Thursday, February 18, 2016

Virtual Book Club Talk

I've begun setting up my June book tour for Destiny's Pawn, and like any frugal author, I'm trying to get the most bang for my buck.

My pilgrimage north usually takes a week, starting in western Massachusetts and concluding in northern Maine – some 600 miles later – where the Peyton Cote novels are set. I sign at various stores, street events, read, and this year will even host an "author luncheon" to benefit a local library. As you can imagine, it's a costly friend-raising journey. Last summer, I had $500 into the trip before hotel costs.

Something happened last week that has me (almost) rethinking this whole thing: Laura Cummings, at White Birch Bookstore, reached out to host a signing on said tour and mentioned her store's book club was discussing Bitter Crossing. Coincidentally, after my students recently read Naomi Hirahara's terrific Murder of Bamboo Lane, I shot Naomi an e-mail to see if she'd be interested in hosting a Google Hangout session Q@A with my students. She said sure, and we successfully used Google.

So when Laura mentioned her book club, I offered to do the same. We used Google Hangouts for this event, too, and it worked reasonably well.

A new business model? A more cost-effective one for sure.

Can a virtual author visit replace a face-to-face interaction? No way. But North Conway, NH, is three hours from my house. I spoke to maybe ten readers and answered questions for 30 minutes. And I was still home to read my 7-year-old daughter a story and kiss her goodnight. And the trip didn't cost so much as one cup of coffee, let alone gas expenses.

Will the virtual author visit replace the real deal? Not anytime soon. But there's a definite upside to this structure. And it makes me wonder how authors will be interacting with readers in the future.

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