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How to Build a Group Book Tour

Authors Marie Lu, Beth Revis, Jessica Spotwood and Andrea Cremer teamed up for Penguin Books for Young Readers’ annual “Breathless Reads” tour this year.

The tour ends tonight at 7 p.m. in Los Angeles at Once Upon a Time bookstore. Here’s more about the event: “This event is free and open to the public. In order to go through the priority signing line, though, you must purchase one of the authors’  books from us.”

We covered the tour last year and Macmillan launched a Pen Fatale group tour this year, so we wanted to find out more about how to run a group book tour. We caught up with Penguin Books for Young Readers assistant marketing director Lisa Kelly to find out more. Her answers follow below…

Q: How was the ‘Breathless Reads’ 2012 tour conceived?
A: It was conceived as a continuation of our ‘Breathless Reads’ 2010 plan that we did surrounding a big trade push for five debut authors. We thought it went really, really well and we transitioned it from a trade campaign into a consumer campaign. We really found it successful in introducing those authors to a teen audience.

Now, with this new 2012 edition of ‘Breathless Reads,’ we conceived of it initially as another tour a couple of the authors a new moment within their cycle of publishing and a couple of new authors a great publicity hook right around the launch of their books. We’ve taken it from just being a tour to really being a comprehensive marketing plan that compliments the four titles and their original marketing plans.

It’s not just sending them on tour. It’s developing a Facebook presence for the collection of books separate from their individual [pages]. It’s having a sampler on all major retailers, you can download a free sampler on the Nook, on the Kindle and on all the devices. It’s robust Twitter and Facebook advertising, a GoodReads campaign. We really wanted to take the idea of a group tour and then amplify it across as many channels as possible to really reach a wide audience.

Q: How does organizing a tour for a group of authors differ from organizing a tour for an individual author?
A: I think that when you’re organizing for a group, it’s not just the logistics are a little different, but the group dynamic becomes very important. The group of authors, in our case the four authors, need to have a great dynamic with each other. That isn’t so much a factor when you’re doing a solo tour.

The dynamic of how the event is run [also] becomes very important. When an author is on a solo tour, they stand up, the read and they take questions; having an outside moderator isn’t as important. But with a group event, it’s really important that all four authors have a good platform to speak and somebody is helping to facilitate that. I think something that sets our events apart is that each event has a moderator that is coming in specifically to help facilitate. And then that moderator has their own audience and their own outlet that they’re bringing to it; we have a moderator from MTV.com’s Hollywood Crush blog and from Patch.com and things like that. They’re just not coming to be a facilitator, they’re also bringing their audience to these books and to these authors.

Q: This is the second year of the ‘Breathless Reads’ tour so you do have some experience to draw from. How did last year’s tour impact sales and what do you expect this year to do for sales?
A: I think that we always see a really nice lift in sales around tours. What’s great is you tend to see a long tail from it as the tour is happening and as people are discovering it. It really helps to generate the word of mouth. What we like to see is a nice spike, but then four to six to eight weeks out we like to see those books still performing above where they were before the tour. The hope is that all those people that came to events are now out talking about it and recommending [the titles] and that people are buying.

We do expect that to happen here. I think what’s great is that we’re providing another moment for each of these authors within the cycle of their publishing whereas Andrea Cremer and Beth Revis had January titles and Marie Lu was back in November. So they’re each going to be in a different place in their [individual] trajectories, but we’re hoping it provides a nice spike for those who have been in the market a little longer. And for Jessica Spotswood, since it’s happening within a week or two of her on-sale date, we will see her sales tracking higher from the beginning.

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