Seven Lessons From My Debut Book Tour

Two months ago when THE GLASS WIVES was published, I started my career as a published author by celebrating with friends. It wasn’t until two weeks later that I did my first event. It’s counterintuitive at times, to realize that I spent years writing a book alone, chatting with writers and authors online, and now, part of taking my career to the next level meant standing up in front of real live people and talking. I was nervous but excited by the prospect of doing it. I’m not shy, nor am I an introvert. But this meant being fully responsible for the experience of the audience. Yes, people are responsible for their own happiness—but book events almost transfer the author into the role of entertainer.

Don’t let that deter you or scare you. The things I learned on what I loosely describe as my “book tour” which consisted of eight events in the Chicago area, ran the gamut. I spoke to a high school creative writing class, a crowd of two, a crowd of fifty, and I participated in a group reading, and a panel at the Printer’s Row Lit Fest. My one “out of town” event was in my own hometown of Philadelphia, where I knew, or knew of, all seventy people in the audience. I was related to some and had known others since elementary school. I had not seen many of them in thirty years. Or more.

And while these lessons were based on my experiences over the past two months, and your mileage may vary, I’m thinking that the debut author experience is a somewhat universal one.  I’ve also been told that every book feels like a debut, so I’m going to make sure to read this list in 2015 when my next book comes out! (More on that soon!)

Amy xo

SEVEN LESSONS FROM MY DEBUT BOOK TOUR

1. People are not there to see you fail. 

This was kind of a revelation for me. Not that I ever thought I’d have hecklers, but the acknowledgment that everyone was there because they wanted to be, with an expectation that they would walk away pleased, kind of freed me from feeling pressure. I’m not sure why. Just remember, the people in the audience are in your corner, whether you know them or not.  Unless you have a nemesis who attends book events, of course. But really, look around. People are smiling. (So smile back!)

BOOK LAUNCH CHLOE CLASS

2. Don’t feel compelled to read.

What I mean by this is—read your audience. If it’s filled with people who’ve read your book, you might be able to refer back to certain scenes when you talk. If your audience is mostly people who’ve not read your book, or there’s a mixture, read a bit, talk a bit, then read again. I’ve been to readings where I’ve thought “I can read it myself, talk to me.” And there are times I was riveted by an author’s audible rendition of her own work. Know your strengths. We’re all storytellers so remember to tell a story.

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3. Leave plenty of time for questions.

People are curious by nature, and if your book talk touches on different topics, you’ll spark the audience members’ imaginations. And moxie.

book launch flossmoor 8
4. Serve snacks.

Even if you go home with most of them, it emits a generous and welcoming vibe. And fully bellies make for happy listeners. Will some people just come for the cookies? You bet. Maybe next time they’ll come for the cookies and the book!

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5. This is a celebration. Don’t forget it. 

It’s easy to let nerves get the best of you sometimes. Remember this is a celebration of a book and its author. Go out before or after. Toast with friends and family. Don’t shy away from letting it be all about you this once.

book launch renee 2 book launch glen ellyn dinner


6. Every event and sale is worthwhile.

I drove an hour and a half to a book store and there were two readers in attendance. I’d been alerted by many author friends that this happens. But if you add in my daughter, her friend, and two booksellers, there were six people in the audience. I sat in a chair, talked about my book, read a bit, and talked some more. Then the readers and booksellers asked questions. Books were sold. Then I spent an hour talking to the booksellers about books and publishing. I knew it was a worthwhile trip, even if we did get lost on the way home.  And just the other day I was invited back to speak to this store’s in-house book club. Why? Because the book sellers read and talked about my book. And probably because they could tell I was happy to be there even if we didn’t fill the room.

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Two! These are the two! There were four people behind them. My daughter deftly took this photo to hide the fact that there were so few in attendance, but I’m coming clean!

book launch bn panorama

A crowd of seventy from my point of view!

7. And my most important lesson of all? The one I can’t deny any longer no matter how hard I try? (And I do, believe me!)

I talk with my hands. 

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21 thoughts on “Seven Lessons From My Debut Book Tour

  1. I love this list, and its,so,true about each event!! I’m the woman who wants to linger and be last in line so I can talk to the author more. Great post Amy!!

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  2. Awesome list. It’s something I should keep in mind since in August I’m going to speak at a panel. So I’ll try hard not to be nervous. 🙂 Congratulations on your books release!! 😀

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  3. Amy, I love this. Thank you so much!! Thank you for sharing so bravely and openly and honestly and generously about your experience so far! I’ve done 3 events so far (a signing, a book club, and, this past weekend, a table at a yoga festival) and I was SO nervous at each of them (and each was so different). I most enjoyed the book club because, as you mentioned, it’s amazing how supportive and happy people are!

    Also, for all three, I brought food. I knew we were kindred spirits! 😉

    Lastly, how SWEET is your daughter?! First to make time in her busy teenage life to come to her mom’s reading (and bring a friend) and second to be so cute and clever to take a well-positioned photo like that. Aww…she’s awesome!!

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  4. Enjoyed following your experience, Amy! I remember reading an interview with Harlan Coben who shared how he once had an event with another author. His line at two people on it; the other authors was a mile long. But every reader counts. I did my first author appearance at a book group and expected three people. About thirteen showed up and it was a fabulous night. And like you, I’m pretty my hands were flying 🙂 Great post!

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  5. What a great post – congrats on what sounds like both a successful and educational tour! And I laughed out loud at your 7th lesson. 🙂

    Here’s to many more successful events, and tons of sales!

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  6. Just remembered, I went to hear Bill Bryson at the Boston Book Fest 2 years ago and the line wrapped around 3 city blocks. Over 600 people crammed into a THEATER to hear him. He started by saying that on his first book tour, he was in rural PA and there was a grand total of 2 people–the bookseller and some guy whose name was ALSO “Bill Bryson” and he’d come not for the book but to take a picture of them both holding their driver’s licenses out. LOL

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  7. Amy, as someone who is just starting her book tour with my new novel, this post came at just the right time. I loved it! Such great tips! I wish I could be at one of your events in person–or better yet, do one with you! I would add one more to the list here: “Visual effects aren’t just for the movies.” For instance, part of the back story of my novel, The Wishing Hill, takes place in a snuff mill (yep, you read that right), so I brought in a can of snuff that was made in the old mill behind my house to pass around, and that prompted all sorts of great questions not only about how snuff was made (luckily, I’d reasearched that for the book), but also about how writers use research in novels, etc. Plus, it helps cut down on your own nerves if you have something to talk about besides YOU or your book!

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  8. Amy, this is great! Wonderful advice, and I loved reading about your experiences. I love the photos…last night I had my own book release party and I’m still cringing at how much I talked with my hands. 🙂 But it was all great fun, and I’m looking forward to the next few on deck. (Sara’s Bill Bryson story is fantastic!)

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  9. I smiled while reading this, because it’s so very honest. And the biggest thing that came through? Your positive attitude. If not for a positive attitude as a published author…I’m not sure I could keep writing. I have to totally agree on your statement, every book “feels” like the debut. It easily could be for some readers…..but thinking positive helps diminish the fears.

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  10. I talk with my hands, too, Amy! This I also learned from my family after my first book signing! LOL. I love this post. Wish I’d had this before my signing, but you’ve done a great job using your experience to help other writers. Congratulations!

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  11. Sounds like you had a well planned and successful launch. Very good advice for all those who are about to embark on this wonderful journey. You are absolutely right in that the actual writing of the book is SO DIFFERENT from what an author must do to promote and sell the work. Two thing: I would love to re-post these tips on my blog. May I have your permission? My blog is Secondly, I do a 60-90 minute program called “How to Make a Presentation Without Passing Out” that can easily be adapted for writers. Would be happy to do the program for your readers/writers in Chicago.

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  12. Thanks for sharing these lessons–especially the one about snacks! And yes, you do talk with your hands but it’s part of your many charms! Congrats on a successful book launch that’s still going strong!!!

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  13. Ah, Amy, these words are so important to all writers. They are life lessons that you are so wiling to share. Your sense of humor comes out in your book and I see it in this post too! Loving your book–write another one. Beth

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  14. Super Lessons to file away for when the time is ripe! I especially love #6. Our ability to pay attention and be present always pays forward. May your karma continue to blossom.

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  15. Such a great post, Amy, and so timely since my first event is tonight! I love your pictures, and I can just imagine what a wonderful entertainer you are, talking with your hands and all! Thank you for the great advice!

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  16. I loved this post and pictures. I really love pictures in a blog post. I also love that you are still happy to hold an event even if there are “only” 2 people there. I selfishly would have loved if that was an event I was at and would be able to have all your attention. Congratulations again on your novel. I haven’t read it yet but it is in the TBR pile!

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