Required or Optional Book Tours?
Question: is it an obligation or optional for illustrators, authors, or an
author/illustrator to do promotional tours (school visits, library events,
etc)? Should I not continue in my illustration career if I don't want to do
large presentations? Will publishers refuse to hire me if I don't do tours?
I've understood through SVS classes that this is a desirable activity that publishers would like us to do, and good marketing. I'm just not able to do big presentations anymore for a variety of reasons.
I am willing and able to promote on my website, ads, social media, book
trailers, and even Skype to schools but I don't want to travel and
entertain large groups of children repeatedly. Is this a requirement of the
I don't have an answer but I wanted to say that I've wondered the same thing. I'd like to know too. Of the illustrators I follow on twitter I've noticed it's the author/illustrators who go on book tours.
Hi! Since nobody's posted an answer yet, I can share what I know from research. I interviewed a children's librarian and asked whether all the illustrators and authors of the books in their building-sized children's area were required to do tours or school/library visits, and he said no - that'd be impossible. Most don't seem to do that, although he said Scholastic strongly encourages it. Many local authors/illustrators try to set up a local promotional event. He sounded confident that this was just optional.
From SVS "Illustrating Children's Books" marketing section of the class, I learned that publishers won't usually ask or require you to do school visits and so on, but hope you will. Will Terry talked about how eager he was to do school visits / book tour in various cities, and his publisher encouraged that. However he said it was pretty exhausting and he no longer does them due to work on other projects, but he's still producing books and seemingly his no longer touring is not an obstacle to getting jobs.
I also learned that carefully reading the contract is important - it may discuss promotional activities, or not. But there are a myriad of promotional opportunities besides school visits and book tours, and they encouraged us in the class to do visits if it were a good fit: you have to entertain the kids and do more than just read the book, often you need to teach a lesson that reinforces what teachers have been teaching in various subjects. They also encouraged illustrators to promote the book in other ways: book signings (if well-known enough), social media, website, book trailers, even ads if appropriate. So it isn't a question of "do this school visit, or you can't promote your work" - there are options.
From a social media group of writers and illustrators, I posed this question and learned that there are strong opinions on both sides. Some people, especially if they are a self-publishing author, feel it's always a part of the job and illustrators should "do their bit." Some illustrators say it's in the contract about what you have to do or not do (it isn't mentioned in mine FYI). Several said it's just optional. Most people desire to do it because it pays very well (I wouldn't be getting paid for any of the promotional things my client currently wants).
It's well worth taking this SVS class "Illustrating Children's Books" to learn extensive detail about this, although it didn't really answer my question, it just encouraged and explained how school visits and promoting the book would work based on their experiences (which are valuable).
I still wonder, can an illustrator like myself choose to promote the book in every other conceivable way but not do school visits etc? Would this make most publishers/clients upset even if I were promoting the work in other ways? Because it's making my current client upset. I just don't know.
@Amanda-Bancroft I was just wondering the same thing this morning watching Jake fly to Portland on social media! I have a little one at home :)
@Amanda-Bancroft I'm sure there are countless scenarios on marketing/PR. I think the two most common ones are if the works are self published or through a major house.
From what I've heard, if works are self published it would be up to to author/illustrator to do all the marketing and PR themselves. So, if they choose not to visit school or libraries, that'd be their prerogative. They could market in any number of ways i.e. online, word of mouth, small boutique stores, etc.
I would think if they have an agent that would be lined out before hand. Generally the publisher would do the marketing and PR for the most part. I would imagine it would be in the negotiation of the contract to outline whether the author or illustrator be required to go on a book tour. Also if they are required to do a book tour, then one could negotiate the locations of the signings that may or may not include schools.
Not sure if this has any merit, just one perspective.
My understanding as well is that it's not imperative (unless it's in your contract) but highly encouraged. It's not just for the benefit of the publisher, but yours too because of the sales you can make.
I as well would be incredibly nervous to do one - I'm definitely not the 'teacher type' and would have no idea where to begin creating a lesson plan, or how to deliver it in front of an audience (complete with stage fright and all).
One thing that I've noticed some do (Tara Lazar for example) is that if they want to do the school visits but can't/don't want to travel there, they set up Skype visits with classrooms. She likely arranges with that school ahead of time some sort of an order form that the kids can take home to their parents so that if they want to buy a copy of her book, a bulk order arrives directly to the school before the Skype visit takes place.
I don't think there's a hard and fast rule on anything - if you don't want to do them but can be creative about it in other ways to get your book out there, at the end of the day all that really matters is that your book is selling well.