Does The Internet Make Book Tours Irrelevant?

Book tours used to be mandatory for authors. If you wrote a book, you had to get out there to promote it, shake hands, kiss babies, pose for black and white photos of you staring off into the distance and maybe sign a couple of copies. But now with the power of the internet and sustained web presences, book tours have waned in importance. In fact, some authors almost refuse to do them anymore. Self published guru JA Konrath wrote a great post about why he really doesn’t do too many appearances anymore. Others cite financial costs and the convenience of promoting your novel from the comfort of your home/transcendentalist shack as reasons for saying no.

I would personally be afraid to go on a book tour. I think it’s because of a persisting fear of sitting in an empty room with no one to sign books for. That just scares me to death and I know it’s not an irrational fear. Even a superstar author like Neil Gaiman had an incident where he went to a signing and no one showed (apparently it was in France and the bookseller told no one about Neil’s appearance and had only set it up as a means to meet Tori Amos through Neil, but still…).

The expenses associated with a tour would also cause me to balk at going through with it. It can be very expensive depending on where you go, how you get there and how big your entourage (whichever of your friends/significant others you can convince to come along and pose as your publicist/bodyguard/adoring fan depending on what the situation calls for) is.

Then again, I think there is undeniable power in meeting someone in person, shaking their hand and exchanging a few words with them. Sure, receiving an email response from a prominent author is nice, but it can’t compare to good ol’ human interaction. And the seed placed in meeting just one person can have ramifications you may never fully understand. Maybe that one person recommends your book to an entire book club. Maybe they are Oprah’s doorman, who happens to be her go-to guy for book recommendations. You will never be able to tell unless everyone who buys your book fills out a survey of how they stumbled upon your work.

What about you? Do you believe you can promote your book effectively in your pajamas while watching reruns of Modern Family? What is your most effective internet/social media promotional tool? Have you ever been on a book tour? How was it? Did you feel like it paid off? Have you been tricked into any book appearance in France by manipulative booksellers, only to find out they really just wanted to meet Tori Amos?