|Here's me thinking deep thoughts on a panel.|
Like I did with the release of Junkie Love a couple years back, I embarked on a book tour to promote my latest work. A reader/fan/friend asked me the other day if the publisher helps set this stuff up. And the answer is yes. Sort of. Making the leap to a mid-size (Oceanview) has been terrific. I now have something I've never had before: a publicist. David sets up readings, arranges to have books at the venue, helps advertise. (I don't have to show up at a reading toting my own books like a hobo.) But a good chunk of the work still falls on my shoulders; and certainly I am footing the bill.
It's tough to quantify these things, how much your investment is paying off. Tax write-offs aside, I have noticed a correlation between these tours and immediate sales. The number one way to sell a book is still word of mouth. Despite all the technological advances and complex SEO algorithms, recommendations still matter. And this process is interconnected. The more people who know about you and your work, the better the chance they will like it and tell a friend.
But a book tour isn't cheap. And you need to get creative to make such an investment economically feasible. For one, you are not staying in swanky hotels. (Although Tom Pitts and I did get to stay at the Westin for Bouchercon.) By the time I rolled (solo) to Miami for the International Book Fair, I needed to couch surf (thanks, Mike Creeden). And frequent flyer miles are your friend. Being away from the family these last two weeks hasn't been easy. I've tried to cram in as many work-related events--panels, readings, talks--as possible. Even though these rarely come with stipends or honorariums (though they do sometimes), the real benefit is in the exposure. The more your name is out there, the better the chance someone recognizes it when they are perusing options at the bookstore or surfing the web.
I read somewhere the other day that in the 1950s around 8,000 ISBNs were issued; last year that number was 1.4 million. Just writing the book, getting an agent, securing a book deal is no longer enough. That's if, like I said, it ever was. As much as we authors enjoy (embrace?) the anonymity and seclusion of solitary writing, when it comes to securing sales, nothing beats ol' fashion pounding the pavement.
(For those of you in the Miami area, I will be speaking at the Miami International Book Fair this weekend. Hope to see you there.)
Joe Clifford is editor for Gutter Books and The Flash Fiction Offensive, and producer of Lip Service West, a “gritty, real, raw” reading series in Oakland, CA. Joe is the author of four books (Choice Cuts, Junkie Love, Wake the Undertaker, and Lamentation), as well as editor of Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Stories Based on the Songs of Bruce Springsteen. Find him at www.joeclifford.com.