Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tour a book before it’s published? Five reasons why it’s not as crazy as it sounds

In Whitehorse: That's me with Michael Gates, one of my favorite writer/historians

Recently I returned from ten days of traveling Alaska and the Yukon, touring a book that’s yet to be published. A year ago, I’d never thought of doing such a thing, but now that I’ve done it, it makes perfect sense.

Of course, it has to be the right kind of book. I wouldn’t do a pre-publication tour of a novel, for instance, because novels are slippery little things, prone to a lot of shifting even in their final stages.

You also have to be the right kind of author, meaning that you have the confidence and means to make sure the book actually gets published. Because my publishing options now include Running Fox Books, I’ve got an in with the publisher (me!), and that means I know Wealth Woman: Kate Carmack and the Last Great Race for Gold will see the light of day, one way or the other.

Finally, you have to be at the right place in your work. I’ve been at this project for two years. My research is nearly wrapped up (I completed the last of it while touring, which helped me decide where to stop.). I’ve written half the book, and the other half’s thoroughly outlined. Put it this way: I can talk about Kate Carmack in my sleep. All night. For several nights in a row. If there’s anyone in the world who knows more about her than I do, we definitely need to talk.

Here’s why I recommend a before-the-fact tour of your book:

·        You’ll be reminded why you’re writing the book in the first place. After a few years on a project, you start wondering why you ever began. A few talks in new places before eager listeners will get you jazzed all over again about your subject.
·        You’ll get to test-drive some of the book’s key components. Before a live audience, you can see where interest peaks and fizzles. You’ll find out which parts you’ve nailed, and which ones will benefit from further work.
·        You’ll build excitement for your project. If you’ve ever waiting nervously for those first reviews to come in, wondering whether anyone but you and your mother and your friends who are too polite to say otherwise will like what you’ve written, then you can appreciate how nice it is to meet a bunch of readers who are enthusiastic about your book before it’s even finished.
·        You’ll expand your platform. Is any phrase tossed around more in publishing these days? Enough said.
·        You’ll meet some really cool people. In Haines, I stayed with Nancy, in the very same house owned by Louis Shotridge almost a hundred years ago (as it happens, Louis Shotridge appears in my book. Thanks to my friend Dan, I also met Lee, a local genealogy whiz who helped me firm up some family connections of Kate’s.  In Skagway, I reconnected with Cindy at the National Park Service, who set my whole tour in motion with a lecture request made last spring. In Tagish, I was welcomed by Ida, a descendent of Kate’s who shared fantastic views (literally and figuratively) of the place Kate called home. In Whitehorse, a stranger I met at the archives became a friend, inviting me to stay at her home, where we swapped research on our subjects (thanks, Lian!), and a fellow writer delivered some research material I hadn't yet found (thanks, Michael!). In Dawson, Laura served wine and cheese at my lecture, and she made email connections for me with writers I need to know, plus I got a rare tour of the Anglican Church that Kate’s daughter attended (thanks, Dan and Betty!).

Cross-posted at www.49writers.blogspot.com.