THE BLOG
11/04/2013 03:37 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Should You Do a Book Tour On Your Own Dime?

We writers quake in our slippers at the thought of actually having to get dressed and emerge from behind our laptop shields. Whether we're indie or traditionally published, we count our lucky stars that digital marketing is the It Girl. We rely on social media to build our platforms and push our wares on the reading public. No book tours or public speaking for us! Even the big publishers know better than to pay for authors to attend events as lame as book signings!

Digital marketing may be the easy and affordable route, but it's a huge loss. Sure, reading's a wonderful solo entertainment--few pleasures beat crawling into bed with a great book--but authors who don't put in face time with readers cheat not only the people reading their books, but themselves.

Recently, for instance, I was invited to meet with a book club whose members were discussing my new novel, The Wishing Hill. I was stunned when one member pointed out that, early on, a key character is always looking through binoculars or windows.

"It's a great metaphor for how removed she is from real life," the reader noted.

I loved her insights on my novel, along with the comments made by her fellow book club members. Any time I've appeared in public--at libraries, bookstores, book clubs, house parties, or whatever--I learn as much from my readers asking questions as they do from me talking about writing, publishing, or the book at hand.

Even if you do it on your own dime, I'd urge you to schedule a book tour. Plan it carefully--see the tips below--and you'll reap infinite rewards, by both building an audience and learning all about what you're doing right--or wrong--in your writing. Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Forget about Sales. Book tours aren't really about selling books, though of course that's always a nice side benefit. They're really about creating connections between readers and authors, and instigating conversations about reading and writing. Even if you sell just a handful of books at each event, you will have made new friends--and those friends will tell people about you.

2. Plan Your Presentations. Think of a few presentations to appeal to different audiences. If, for instance, your book highlights local settings, you might talk about how and why writers choose certain settings. Or, if your book blossomed from a family story, discuss how you expanded the story into a memoir or novel.

3. Meet Local Booksellers. Take the time to personally visit every bookstore within a reasonable drive. These book sellers are more likely to host an event with you if they feel a personal connection. Some will even host events with indie authors, provided you're willing to take returns.

4. Visit Libraries. Most libraries sponsor author events. Some host writing workshops. Talk to the librarian or volunteer who organizes community events, offer to donate a book to the library or teach a class, and be sure to help with marketing the event.

5. Ask Everyone You Know about Their Book Clubs. Your friends are always a great resource. Everyone will know someone in a book club; offer to visit these book clubs and discuss your writing.

6. Think Outside the Bookstore. If your book features a social angle, like adoption or caring for aging parents, contact support groups or fund raising organizations and offer to make a presentation about a select topic of interest to that group. Some of these organizations will even be willing to feature your book in their newsletters.

7. Stay for Free. Book touring is a great time to visit your dad's cousins, your children, or your roommates from college--especially if they have an indie bookstore or library near them. Don't be shy about showing up on their doorsteps--and always bring the refreshments and offer free signed copies of your books. If you stop thinking about this as a sales pitch and more like a conversation, it'll be easier to reach out to people who might have fresh ideas about where you can speak or do a book signing.

8. Contact Book Festival Organizers and Universities. Check out local author events and see if there's a way you can join a panel or visit a class of aspiring readers.

Ready? Set? Go! Write about your own book tour experiences and let me know how they go.