How critical was being physically present to the success of your book?
August 12, 2014 8:28 PM   Subscribe

How critical was being continually physically present for readings, signings, interviews and other events to the success of a book? Was most of your successful promotional efforts in the first year online or over the phone?

I'm a tricky situation.

My primary profession is international development. I took an eight-month hiatus to finalize my first book, which is coming through the traditional market this fall. It will be available worldwide, everywhere books are sold in paperback and in eBook. As a first-time author, I know that a primary driver of its success will be my marketing efforts.

Last week, I found out that I was selected for a competitive job with the UN (I was working with the UN before, but with a different agency). The job is based in central Africa. Logistically, this will be difficult for online promotion efforts due to the realities of sub-Saharan Africa - power outages, difficult climate, fatigue, sickness, time difference, etc. However, my situation is further complicated because the subject matter of my book is largely taboo in the country, though not in the States or Europe. I would therefore need to be very careful when doing any promotion either online or verbally, as it could cause problems if the wrong person found out. To get around the virtual promotion part, I plan on hiring a media coordinator to drive most of my online efforts.

I have already been given permission to come back to the States in November to do a small book tour. With the help of a few key contacts, I think I will be able to swing at least 3-4 cities with 25+ target audience members in attendance per event.

What I'd like to know from the Metafilter community is how critical was being continually physically present for readings, signings, interviews and other events to the success of a book? As a new author, will being physically present for events for only a week or two during the first year of the book's release be sufficient? Or do most new authors make a name by constant in-person promotion? Keep in mind that I signed with a small press, though the major target audiences are well defined and active online.

This job is a huge opportunity to step up in my primary career, but the timing could not be worse for my book. I want to be sure if I accept the job that I am not abandoning the potential success of my book by not being available in-person for the majority of the first year after its release.
posted by msk1985 to Media & Arts (2 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Speaking as a former book editor (now three years out from my time in the traditional book publishing world), in my experience, consistent online promotion and engagement by the author is more important than in-person.

Most of my authors did not do constant in-person events throughout the first year of their books. For one thing, there wasn't enough demand for that many in-person events. Some authors were more internet savvy than others; it sounds like you are marshaling your resources appropriately, given your constraints.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:48 PM on August 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Hi, I did a book tour two months ago so I actually know something about this! We did all the touring over a period of two weeks after the book came out. It's really those first few weeks when publicity is most critical. You don't need to be on call for a year.

Happy to talk in more detail by MeMail.
posted by escabeche at 9:32 PM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

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