Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

My 8 Rules for Touring

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“Going on tour with your book?” friends ask soon after a novel’s release. I’m sure they imagine an all-expenses trip across Canada, complete with four-star hotels and handlers.

I usually offer too much whiney information about how I cobble together events, the majority of them close to home. How I mostly organize and pay for it all myself because gone are the days when publishers can afford such ventures. Sometimes I throw in enticing details about how I lug duffle bags of books with me, loading and loading them onto trains and buses.

Don’t get me wrong, touring has its wonderful moments. There are engaged readers, enthusiastic audiences, adventurous travel.

With Stealing Nasreen, I did over sixty readings in twenty-five cities across North America. It was an amazing experience, but when Six Metres of Pavement came out, I wondered how to tour smarter, to use my limited travel time and money better.

Over time, I developed 8 rules for touring:

1. Don’t go if you’re way more excited than your host.

Bookstore staff and event organizers will publicize your event, bring out an audience and get your books there in time if they’re interested in having you there. If you’re busy convincing them how great you are, and you’re getting a lack-lustre response, stay home.

2. Try to go to places where you know a few people.

Your friend or colleague or second-cousin, twice removed, will likely bring a friend or two with them to the reading.

3. In places where you don’t know anyone…

Read at events with established audiences, such as local readings series and festivals. Another approach is to invite local authors share the stage with you. They will likely be able to draw a crowd. Reciprocate when they are in your city.

4. Ask for money.

This time around, I’ve asked organizers if they can help cover travel expenses. Sometimes they can’t, and that’s ok. But you never know until you ask.

5. Don’t leave home.

Blog touring (being a guest on someone else’s blog) is gaining popularity amongst authors. Book bloggers are wonderful people, often volunteering their time and energy to promote literature. Plus, these “guest appearances” stay on the web forever, and you can use them to help promote your work months and years after the interview is over.

6. Small towns are really cool.

One of my favourite tour stops is Del Rio, Texas, a tiny border town where some of my family lives (rule #2 applies). It's a rare thing for an authors to stop in Del Rio, and so locals show up when they do. They made me feel like a queen.

7. Size doesn’t (really) matter.

It’s nice if a ton of people show up for your reading. But if they don’t, the event isn’t necessarily a bust. I’ve done intimate readings with fewer than five people where I sold more books that at an event with thirty. Sometimes there’s a very engaged person in that tiny gathering who will then invite you to a book club or to a festival. Be enthusiastic even if the numbers are low.

Also, remember that the other function of holding a reading is to be able to work your publicity. So maybe only five people showed up. But hopefully you got a listing or interview in the local paper, and a bunch of people on Facebook and Twitter who couldn’t turn up are now interested in reading your book.

8. Rest well.

Most authors I know are introverted folks. Reading, meeting people and signing books (you know, all that social stuff?) takes a lot of energy. There can be a temptation (at least for me) to plan too many readings in a short amount of time, and to sneak in some sight-seeing and night life while away. Get enough sleep.

In October, I’m excited to be heading off to Montreal’s (Not-So-Local) Local Legends Series, Exposure, Edmonton’s Queer Arts and Culture Festival and the Vancouver International Writers Festival. I will likely break rule #8.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Farzana Doctor

Farzana Doctor is a Toronto-based author and the recipient of the Writers' Trust of Canada's Dayne Ogilvie Grant for an emerging gay Canadian author (2011). Her first novel, Stealing Nasreen, received critical acclaim and earned a devoted readership upon its release in 2007. She is currently touring her second book, Six Metres of Pavement (Dundurn 2011).

Go to Farzana Doctor’s Author Page