The LA Times devoted the front page of their Calendar section today to a feature on my friend Harley Jane Kozak and her book tour to support DATING IS MURDER. It’s great to see her getting some well-deserved publicity. The article is about her, but the angle really seems to be whether a book tour makes sense anymore for authors who aren’t mega-bestsellers.
There are fewer Kozaks — new writers hoping to stake out a readership — out on
the road these days. When they do tours, the trips tend to be shorter and closer
to where the author lives or where the book is set, hoping to play off local
"What we have learned is that if you are going to go out on
tour with basically an unknown author and set up a book-signing, chances are
you’ll have two to five people show up," says Justin Loeber, publicity director
for Simon & Schuster. "It’s just not very cost-effective."
The reporter followed Harley to several of her signings, including some in Houston.
Each morning, Kozak visits a handful of bookstores to meet the owners and
managers and sign copies of her books. In smaller ones, such as Houston’s Blue
Willow Bookshop, tucked between a tailor and a gift store in a neighborhood
strip mall 10 miles west of downtown, that means three hardcover copies of the
new book and four paperback copies of her first one…
…an evening reading and signing at Murder by the Book, where she is double-billed
with Randy Wayne White, author of the bestselling Doc Ford mysteries and former
"Out There" columnist for Outside magazine. Together they draw about 50 people,
and Kozak signs 34 books for 19 readers, many of whom tell her they came for
White but decided to buy her book too.
The question is whether the schlep to Houston was worth it. Most likely, she wouldn’t have sold 34 books at Murder By The Book otherwise (and will now sell more since she signed stock), but when tabulating the costs of the trip (and time away from family and writing), was it worth it? Did she gain anything in the long run by signing seven books at Blue Willow Bookshop? I don’t know. But those are questions that authors, publishers and booksellers are asking themselves these days as it gets more and more expensive to send authors out on tour (or for authors to send themselves).