Tips for Going on Book Tour

Compiled by Chris Dixon with assistance from Andy Cornell

In Preparation

Visioning:

  1. Determine the intervention(s) you would like to make with your tour. What are you trying to achieve?
  2. Think about the range of communities and people with whom you want to engage and how you can best reach them. Who are you trying to speak with?
  3. Reflect on your own capacity (time, energy, money) while determining the length and pace of your tour. Realistically, what are you up for? More specifically: How many tour stops? How many events per tour stop? How many events per day?
  4. Decide on a particular region or set of places for the tour, and figure out a mode of transport.
  5. Create a tour schedule with sufficient time for travel and rest.

Setting Up Events:

  1. Begin contacting potential local organizers at least two months in advance – give as much lead-time as possible.
  2. When identifying potential organizers, prioritize people who can help you with point 1 above (to make the intervention you want) and point 2 above (to reach the audience you want). Go with people you know personally or who are enthusiastic about your work, as long as they fulfill the first criteria.
  3. When identifying potential venues for events, consider how they are (or are not) connected to the networks of people you would like to reach. Also, find out whether they meet basic accessibility requirements, including wheelchair accessibility, gender-neutral restrooms, and possibilities for scent-free spaces.
  4. When contacting potential local event organizers, use a personalized form email with succinct info about the book and author.
  5. Consider how you might be able to link your events with ongoing organizing work in the places where you will be. For instance, are there organizers who you can invite to participate in events?
  6. Try to obtain honorariums when and where you can (particularly through universities). Recognize that this will involve significant extra work for local organizers and some extra paperwork for you.
  7. Alert local event organizers about any tech needs you will have for events.
  8. Get confirmed event details as early as possible.
  9. While confirming events, also determine where you will stay in each city.
  10. Send each event organizer a copy of the book, if possible.
  11. Develop, in template form, a one-sheet, a poster, an announcement, a Facebook event, and possibly a press release and/or recorded public service announcement. Have these ready at hand for local event organizers to use. Also, have a high-quality graphic (most likely the book cover) ready to go.
  12. Explicitly discuss accessibility considerations with local event organizers: How will accessibility information be included in event promotion? How can people request (if there is a possibility for) ASL interpretation or transcription? Will children be welcome at the event (they should be!) and, if so, will there be any childcare available? Is there a possibility to have an accessibility point-person available on the day of the event to help with any support?
  13. Be clear about expectations around money at each event: Will it be okay to pass the hat for donations? Will the host venue order books to sell or will you sell your own copies?
  14. Follow up regularly (at least every two weeks) with local event organizers to confirm details and ask if they need further assistance.
  15. Consider asking local event organizers about hosting meals at their homes rather than eating out after events.

Getting Things Together on Your End:

  1. Make all travel arrangements at least a month (if not further) in advance.
  2. Put out a tour schedule online (and through other means, if available) at least a month in advance. Even if you don’t have confirmed venues for each stop, it’s better to get this out sooner rather than later. Put the schedule up as a Facebook event as well.
  3. Prepare, for yourself, a comprehensive tour itinerary with dates, times, locations, and contact info for local organizers. If necessary, also acquire relevant maps.
  4. Prepare presentation notes or outlines. Your general format should intersperse a handful of analytical points with some compelling stories.
  5. Prepare any multimedia materials and/or handouts.
  6. Pull together any merchandise or other materials for distribution. If you can transport them, it’s always worth bringing along other activist publications, such as Briarpatch, the Certain Days Political Prisoners Calendar, Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, and Upping the Anti.
  7. Bring some smaller bills in order to make change when selling stuff. If you want to be able to take credit cards, set up the app Square on your smartphone.

While on Tour

Between Events:

  1. Allow extra time for everything.
  2. Try to get regular and sufficient sleep.
  3. Avoid eating out all the time.
  4. Exercise regularly.
  5. If you’re traveling with other people, make sure to build in alone time.
  6. Prioritize spending time with event organizers and thanking them for their work.
  7. Set – and try to stick to – a daily budget.

For Events:

  1. Check in with local event organizers before speaking to get a sense of the audience and context. Also, double-check about how long the event should last and what the culture of lateness is like (in other words, what time the event will actually begin).
  2. Publicly thank local event organizers by name.
  3. Speak for, at most, 30-45 minutes, and allow plenty of time for discussion.
  4. Make a defined time for any announcements about local organizing.
  5. Remember to pass the hat at each event.
  6. When selling books, consider offering “deals,” like two or more books for a reduced price.
  7. Try to be as friendly and approachable as possible, given your own energy and needs.

Afterward

  1. Rest.
  2. Follow up individually with all event organizers to thank them for their work.
  3. Evaluate your success in achieving your goals on the tour: In what ways did you succeed? What would you do differently next time?

This is a revised version of a tip sheet I put together after helping to organize the west coast tour for Andy Cornell’s book Oppose and Propose! in the spring of 2011. The folks at Aid & Abet featured the original tip sheet in the resources section of their site. I made updates and revisions after the Another Politics tour in 2014-2015.