Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rethinking the Book Tour

There's an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about how authors today need to reconceptualize their whole approach to a book tour.  To rethink standing there and reading three chapters, and doing a Q&A.  That maybe, in the current climate, that's no longer enough.

The article includes some anecdotal reports from bookstores all over the country, and quotes from authors, including:

• Rainy Day Books, an independent bookstore in Kansas City, Kansas will only sponsor author events that feature a conversation or mini-lecture, a PowerPoint or slide show and maybe reading one or two paragraphs at the most from the book to illustrate a point. The owner Vivien Jennings says,
"I tell publicists 'it's no longer a reading,'"
• In lieu of readings, Roxanne Coady, the owner of R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Conn., will sometimes conduct an interview with an author. "Audiences feel they're getting something unusual and intimate, and sales of the book go up," she said.
 • Brad Meltzer, the best-selling author of thrillers like "The Book of Fate" and "The Book of Lies," stopped doing readings two books ago. "Jim Dale," he said, referring to the voice of the "Harry Potter" audio books, "and all the audio-book stars made most of us authors look like a bunch of misfits. We can't compete."

I asked Bruce Coville, the award-winning and best-selling author of over 100 books for children, and a master storyteller, if it's enough to just read from your book and do a Q&A.  Here's his response:

"Being a writer in these times requires a certain degree of professional schizophrenia. In order to write, you need to be able to work in isolation. Yet as soon as you're at all successful at it, people want you to come out and talk about it. So a writer needs to be able to deal with extended periods of solitude, and also with being asked to stand in front of crowds and speak. But in the end, it's all about communication, and that is, at heart, what we need to be: communicators. I think writers can reap great benefits from learning storytelling, from taking acting lessons, from getting voice training - all things that give you tools that will help you be effective in presenting your work to a live audience."        

What's your take?  When have a book event, how do you approach it?

Illustrate and Write On,


Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

I love to share my books with lots of sound effects and participation. But I like to make that only a part of what I share. I often do demonstration drawings, talk about how I work or the business in general. Of course, Q&A is my favorite part because there is usually at least one question that makes me have to think. The main point is the audience should have fun and learn something... so much so that they want to buy the book! :) e

Anonymous said...

I start off with an introduction, and ask the children to judge my book by it's cover, listen to their thoughts and then I have a silly way of pre-teaching what I expect from them as my audience (I'm not a big fan of having too many rules but I do value respect while having fun). I love to do different voices for my characters. I bring colored pencils and paper so they can draw their favorite part. If time allows I read one of my stories I haven't illustrated yet while they draw what they imagine. I would dance too but I'm told that my dancing only scares small children. :)

QuinnC said...

Get a free ebook giveaway from MeeGenius until Dec. 18th. While there, read my picture book contest entry and vote.
I'd like comments on the story, but I am equally curious about people's thoughts on ebooks for small children. Will parent's entrust expensive devices to little hands to read a picture book or will they sit down and read with them? I hope it's the latter, but what do you think?

Janet Fox said...

I agree completely with what's been said here. Traditional reading/signings have, in my view, lost traction. Most of my audiences are YA and up, so I don't need to prepare the way Carol has, but my last three successful events were "booktalks" in which I came prepared with visuals and a mini-lecture and some interactive material - and like Elizabeth I love the Q&A.

Jane Kohuth said...

I spent a couple of years organizing children's author events and school visits for an indie bookstore, and it was a great education for when my own books came out. I think most children's authors are ahead of the adult world in terms of crafting unique presentations that will appeal to their audience. I always prepare based on who I will be talking to and the setting I'll be in. I've done slideshows that illustrate the process of creating a picture book and my history as a writer, a fun interactive Yiddish lesson to go with my picture book Estie the Mensch, organized a group panel on Jewish children's books, and created writing workshops based on my books. Having teaching and lesson planning experience has been invaluable in helping me plan.