How I Did an Unintentional Book Tour Without a Budget
I never thought I'd do anything even remotely resembling a book tour. I'm a broke writer published by a no-budget indie press. Then, somehow, I found myself on the road, despite my lack of funds. And it isn't over—I have a few more stops scheduled before then end of the year. Here are some tips for those of you wanting to do the same.
You know I'm always telling writers to be loud about their work. I'm saying it again now. No one will pay attention to you or your book if they don't know you exist. I don't wanna hear about your job (I have three) or your lack of time (haha) or how you're not that great at social media (fucking practice and get better at it). There are no excuses. You need to plug your work as much as you can in different, innovative ways to keep it out there. Remember: no one cares about your book more than you do, so act like it. When you stay active and keep your book floating out there, you get invited to things, you get chances to read. That leads to my second point.
Always saying yes
When someone invites me to something, I always try my best to say yes. There will be a lot of driving and traveling at weird hours and shitty hotels and days spent eating nothing but cheap protein bars, but it'll be worth the effort. This is specially true when someone invites you and they pay for your trip and stay. When that happens, make it work. Maybe you fly in, do an event, and fly out. It's tiresome, but it must be done.
I have three jobs. They pay the bills. Then there's the writing. When I get a gig that pays, i save that money for other things, other trips. When I sell books at an event, I put that money away so i can afford other events. This trick started with a good paying gig I had in Mississippi. I stretched that money and turned the next month into an explosion of traveling and readings. The bit of money I made selling books was used for food. I broke even, but I achieved a lot and that is great in terms of keeping the buzz going. Oh, and I also met a lot of amazing people and went places I'd never been to, which is priceless.
Making an impression
Sometimes a reading has led to a new invitation or gig. Every time I have a chance to read somewhere, I give it my all. I don't care if I read for three people or for 200 people; every reading gets the same level of intensity and effort. Make sure you pack you hustle every time you travel.
Adapting to the changes
I went from Mississippi to Denver to Baltimore to Michigan and still taught my MFA class, taught high school all week, and never missed an NPR deadline. This required adjustments, but you fight for what you want, right? If you want to be on the road, you have to adapt to the changes. I spent hours working in hotel rooms because not getting things done and not making money to pay my bills was not an option.
I have a gig in Houston in October. I was invited to a very cool event in Austin this summer that I can't discuss yet. I will be at KillerCon. I'm a guest at Scares That Care in Virginia the first week of August. You know what? I'm still looking to add to the list. It's easy to say you want something, so make sure you act like you really do when it comes to doing things.
My first book came out in 2012. Coyote Songs is my fourth book. I'm now doing my first tour. Stay positive and good things will happen. Don't despair if your book came out yesterday and you're not traveling today. Also, if you're an indie writer, don't ever compare yourself with authors who publish with Big Five presses and have tour dates even before their book is out. We belong to different worlds and making comparisons is useless.
Hope some of this helps! I look forward to seeing you out there and going to see you read when you come to Austin. Tacos are on me.
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