell a lot of books that week.

Here's an interview we did with Kevin Sylvester on CBC Radio (in which I speak too freely about my feelings about literary snobs): http://www.cbc.ca/thesundayedition/shows/2012/07/01/hour-1-1/

The next year, in May 2013, I had a new book coming out. Deryn sat that one out (and she was missed!) but Hilary and Ian were game. We thought we'd give Ontario a try next. We invited our friend Robert Rotenberg to join us, and we planned a series of events throughout Southwestern Ontario. Again, we had events with six people (where we bought books so the bookseller's time wasn't completely wasted) and others that were sold out. But with friends on the road, we were having fun whether we sold books or not. And over the course of that week, we did all sell lots of books.

In Vancouver I've found myself banded together with a wonderful troupe of local crime authors. Dietrich Kalteis brought Noir at the Bar to Vancouver recently, and we've been reading with drinks in our hands to a similarly lubricated audience. It's more like a reading series than a group tour, but we've been having a blast with authors like Owen Laukkanen, Sam Wiebe, E.R. Brown, Linda L.Richards, Charlotte Morganti, D.B. Carew. (Am I forgetting anyone? I hope not. Let me know and I'll edit this post!) We've also been doing some offshoot events at libraries and bookstores, so while it's not an official tour, it kind of feels like one.

There's nothing worse than being a lone author on a stage when the crowd is thin. But when there are three or four (or five, or eight) of you, you have a great conversation no matter who shows up. And, paradoxically, I think not caring about sales and just chatting away about books makes potential readers intrigued to buy a book or two.


Paul D. Marks said...

Robin, the idea of the group is a good one. Especially as, on occasion, few if anyone shows up. So you can have fun together anyway. And I love your mention of the guy in the audience trying to plug his own book. There's always one, isn't there?

RJ Harlick said...

Great post, Robin. I've also done the group tour, sometimes 3 of us, other times just 2 and have also found it a very enjoyable way to promote our books.

Meredith Cole said...

Group tours are a lot of fun, Robin! It's also a great way to cross promote to each other's fans. And if no one shows up at your event, you have several other witty wonderful people to talk to... :)

Susan C Shea said...

What you remember is the fun you had, which probably means that's what the readers remember too!

Catriona McPherson said...

Predictably, I've never done a group tour. Even more predictably, it sounds like a great idea.