Tovar's book was published in mid-February, which made us "launch buddies." We kept bumping into each other on Twitter & Facebook. But I soon realized that Tovar was handling his outreach in a unique way. He kept announcing bookstore visit after bookstore visit, until my Facebook comment became: "Hey Tovar, you're making the rest of us look bad!" I was kidding, of course. Sort of.
So I asked him to swing by Blurb is a Verb to answer a few questions about this ambitious tour.
Q. Tovar, how many bookstores do you think you'll visit before it's over?
At least twenty-five to thirty. I’ve visited about twenty stores around New England so far and have another five or six events lined up in western states. I may also do a few in New Jersey and the mid-Atlantic.
Q. Bookstore visits take a lot of time and effort. How did you know this was something you wanted to pursue?
I wanted to do everything I could to spread the word about the book. There are lots of ways to do that and get publicity, of course, and I didn’t want to leave the store-event stone unturned. Also, I thought my book’s topic would make for good face-to-face conversations.
Q. What advice would you offer those authors who are thinking about a lengthy independent bookstore tour?
2. Do whatever you can—hopefully with assistance from the store’s event manager and your publicist—to line up local publicity for the days before the event: radio interviews, reviews or profiles in local newspapers, and the like. That publicity can be at least as valuable as the event itself.
3. This is probably obvious, but make sure that any local friends and family know you’ll be in their area. They are far more likely to attend than strangers are.
4. Leave your expectations at home. One event can be packed with enthusiastic folks and the next can be a complete bust. No one can predict which will be which.
5. If the weather gods owe you any favors, call them in. You want so-so weather: Okay to drive and walk in, but not so nice that people want to stay outdoors all day and evening.
Q. What day of the week seems to draw out the most people? Is there a time of day that feels like it's working better?
I’ve had my best turnouts on weekday evenings, Monday through Thursday, starting at 6:30 or 7:00.
Q. When I met you at the Dartmouth Bookstore in Hanover, NH, the first thing you did was to invite everyone to put the chairs in a circle. I'm not sure I would have thought of that, but it seemed to work really well. Do you have any other excellent tricks to tell us?
I imagine that various approaches work best for different books and authors. At my events, I want to do everything I can to encourage conversation. So I usually do a fifteen-minute intro and then open things up for discussion. When the group is small enough and the space allows, arranging chairs in a circle is helpful. I think it helps people feel like they are participants, rather than spectators. It also makes it easier for people to hear each other’s comments and questions. In some cases, like a library event I did recently, things are already set up that way.
I don’t have a big bag full of tricks. But I’d say that humor, self-deprecating or otherwise, is always a good idea. Even if your book is serious, it’s important for people to know that you don’t take yourself too seriously. Even a moment’s lightheartedness can help put everyone, including you, at ease.
Q. You seem to encourage discussion really well at your events. Does it ever get out of hand? Have you had to wrestle the conversation back from anyone?
Luckily, no. Every conversation is different, but none has gotten out of hand. Now and then, a question or comment rambles on longer than necessary, but that’s about it. Then again, sometimes my responses ramble on longer than necessary! If I stay centered and hold up my end of the conversation well, others tend to do the same.
You can visit Tovar Cerruli on his website, and follow him @TovarCerulli.