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.
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.