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28 May 2014

What I learned from my "Southern Appalachian Book Tour"

The kick-off events for A BIRD ON WATER STREET were a wonderful three-week-long whirlwind of awesomeness! Thanks to all my kind hosts and friends and strangers who came out to celebrate with me!!! The tour was amazing, and the marketing team at Little Pickle Press really outdid themselves to make sure I had the materials and press attention I needed. (Thank you Rana DiOrio, Heather Lennon, and Smith Publicity!) Wow, am I lucky to be a pickle!!!
     So, I've been launching picture books for almost fourteen years now, but I quickly learned that launching a novel is a completely different animal - it really stretched my marketing chops! I like to think I learned a few things from the set-up, planning, and events themselves - practical tips I think other budding writers might want to know. So, I'm going to share some of the behind-the-scenes stuff with you...
     For instance, a book tour is surprisingly exhausting. Fellow writers had warned me of this, so I made sure to exercise, sleep decent hours, and eat as close to my regular diet as I could through the whole thing. I did have a small bug the weekend before it all began (don't worry - I wasn't contagious), so dove into the excitement with a little less stamina than I would usually have, but I stayed calm, took my vitamins, and got through it fine. Actually, the bug might have helped me from getting too wound up (something I'm prone to do). Anybody out there experience the same thing?

      Even with the amazing marketing support, I still did a ton of work myself. I basically planned seven parties across three states. Add to that speaking at a conference, a festival, doing a television appearance, blog hops (for which I wrote several essays and answered questions for numerous interviews), and radio interviews too. I worked with several different venues and organizers, arranged book sales to far flung Appalachian locales (where there are no bookstores) with FoxTale Book Shoppe, and even worked with a grant committee to get books to kids. *Whew!*

     And then there were the events themselves. No bunny slippers, foot rest, or cup o' tea allowed (bottled water kept it simple). What people don't tell you about book tours or speaking engagements is that when you are speaking publicly, you are ON. Not 100%, not 200%, more like 300% ON. And while I'm good at being ON for a few hours - for a school, a party, or a weekend gig, three weeks of ON is a lot!

But you have to do it. You have to BE THERE. Because you care, and the best way to get your point across is to make sure everybody in the audience can feel your passion for the subject. You have to represent it completely - there are no excuses.

     I was reminded that rain or small crowds don't have to be a bad thing. First, layers of clothing are your friend. And I'll take a small group of invested listeners over a ho-hum crowd any day! Because, when people care what you have to say and participate, it refills your coffers too! A wonderful audience is a truly awesome thing. And you thought musicians, comedians, etc... just said it to be nice - it's true!
     I remembered to stay flexible. There is no such thing as two identical events. They are all different. (I love that!) So, I was thrilled when the awesome Lisa Jacobi (lead singer of PLAYING ON THE PLANET, who played at my kick-off party), showed up at other events and graciously agreed to play "Muddy Road to Ducktown" on her fiddle - a 100-year-old song about miners getting copper out of the basin via ox-driven carts along the Ocoee River. (Without trees, it was very muddy!) What a treat to share the area's history through words, images, and song! I wish she could be at every event!

     Do try to keep things around you and the events as calm as possible. I'm a Gemini, which means I need down time to balance my ON time - otherwise I wear out. Be aware that some well-intentioned folks can add to your stress rather than help. Recognize that and try to limit exposure. Some things will probably go wrong. Recognize your power, or lack of power to do anything about it, and that if blood isn't involved, it's probably not the end of the world. Try not to dwell.

     Try to plan some days afterwards to recover. I didn't do that one so well as I hosted our SCBWI Southern Breeze Children's Book Illustrators' Gallery Show the Friday after all the hubbub (there was no flexibility in the date). It was a blast, and it went amazingly well, but wow, was I in need of some serious down-time... which I finally got.
     It all came to a close in time for the holiday weekend (I wrote this on Memorial Day), and that turned out to be a very good thing. I've let myself relax, only checked my email a little bit, took some time to garden and get filthy cleaning the back porch - things I usually have no time for but which need doing (and which I love doing). Hubbie and I have barbecued on the grill every night, and I didn't say 'no' to the ice-cream.
     Yes, I gained a few pounds through it all - unavoidable when eating out so often... and celebrating, for goodness sake! But I made sure I fed the core me, and I think that's the real secret to a successful book tour. Stay true to yourself and have fun!

     Now that it's mostly over, I'm thrilled by the response to all my events and excited to see how A BIRD ON WATER STREET does on its own. (Three awards so far!) I'm caught up and ready to dive back into work tomorrow... I'm just not thinking about that tonight.

3 comments :

Heather said...

You are a dream author, E! So talented and hardworking, and absolutely lovely to boot!

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

I'm grateful for YOU, Heather L.! Hugs, e

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

A worthy launch for a worthy book! You did an amazing job!

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