The fantasy every aspiring writer has is that when a publisher accepts your book proposal, oodles of money will be waiting to take your book and introduce it to the world. In the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) session on The Modern Book Tour, first-time and multi-book authors alike came together to let burst that bubble. The good news is, there are creative ways to go about the modern book tour, stretch your budget, sell books, and more importantly, get the word out there about your brand and your book so that you reach that ultimate goal – the book selling itself.
The panelists were:
- Gaby Dalkin, Food Writer, Blogger at What’s Gaby Cooking, author of Absolutely Avocadoes.
- Aida Mollenkamp, Cooking Channel host, culinary curator, author of Keys to the Kitchen.
- Cheryl Sternman Rule, Blogger at 5 Second Rule, author of RIPE: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables.
- Joe Yonan, Food Editor of The Washington Post, author of Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One and Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook.
- Catherine McCord, Blogger at Weelicious.com, author of Weelicious Lunches.
- Virginia Willis, TV producer, Food Writer, Blogger at virginiawillis.com, author of Bon Appétit Y’all and Basic to Brilliant, Y’all.
TOP IDEAS AND TIPS:
1) “Think of yourself as a marketer as much as an author.” -Aida Mollenkamp. In other words, this book is an extension of you and your brand. It’s your job to get it out there and create “book evangelists” out of your readers.
2) Think beyond book readings, especially when it comes to funding. What makes sense with your book? First-time author Gaby Dalkin teamed up with an avocado board for her avocado-themed book tour, and instead of just book readings, she is throwing guacamole parties and avocado dessert parties (partially funded by the avocado board) so she can mingle with her readers.
3) Who is your audience? Let that guide where you sell. Cheryl Sternman Rule’s book was all about produce, so she set up a stall at farmers’ markets to represent her book. Gaby Dalkin‘s audience is mostly online, so she reached out to food bloggers to review her book.
4) Go with your brand. Catherine McCord had produced a lot of video content before her book release, so it made sense to make TV promos for her book.
5) When you get your signing advance, think about how you can leverage it to promote the book or make the book better in some way. Aida Mollenkamp saved a portion of hers for promotion and PR. Gaby Dalkin chose to have her book cross-tested and hired an outside publicist beyond the publisher, so when it came time to the book tour and she had used all her advance, smart partnerships with potential sponsors were all the more crucial. Cheryl Sternman Rule split hers with her photographer and cut costs on her book tour by staying with friends and family.
6) Recipe testing can be part of your PR. Catherine McCord wrote a book geared towards mothers, so she had 100 moms from the facebook community help test recipes, then cross referenced them for errors. That outreach helped spread the word among her potential readers.
7) “Authors think publishing companies have tons of money and publishing companies think authors complain a lot, but it’s a partnership.” –Virginia Willis. They’re betting that the advance they gave you won’t be money down the drain, that your book will sell. You’re betting that they’ll do all they can to support your selling the book.
8) Make sure you’re being smart about which events you pick. Virginia Willis teaches cooking classes, so when she’s asked to do one for part of her book tours, either the person who wants her to come or her publishing company foots the bill. BUT…make sure you don’t select additional events with competing companies or you will alienate the lovely people who are paying for your trip and helping you promote your book.
9) “Focus on venues that have a following of their own.” -Joe Yonan. Look up the venue and make sure they have a good track record of attendance for their events. Or hook up with a group that has a strong following in the community – a built-in audience.
10) Get a budget from your publisher. Joe Yonan felt he should have asked for one outright, since he suggested events and was supported by his publisher until a cut-off point that he wasn’t aware of beforehand. Now for his upcoming book, he’s being more strategic about which events he chooses based on his budget.
11) Don’t assume a big venue means a big audience. Virginia Willis found her audience was much bigger at unusual venues like hospitals or smaller towns than at obvious picks like Barnes and Noble, where she mostly pointed out the bathroom to customers. Audience member and cookbook author Crescent Dragonwagon suggested libraries.
12) Don’t assume. Ask. Catherine McCord had several readings where she assumed the venue was doing advance publicity and they assumed she was. The end result? Almost nobody came.
13) Set up a google alert on the subject of your book, then reach out and make personal connections with those people, suggested audience member and cookbook author Crescent Dragonwagon.
14) Don’t forget about online! Facebook chats, google hangouts and Shindig are part of the modern online book tour and a great way to get in touch with your audience without having to actually travel.
15) “Don’t be passive.” – Joe Yonan. He recalled an event at a restaurant, where he hadn’t asked how it was going to work, and the chef cooked a recipe from his book, but nobody told the attendees where it came from. He remembered them having no idea who he was. One great suggestion for special dinners was having the book included in the price of the ticket, so attendees are automatically buying your book.