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View Full Version : Author spending $12,000 on a book tour.



Weirdmage
06-17-2014, 12:58 AM
This article turned up in my Twitter feed: http://thebillfold.com/2014/06/what-it-costs-to-diy-a-first-book-tour/

The short version is an author paid $12,000 out of her own pocket for doing a book tour. She is with a publisher. I haven't heard of the publisher, but the book isn't something I'd be likely to hear about, so that does not have to matter.

I find it incredible that an author should pay that much from their own pocket for doing promotion. I can't see anything from the article about who suggested the book tour, her first answer doesn't really help determine it either.
Personally I wouldn't say that her story makes me believe this was worth the money when it comes to selling the book. (She does suggest she thinks it was a good experience for her, so your mileage on that may vary.)

What I do wonder is if the often repeated myth that "authors have to pay for their own marketing" is part of what made her decide to pay for this?
And another thing I do wonder is if this is becoming the way to do things, is getting a book out there going to become a thing that only people with money will be able to do?

For myself, I think that $12,000 would go a long way when it comes to setting up a micro publisher and getting an offset print-run done. That way you could offer bookstores a sizeable discount off a reasonable RRP (and maybe even the option for returns).

I wonder what others on here think. Is this something authors should do if they have the money at hand? Do you agree with me that setting up your own publisher, or at least paying for a print run, would be a better option?
Curious as to what people's reaction both to this generally and to this article in particular is.

Liosse de Velishaf
06-17-2014, 01:20 AM
I think it makes more sense when you know she is with a university press. Especially a small one. Especially with a short story collection. If it worked for her, then good.

But I think to use it as an example in the "publishers don't market their authors" debate is a bit misleading. It's a university press, staffed entirely by students, run out of a university in Maryland. I've seen a bit of how the small university presses work, and I don't find it surprising that she didn't get a whole lot of support. Plus she admits that she was told selling 1,500 copies was impressive considering her publishing situation. There's no way some dinky little student press can afford $12,000 book tours.

Perks
06-17-2014, 01:27 AM
The larger publishers have scaled way back on book tours for the simple fact that this woman found out the hard way -- book tours don't sell books.

My publisher sent me to a handful of bookstores that were close to me (and very kindly to a wonderful bookstore in Austin, Texas, because my mother was ill and unable to travel to see me do a bookstore event where I live.)

No one but diehards really come out to see unknown authors. Big name authors are a nice draw of goodwill for the bookstores and for encouraging readers to buy now and not wait for the paperback. Other than that, book tours don't really make financial sense, or spendable cents.

Samsonet
06-17-2014, 01:29 AM
I thought book tours were generally useless in selling books?

Perks
06-17-2014, 01:33 AM
It's weird. If you've had a little success, you can get a some extra traction with a limited book tour for a subsequent release, but the publicity departments really weigh those costs.

It will be interesting to see what, if anything, my publisher decides to do as far as book tour for my next one. I like doing them, even if only a few people show up, just because I like meeting people and going to bookstores. TGF did okay, but I have no idea what they've got in mind for sending me thither and yon next year.

I never sold more than a few copies at anything other than my book launch.

ETA - That's a lie. I actually sold well at conferences. Just bookstore events were almost always less than ten copies. I did better in Charlotte and Austin book events, too, but both of those stores were aces at hosting events.

Jamesaritchie
06-17-2014, 01:46 AM
I thought book tours were generally useless in selling books?

Book tours can really help writers who don't need the help. They're generally pretty useless for writers who do need the help.

Mclesh
06-17-2014, 01:47 AM
Yikes! That is a lot of money to put out for the return.

I'm considering setting up a book signing for my upcoming MG book's release in the fall at a local children's book store. This would be mostly for fun, though, and to help the very good people who own the indie bookstore bring people in the door.

I can see participating in a tour if my publisher paid all or most of the expenses. (I'd pay for gas if the appearance were local.) Otherwise, I'd rather put my energies into writing.

MaCain
06-17-2014, 01:49 AM
This is just terrible. After spending $12,000 she only sold 1500 copies. She even mentions bookstores spelled her name incorrectly and some forgot she was even coming. She did an event a week for a year, so I can see how she'd easily spend $5000 on travel expenses.

I believe the best way to get your book to sell the most copies is to write a book people can't put down, can't stop talking about and recommend to all their friends. But yeah, to kickstart your book's success you need to first get people to buy it, or read it. There are plenty of ways to do this for free/ little cost. Blog book tours in which you giveaway free copies, for instance. Put copies in every sidewalk library you come across. Some people even leave copies in coffee shops, doctor's offices, etc.

No one is going to show up at a book signing/reading unless they've already read and loved the book.

She's with a small university press. I've never heard of anyone selling a ton of copies unless they were with a big publisher. Because yeah, they don't have money to spend on marketing. Most print on demand, or do e-book only. From what I've seen small presses don't even spend a lot of time in the editing process.

This author would have been better off putting her $12,000 into self-publishing. Even if she paid the max for a developmental editor and a copy editor, cover design, etc. She could have published 4 books for that money and then she'd be seeing more of a return on her investment.

My thoughts: if you don't know what you're doing, get a literary agent.

DanielaTorre
06-17-2014, 02:38 AM
She was brave to share something like that, especially considering that the tour was technically a financial failure. It takes a lot of guts to put up that much money, invest an entire year of your life pushing your book, and still come out feeling like you succeeded. You can't put a price on experience.

That said, I agree that book tours do not sell books. Word of mouth does. Writing a book that people can't put down does. Unfortunately, the book she wrote was a collection of short stories geared at a small market which is hard enough to sell, even with a big publisher backing you up. Having a vanity press sure didn't help.

Perks
06-17-2014, 03:00 AM
I'm kind of wondering about the $5000 on the publicist, though. Not the price so much. That seems reasonably typical from what I know. I'm just wondering if she shared her travel plans with the publicist. I don't know that I trust a book publicist who doesn't know that an unknown author isn't going to sell many books from bookstore appearances.

Which leads me to the $2000 for the "Book Tour Manager". Ahem. Since a little research yields the consensus on book tours for unknown authors, I can't help but feel that book tour managers are, in the most kindly terms, are waiting arms opens (and hand out) to everyone who doesn't know any better.

Medievalist
06-17-2014, 03:23 AM
I've never heard of anyone selling a ton of copies unless they were with a big publisher.

Oh, I have. A self-publisher who really knows their niche and has a book that fits and is really good?

Sure. I know scholarly authors who've done this; several of art historian Ruth Mellinkoff's books were self-published originally, and they were exceedingly professionally done (she hired scholarly editors, designers and typesetters) and she was very well respected in her field.

Bookstores, scholars, and libraries bought her books, especially her Averting Demons, a work about medieval ms. art.

JournoWriter
06-17-2014, 04:34 AM
Unfortunately, the book she wrote was a collection of short stories geared at a small market which is hard enough to sell, even with a big publisher backing you up. Having a vanity press sure didn't help.

Where did you get the information that the publisher is a vanity? The operation is Apprentice House, a student-run publishing operation at Loyola. Not vanity, but not a traditional university press, either. They've put out an eclectic catalogue so far. Link: http://www.apprenticehouse.com

It's a fascinating venture - I wish something like it had existed at my college - but its very nature means that the staff turns over every few years, or year singular. My understanding is that the director/professor is the only permanent staff member.

mada
06-17-2014, 06:58 AM
Book tours can really help writers who don't need the help. They're generally pretty useless for writers who do need the help.

I think this is a very valid point. If you're well-known, they're a great tool. If you're not, it's a good way to sit by yourself for a few hours and watch your ego slowly slink away.

chompers
06-17-2014, 07:09 AM
Ouch, that price tag is painful to look at. The only time I think it'll be worth, concerning the low return, is if you've already got that money to burn.

JournoWriter
06-17-2014, 02:04 PM
Her publisher, Apprentice House, now has a BR&BC thread: http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=8928233#post8928233

RedWombat
06-20-2014, 07:40 PM
Being a middle-grade author, my house sends me on book tours that involve school presentations. The book fairs sponsor me, in essence, and they are RIGHT THERE after the presentation with books and order forms.

I don't know the cost break downs, but at least one store had me signing copies to go to students and they had literally dozens of boxes. I had to call a halt because my wrist was giving out, and do the rest with bookplates. The big private schools, at least, can move a crapload of copies that way, if you've got an affiliated book fair or local book store.

Very specific niche, though, with no real equivalent in grown-up fiction...

CheshireCat
06-21-2014, 01:23 AM
On your publisher's dime, you go where they send you. But as has already been said, the writers who get big book tours really don't need them -- and even those tend to lose money. When you factor in the author's travel, hotels and meals, plus paying a minder to drive him/her around, PLUS the promo work the house needs to do to alert people that their favorite author will be there ... they lose money. Even on the big names. Which is one reason why actual touring is being replaced by Internet promo, with blogs, interviews, reviews, visits to forums, Facebook, and so on. It's just more cost effective, and that's what the publishers want. Now, especially, with ebooks shaking up the establishment publishers so that they're having to look at sales numbers in a new way, physical tours just don't make sense.

Which is fine with me. I'd just as soon never do another one.

Christine N.
06-21-2014, 04:11 AM
I know at least one author with a Big Six house who crowdfunded her book tour.

She does well. But she has a distinct brand and lots to offer crowdfunders.

shelleyo
06-21-2014, 09:14 AM
I'm not saying the OP or anyone in the thread is doing this, for the record. But it's important not to take this story or any like it and use it as some sort of basis for an argument against publishers.

It's easy for people with an agenda, or even just people on the fence, to see a story like this and say see, look what happened! Gotta do your own marketing even if you get a contract! When I can't imagine anyone at this press told her it would be a good idea to spend 12k on a book tour. Her publicist should also have known better.

First of all, she wasn't required to do this. Apparently it was her idea.

Second, it doesn't take much research to see that book tours aren't worth doing. (I guess there are exceptions to this as with everything, but you can never assume that you'll be that rare exception.)

Third, she did a book tour for a book of short fiction. About war. It doesn't take much research to see that short fiction collections just aren't burning up the cash registers, and literary fiction about war isn't setting any sales records, either.

Fourth, 12k. Over a third of her yearly income. She thinks she might break even in 5 years. Think about that. Over a third of her yearly income on a book tour for a short fiction collection of literary stories about war. This somehow seemed like a reasonable thing to do?

The publicist's first official task should have been talking her out of such a fruitless thing and suggesting other means of promotion that made sense and did not break the bank. At least then she'd have only spent a small amount of money on briefly having a publicist. I am seriously side-eyeing this so-called publicist.

The unfortunate bottom line is that she went into this woefully, wildly uninformed and no doubt full of naive optimism that she let take the place of actual research. This is not the press' fault, as much as some people will surely point their fingers that direction.

Weirdmage
06-21-2014, 11:50 AM
I'm not saying the OP or anyone in the thread is doing this, for the record. But it's important not to take this story or any like it and use it as some sort of basis for an argument against publishers.

[...]

The unfortunate bottom line is that she went into this woefully, wildly uninformed and no doubt full of naive optimism that she let take the place of actual research. This is not the press' fault, as much as some people will surely point their fingers that direction.

Well, I posted this. Not as any attack on publishers, but I thought it would be an interesting story. But also, as I specifically stated in my original post:


What I do wonder is if the often repeated myth that "authors have to pay for their own marketing" is part of what made her decide to pay for thisI think that is the reason she did it. She had seen the "authors have to do their own marketing with a publisher, even the big six (five)" mantra that some self-publishing fanatics are yelling out no matter how many times people point out it is not correct.

I do think that her press is partially responsible though. They should have stopped her from getting a publiscist, or at least made it very clear that this was not necessarily a good idea. Maybe they did discourage her, but I can't see any evidence of that. Neither did I see anything clear in the article about who suggested this. I actually phrased myself generally because the article I linked is lacking a lot of details. I'd like to know what, if any, relationship there is between her publisher, the publicist, and the tour manager but I don't have time to chase the answer to that.

I already quoted myself when it comes to the "authors pay for marketing" myth, and I would actually not be surprised from what I have learned of this publisher in this thread that they believe that myth too. Because it seems to me that a lot of the new publishers around are using these myths about publishing as a basis for their business model.

Old Hack
06-21-2014, 11:54 AM
I agree with Shelleyo.

Little Ming
06-22-2014, 07:24 AM
I think the sad irony is some of the people spreading the "publishers make authors pay for their own marketing" myth do honestly believe they are helping authors. Then we get cases like this one. Self-fulfilling prophecy?

DanielaTorre
06-22-2014, 06:15 PM
In the end, it's just a sad case of the misinformed.

Debeucci
06-23-2014, 01:00 AM
Personally, I think this book tour was less about selling books than about vanity. Her target numbers were 5k in the first year. That itself, assuming 8% royalties in paperback, would take her 3-4 years just to recoup the book tour cost.

For her to spend this kind of money on a book of short stories, spending almost half her income, tells me this was a lot less about making money than it was to feel "like an author."

Fuchsia Groan
06-25-2014, 05:49 AM
I'm kind of wondering about the $5000 on the publicist, though. Not the price so much. That seems reasonably typical from what I know. I'm just wondering if she shared her travel plans with the publicist. I don't know that I trust a book publicist who doesn't know that an unknown author isn't going to sell many books from bookstore appearances.


This is a semi-tangent, but I'm curious about authors who hire publicists out of pocket and how well this works out for them in general. Not to knock publicists as a group — I'm very happy with the ARCs that in-house trade publicists send out — but I receive a lot of email pitches from publicists hired by self- and micro-published authors, and I haven't been impressed.

In such cases, I think, the author should be able to do exactly what these publicists do: find a list of publications that review books and email them a coherent pitch and some blurbs. A pitch from a publicist has no more value to me than a pitch from an author — and, believe me, it's no more likely to be compelling or coherent. Unlike the name of an established publisher, a publicist's letterhead does not tell me that this person's book was vetted in any way.

Again, I'm sure there are publicists who are worth their weight in gold. But if I were self-publishing or publishing with a press like this one, I would not shell out $5000 to have my book pitched all over the place. Doing it yourself is no harder than querying agents. Just get ruthless beta readers (and if you're really in doubt, a pro editor) for your letter.

Back to readings: My local indie store has started charging self-published authors $150 for them. It's a new revenue stream for the store, which is nice, but I wonder if it also entails a lack of quality control and thus devalues readings in general. I wonder who shows up for those readings, and whether the store ever makes exceptions for self-pub authors who happen to have a great book and a strong local angle.

But, considering all the bookstore readings by well-reviewed, trade-published writers that no one comes to (or no one but me), maybe it doesn't matter. I can see why publishers would phase out book tours for all but "rock star" authors.

Perks
06-25-2014, 06:14 AM
This is a semi-tangent, but I'm curious about authors who hire publicists out of pocket and how well this works out for them in general. Not to knock publicists as a group I'm very happy with the ARCs that in-house trade publicists send out but I receive a lot of email pitches from publicists hired by self- and micro-published authors, and I haven't been impressed.

From all the authors I've talked to, and out of the ones who have hired publicists, I only know one who says he'd do it again. But he has a lot of money to start with, so it doesn't hurt to pay.




In such cases, I think, the author should be able to do exactly what these publicists do: find a list of publications that review books and email them a coherent pitch and some blurbs. A pitch from a publicist has no more value to me than a pitch from an author and, believe me, it's no more likely to be compelling or coherent. Unlike the name of an established publisher, a publicist's letterhead does not tell me that this person's book was vetted in any way. From what I've seen, I agree.

Again, I'm sure there are publicists who are worth their weight in gold. But if I were self-publishing or publishing with a press like this one, I would not shell out $5000 to have my book pitched all over the place. Doing it yourself is no harder than querying agents. Just get ruthless beta readers (and if you're really in doubt, a pro editor) for your letter.


Back to readings: My local indie store has started charging self-published authors $150 for them. It's a new revenue stream for the store, which is nice, but I wonder if it also entails a lack of quality control and thus devalues readings in general. I wonder who shows up for those readings, and whether the store ever makes exceptions for self-pub authors who happen to have a great book and a strong local angle.Wow. I mean, I guess. But still, wow.



But, considering all the bookstore readings by well-reviewed, trade-published writers that no one comes to (or no one but me), maybe it doesn't matter. I can see why publishers would phase out book tours for all but "rock star" authors.Yep.