How to Plan a Book Tour on Your Own

author reads on an indie book tour

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

A book tour may sound like some fanciful dream for an indie author, the kind of thing that’s only available to traditionally published authors with six-digit advances. But plenty of independent authors plan and execute successful book tours. In the end, bookstores don’t care if your book was published by one of the Big 5 publishers or if you self-published it; they only care that you can drive traffic to their store.

Book tours offer independent authors a chance to forge partnerships with bookstores, libraries, and other venues. They also offer opportunities to meet their readers, find new ones, and get a better sense of how their writing connects with their audience. So how do you plan a successful book tour?

Before contacting bookstores

Before you start calling bookstores to schedule dates, you’re going to need some essential information on hand. When is your exact release date? How can the store get copies of your book?

A good idea is to create a sell-sheet you can deliver to venue owners so they will have everything they need in one organized, complete document.

Create a sell-sheet

A sell-sheet should include:

  • A prominent image of your book’s cover.
  • A three-to-five sentence blurb describing your book.
  • General information, including your release date, publisher/imprint, the book’s ISBN, page count, and purchasing info.
  • A short about the author paragraph introducing who you are. Mention anything that will make you look great, like other published books or awards.
  • Your contact information, including website, email address, and phone number.
  • Any testimonials or reviews you’ve amassed that can vouch for the quality of your book and writing.

Here is an article that offers up great design ideas for sell-sheets. If you’re not a designer, consider hiring one.

Scaling your tour

The words “book tour” tend to evoke images of flying off to distant and glamorous locales across North America, but if this is your first tour, think locally. Start with a library, bookstore, and school in your hometown and branch out from there. Draw a circle around your house and find appropriate venues within an hour’s drive so you’re not dealing with hotel and travel expenses.

Also, by keeping it local, you are more likely to be a draw — and you’re more likely to know people who can come out to your event. Once you’ve hit all the places in your region, you’ll have a better sense of how well your tour is going and how people are reacting to your live event. Then you’ll be in a better place to expand your tour to other regions.

When choosing your next region, hit areas where you have friends first, or bring friends with you and make it a road trip.

Grow your author brand with eBooks

How can I find suitable venues for my book tour?

Bookstores seem like the most logical venues for hosting a book signing or reading, but that may not be the only or best place for you. (Not to mention, bookstores tend to book up, especially in the holiday season.) If you’re a children’s book author, you might want to focus on schools. Libraries are always open to hosting events, especially if the author is local and especially for nonfiction authors who can work educational angles into their presentations.

Cafes, community centers, art galleries, museums, and universities can also be excellent places to host an event. Consider the demographics of your target audience as well as the subject matter of your book. Tailoring your venue choices to your readers’ preferences will enhance the overall experience and boost attendance.

Research local book festivals and conferences to see if you can attend as a reader, panelist, or judge.

Schedule way in advance

If you wait until the last minute, you’re not going to have many options available to you. You also won’t have time to promote your appearance. Consider booking your tour four-to-six months ahead of time. Not only will you be more likely to get the dates you want, but you’ll have time for promotion and more flexibility should plans change.

Collaborate with other writers or influencers

Consider teaming up with other authors or influencers who share your target audience. Collaborative events can draw a larger crowd and provide a dynamic experience for attendees. Plus, these joint efforts will lighten the workload for you when it comes to promotion and planning.

Create promotional campaigns

six months to publishingYou are going to be responsible for promoting the event, not your venue. Be creative with your promotional campaign, using online and offline channels. You could submit a press release or leverage social media, your author website, and mailing lists to spread the word about your tour. Design printed and virtual promotional materials with consistent branding across all platforms. Engage with potential attendees by teasing event details, sharing behind-the-scenes insights, and highlighting the unique aspects of each venue.

Adapt to the ambiance

Each venue has its ambiance, and you should tailor your event to match. If you’re in a cozy cafe, an intimate, conversational format might be suitable. In contrast, a bookstore might accommodate a larger crowd for readings and Q&A sessions.

Rehearsal and dry runs

If you’ve never read your work out loud before, you will definitely want to practice. If possible, conduct dry-run events with a small group of friends or colleagues to gather feedback and identify spots to address in your presentation. Or try recording yourself and review to determine what works and what doesn’t. Make sure you are confident and rehearsed when it comes to showtime.

Day of the event

On the day of any of your tour events, arrive early to set up. Greet attendees with warmth and enthusiasm and create a welcoming atmosphere. Engage in meaningful interactions, sign books, and make an effort to connect with your readers. Capture the moments through photos and videos to share on your social media platforms and keep the tour’s momentum alive.

You need books for your tour!

Planning a book tour requires meticulous preparation and creativity. And if this is your first book tour, keep your expectations realistic — it’s not likely you’ll have 400 people showing up for each stop. Your goal with this first tour is to plant the seeds for your future tours: form personal connections with readers and venue owners, showcase your work, and build your email list. These should be the hallmarks of a successful tour.

Of course, the first thing you need for a book tour is your physical books, and BookBaby’s Complete Self-Publishing Packages have everything you need to publish printed books that will impress your readers at every tour event.

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