On touring for a field guide

It’s been quiet here on the blog for a while. At the end of April I left for just over two weeks on the road doing a book tour for my newly-released field guide to moths; in the week prior to leaving I was too busy getting organized to think about blogging, and though I got back on Monday I’ve been too tired to think of doing anything since my arrival. And of course, it just didn’t work out while I was on the road.

The moth guide tour was a bit untraditional in a couple of ways. First of all, I did all the planning myself. For most book tours the publisher pays for and organizes the whole thing, and the author pretty much only has to provide themselves. The publisher takes care of transportation and bookings and logistical details. The author picks what passage to read, what clothes to wear, and what pen to sign with. It’s still stressful for the author in that any public engagement where you’re in the spotlight is stressful, but a lot of the behind-the-scenes stress is removed from the author’s shoulders. In my case, I had to book all the events, organize the details, drive myself there, etc, etc. The publisher helped out a little with costs, but the moth guide is not a high-profile title, and the marketing budget for it wasn’t very big so they couldn’t dedicate a publicist to planning it. I’m rather grateful I was able to do a tour at all, considering that.

And second, because the tour was for a field guide a large component of each event was an outdoor session where we looked at the actual organisms the field guide was for – in this case, moths. And because moths fly at night, after dark, the events were by necessity somewhat later than typical. Also, partly outside. I did a powerpoint presentation at most of the stops and then we went outside to where I had my moth-attracting equipment (aka light bulbs) set up. During the latter half of the evening I’d sign guides and talk to fans.

They were relatively small events, compared to many authors’ book signings. The largest crowds were about 40 people. This was partly event timing, partly the subject matter. But this isn’t a title that’s expected to sell tens of thousands of books in its first year. Or even ten thousand books. It’s a niche market (albeit a relatively large niche market, it’s turning out) and sales, and even attendance, reflects that. Still. Consider that in any given area there may be 40 people who are interested enough in moths to not only buy the book but also come out to listen to someone talk about them. Given that these are moths, and not birds or something more traditional, I think that’s pretty awesome.

I had a really fun time at these events, and I had a great time on the tour. It was so wonderful to meet so many enthusiastic people. But boy, am I ever glad to be home again! Being responsible for organizing it all myself and getting myself from place to place was pretty exhausting. I was in a different city every night, with three to four hours between each one that I had to navigate and drive to. By the end of the trip I was ready to plunk myself down and not have to go anywhere for a few days! Not to mention needing the time to get caught up on all the email and other stuff I didn’t get a chance to do while constantly on the road.

I’ll be posting a bit more on the book tour at my nature blog. Regular writing posts should resume here forthwith. :)

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One response to “On touring for a field guide

  1. well you did a fabulous job, and it was fun meeting you and watching you at “work”, I have used your guide so many times now it is already getting tattered and torn, I may have to buy a new one and have you sign it and put it away somewhere.. haha… take care, and good luck with your writings.. robin (oglebay good zoo, wheeling, wv)

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