Thursday, May 6, 2010

Changing Times

Deadlines When I was at the Malice Domestic conference last weekend, I had a chance to talk with an author who currently has a successful series with a major publisher.

When I was introduced to her, I immediately remembered a review I’d read about her last book in the series on one of the major book blogs.

“Oh, fantastic review on _____,” I said. (I don’t want to make it too clear which author this is, although I don’t think she’ll find out…and you’ll see why in a second.)

“Where?” she asked. She looked completely baffled.

“On ______,” I repeated.

“Is that a newspaper?”

I’m afraid at this point that my mouth may have gaped open and my eyes bugged out. Really?

“Um, well…no, but it’s a major book reviewing site online.”

There was some lost interest. I decided to change the subject since we’re locked into this conversation with each other.

“So, you’ve been doing really well,” I said mildly. That was an understatement.

“Yes, I decided to go on a 10-state tour of bookstores. I meet the staff, sign stock, get to know bookstore staff pretty well. Then I call on them when another book is released.”

Well, this completely blew me away. She’s young and has a family. And—traveling is expensive. And bookstore staff turns over pretty quickly. And…

But it was working for her. She was really successful with it.

I have to wonder, though, how long that approach will work so well.

And…why not at least monitor the online world a little? How many more sales would you get? How much more exposure? And for just a fraction of the cost of getting hotel rooms and putting miles on your car.

How long is there going to be print reviewing?

How long before books go digital and there are no “stock signings” as a promo option?

How long before you do need to go courting and visit book bloggers, and spend time on Facebook and Twitter? How much catching up will you need to do?

When I hear stories like hers, I feel a real mixture of feelings. Some guilt, definitely, at choosing not to do the same thing. But also a sense of wonder at her completely ignoring such a vital component of book promotion.

What do you think (and I realize I’ve got a biased group here since we’re all online and networking)? How long will the old-fashioned book tour last and be successful? Do you think there’s an argument for doing a personal-appearance tour as opposed to a virtual one?