Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Booking Your Own Tour

By Steven Pressfield | Published: November 27, 2013

Though it’s sometimes hard for me to take in, I know that numbers of people look to me as a mentor. Well, I have a mentor too. His name is David Leddick. He was my first boss, in advertising, on the Revlon account at Grey Advertising in New York.

Leddick

David Leddick outside Grey Advertising, NY, 1969

David will be 84 in January. Is he a doddering old fart? You judge. Since ’95, when he “retired,” David has written 25 books (no, that’s not a typo), including six novels. Since 2000 when he resumed his performing career (he had been a dancer at the Metropolitan Opera and with the Joffrey Ballet), he has appeared in six musicals, some with script and lyrics by himself. “My best review,” David reports, was in Some Men by Terence McNally when I sang ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ while wearing red feathers.”

For his books, David organizes his own signing tours. I thought, “This is something that readers of this blog might emulate.” Why wait for some publisher? On my own last book, I had to organize and pay for my own tour. Zero help and zero bucks from the publisher.

Anyway I asked David how he does it. Here’s his answer:

The cardinal rule for a book tour is do not go somewhere you do not have at least twenty personal contacts whom you can invite to your event. The bookstore will traditionally provide no one even if they do a fair amount of publicity.

You can do a book event in your hometown. A town you came from. You can ask friends in major cities to pull together a list for you. Then you decide what bookstore you would like to be at. Since my work is largely gay-themed I go to the major gay bookstore there. I have toured New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, New Orleans, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco. I add the name and address of every person who buys a book when I am on tour and thus augment the list for the next tour.

Now with email you can amass email lists as well as mailing lists but I prefer the direct mail approach. I print postcards, the cover of your book on one side. To save money have them printed with no information on the other side and you can stamp the bookstore and time on them. Always write something like “Please come” and sign your name on every card. It will add 30 per cent to your turnout.

Once you have your mailing list you can call the bookstore you want, speak to the PR person responsible for events and they will usually book you on the date and time you want. I don’t think I was ever turned down. They will also order books for the event. Double the number you think will attend. If twenty, they should order forty. Often people will fail to turn up for the event but drop by a few days later to buy the book. Now that books are available easily on Amazon and are always less expensive I find that I get more turnout but fewer sales.

You yourself should call the local newspaper and find out who writes up book events and make sure they have all this information. You, too, must keep an address book with all addresses for newspapers and PR people. I use an address book because keeping all this on your phone or in your computer is dangerous in my opinion. One wipeout and your career is over. Your address book is much more secure.

I certainly do not tour for fun but only to promote. It also boosts sales on previous books. Your signing is the big deal.  I now only do New York and Miami Beach for book events as I know fewer people in other cities. One of the penalties of being 83.

I might add that your cover is very important. It should be bold, it should be sexy, it should have strong colors and type. We know that if someone picks up your book, thirty per cent will buy it. You want a pick-uppable book. For new authors they should start in their nearest large city. Call everyone they know for addresses and email contacts. Selling your book is as important as writing it. Your publisher will be as interested in your next book as your sales were good.

P.S. Shawn and I will be publishing David’s newest book, I’m Not For Everyone … Neither Are You here on this site sometime in the spring. First Look Access members get it early and cheap.

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

10 Responses to “Booking Your Own Tour”

  1. Mary
    November 27, 2013 at 5:13 am

    Okay, this guy makes me feel like a total slacker – his energy level and accomplishments after “retiring” are astounding. It was generous of him to share what sounds like a truly efficient system for setting up a book tour – great advice from the mentor’s mentor (and an original Mad Man to boot)! Thanks for passing this along to us Steve. I also want to wish you, Callie, Shawn and Jeff a Happy Thanksgiving – the Black Irish team has been one of the biggest blessings in my life this year, and I thank you all.

    • November 27, 2013 at 6:56 am

      Ditto to everything you said, Mary. Couldn’t agree with you more. Happy Thanksgiving to you as well and thanks for all of your thoughtful comments which enrich the posts from the Black Irish team.

      • Mary
        November 27, 2013 at 10:22 am

        Thanks for the kind words Pheralyn – you have a wonderful Thanksgiving too!

  2. November 27, 2013 at 6:13 am

    What a terrific post. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the information you, Callie, and Shawn provide on the “business” side of being an author is worthy of several college marketing courses. As someone who owned a PR firm in New York back in the 1990’s, Mr. Leddick’s guidance was a welcome throwback. Good, old-fashioned PR tips still work!

    Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving – very grateful to have you guys in my life!

  3. Paul C
    November 27, 2013 at 7:34 am

    This is interesting but coming from the bricks and mortar advertising (Nielsen and its thousands of retailer sample stores), I still get the feeling everyone is standing under the same street lights. Build connections and then sell, which will severely limit most people; chase after the few remaining book reviewers and book stores. For me, the “sample” offered for books, whether you intend to buy an ebook or hard copy, is the best thing to happen for publishing. It turns everyone into a sampler, reviewer, and potential buyer. So instead of dealing with the few book stores and important reviewers, open the gates. If you have Legend of Bagger Vance to sell, print the book cover, reviews, author info on scorecards and pass them out at golf trade shows, PGA Tour events with all their trade shows, the largest golf stores, golf writers, resorts, etc. For most people, the stranger, not their limited network, is the ticket to going pro.

  4. November 27, 2013 at 9:03 am

    I just have one technical comment about address books. David makes a great point. I’ve seen several friends lose all their contacts from damaged or lost phones or hard drive crashes. However, there are online ways to manage and sync your address books between all your devices, so if any phone or computer dies, you can download them again. Gmail Contacts can sync with phones and computers. There are many other ways.

    If storing your data online isn’t an option for you, any digital address book can export contacts so you can store a backup on a USB stick or CD. Relying on a physical book is one fire or theft away from catastrophe. Definitely back up your important data!

  5. November 27, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    that was one great article with very useful tips! thank you!

  6. Pete kunk
    November 27, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Steven,
    One of my mentors is 102 years old and is just an incredible man. Vibrant, healthy, lucid and all he talks about is how blessed he is with so many good friends and the abundance in his life. Like you, I cherish the wisdom and experiences he shares over a wonderful lunch or drink.
    I am new to your blog and you can count me now as an avid reader of your blog and books. Thank you for the honesty and transparency in your blogging…….you enrich, energize and build up your readers!
    Pete

  7. November 27, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Steven, for sure you are my mentor. The concepts you have put out have changed my little life immesurably. Other mentors of mine include Steinbeck and Godin and Rowling…

    I always hated the idea of a book signing. That is where I will have to climb out of my hobbit hole and hiss at humanity. Much prefer my cave, lol.

    I want to be like this guy, though! Why do we slow down? Why do we stop? There is no reason! Nature will do it for us!

  8. December 7, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    Exciting to hear about this book. Looking forward to seeing it. And hoping for others… :)