Book Tour Logistics

I’ve heard too many horror stories from authors who arrived at their speaking gigs only to find that their luggage and/or books did not. In this article, I want to help you avoid those problems.

The bookstores should order books from your wholesaler or publisher well ahead of the event but often they don’t. Even when they do, there probably won’t be enough if you do a good job of obtaining publicity. I talked with a woman in the NY office of B&N and she admitted that their stores would be unlikely to order 60 or 70 copies and that they are not authorized to buy extras from the author. As a result, I know one author who, after B&N ran out, quietly passed the word to attendees that there were more available from her car after the event. Another author supplies extra books at the event and then has the store special-order that many and send them to her afterward. Evidently they can do SOs but not buy on the spot from the author.

I do events at Borders and independent stores instead. I recommend the store order 10 to 25 copies the week before (publicity will cause some people to ask for books before the event) and I can supply the rest. Sometimes stores forget to order in time and more often I have to supply extra books so I bring plenty in my car. I give the store an invoice that they can send to HQ in Ann Arbor. Including the vendor number helps them send the check to the publisher.
If you fly to events, you can’t carry enough books with you, you can’t count on the store ordering enough or on time and some events are not in stores. One author recently sent two cartons by Media Mail four weeks ahead for a conference. Only one carton made it in time. He and I would now both recommend a different shipper, perhaps FedEx or UPS. If you are in the PartnerShip program, you can get good discounts from FedEx that make them competitive with the Postal Service over five pounds or so, plus they have insurance. Whether you are sending books to a hotel, store or your mother’s house, let the people at your destination know to expect them.

Lost or delayed luggage is another big problem and I mean really big. In 2005, 30 million bags were misplaced worldwide. In the U.S., it was 10,000 per day or 6 per 1,000 passengers. How lucky do you feel? Authors have arrived at important events without their business clothes and presentation material. Fortunately, this problem can be eliminated with the help of the book, It’s In The Bag: The Complete Guide to Lightweight Travel. It shows how to take everything you are likely to need, even for a long, overseas trip, in one carry-on bag. If the bag is always with you, the airline can’t lose it. Air Canada is now offering their lowest fares only to those who don’t check luggage and Ryanair charges extra for checked luggage. This trend could spread.

Even so, I recommend that you wear neat attire on the plane. Your flight could be delayed and you may have to go directly to a meeting or people might pick you up at the airport. Wearing a sweat suit on the plane won’t make a good impression and will nix your chance of getting an upgrade to business or first class if economy is overbooked. With advance wardrobe planning, your business suit or other neat outfit can be quite comfortable on the plane. The book has specific details on how to create a coordinated, travel wardrobe with a small number of well-chosen pieces and have plenty of room for all those little things (also listed) that help your trip run smoothly. You’ll probably even have room for a few of your books, in case people along the way want to buy them. Stress less and enjoy your book tour.

© 2006 Barbara DesChamps. Barbara DesChamps has been traveling overseas since 1971, on trips lasting six weeks to five months. People kept asking her and her husband how they could travel so long with just a small carry-on each and this finally prompted Barbara to share her secrets in It’s In The Bag: The Complete Guide to Lightweight Travel. Learn more at Barbara travels to bookstores with her little bag filled with over 100 items to show people that they can travel in both comfort and style. She also has an extensive background in clothing design and color and is currently writing a follow-on book, available late 2006, on how to create your own custom wardrobe. Watch the website for release date.