7 Things I learned on my "book tour"

1. It's OK to call it a book tour, even if you're speaking in churches and sleeping on your friend's floors. In this brave new world of publishing, book tours are all about authors and making their own connections. So I had to get over my own embarrassment and be proud to say - yes - this is my tour! And yes - quite a few of my stops are in rural Midwestern towns.

2. Be patient. When Red State Christians first came out in early August, I didn't have most of my book events scheduled yet. It took a bit of time for momentum to build and for me to get a chance to get away. But the events built on each other, and it all unfolded in the timing it was meant to have.

3. Small town bookstores and local libraries are your friend! I've had so much fun exploring local bookstores, including Barnes & Noble in my hometown. Local bookstores and libraries have purchased books to sell at my events, as well as making my book available for free loan to the public. They're also hosted me for events and helped publicize. I've enjoyed hearing their stories and learning how authors and booksellers can work together against the Amazon behemoth.

4. Don't obsess over your Amazon ranking ... but ... each time I made the effort to do an event, even if it involved some complicated travel - I noticed that my book sales went up a lot, not only at the bookstores but on Amazon as well. Don't underestimate the power of in-person connections with readers, even if they don't buy a book at your event.

5. No one has it easy. I've tried to make a point of attending other authors' book events in the past year or so, and no matter how well-known the author or book is - I've noticed we all have to put in a lot of personal hard work and financial investment to make this career happen. I met an author I looked up to/was intimidated by on social media in person about a month ago in Minneapolis. When we got to talk, I learned she shared the same worries about: was she doing all of her own promotions? Did she have to make a lot of her own travel arrangements? Was her book selling enough (despite tons of reviews and coverage in major media)? The writing community can be a wonderful place of support when we open up to each other and are honest about the struggles of the publishing world.

6. Love your publisher. Even though it can feel easy to blame the changes in the publishing industry for authors on publishers, the truth is we are all struggling in a brave new world of increased self-publishing and the over-emphasis on Amazon. Publishers just don't have the budgets they once did for author tours or promotions, even in the big New York houses - as far as I know at least, for most non-celebrity authors. I've heard lots of stories as I've traveled in the past few months, and these stories have increased my appreciation for my Christian publisher, who despite their smaller size and Midwestern headquarters, have supported my book in exemplary ways, like funding my research travel and making lots of ARCs available to journalists around America.

7. Lean into your support network. In my last book event in Missouri after a busy few days, I got an especially caring question from a fellow Lutheran pastor who attended the event.

"What do you do for self-care?" she asked.

I appreciated the question, because with the work that goes into writing a book (likely on a small advance), plus maintaining some kind of day job, and being present for your family and friends - it's easy to lose sight of taking care of yourself. In the process of writing and promoting my book, I had several highs - especially on my reporting trip and experiencing so much of America and her people. But I also experienced difficult transition in my pastoral call at the time, and I found myself suffering from unprecedented anxiety and depression.

As I've began touring and speaking more frequently on my book, I've noticed that what has given me the most energy to keep it up (despite feeling nervous before each and every event) - is the support of the ones closest to me. I've been truly blown away by the support I've received from fellow pastors, especially fellow clergywomen and fellow Lutheran pastors. You've invited me to your churches, universities, and even your homes. I've also received wonderful support from former journalism colleagues and classmates, who have helped open doors for published excerpts and interviews and endorsements.

Maybe most importantly, I've received incredible family support. My parents have affirmed that this is "the year" of my book, and they've put aside some of their part-time retirement work and jobs to be there to watch Jake and Josh as needed. This past weekend, they watched the boys so that Ben could join me in Missouri (and we could spend some time with old college friends and on our old college campus).

Ben too has been an incredible support, taking photos at events and affirming me when I'm nervous or tired -- not to mention working a job that provides our family with steady income and health insurance.

Jake and Josh provide support, too -- forcing me to occasionally take a break from working and spend time with them playing Magnetiles or going to the park or talking about First Grade. Those moments are important.

Whoever your closest support network is: family, friends, coworkers -- lean into that group as you move into post-launch book promotion and events. Remind yourself of the people who really know you and love you - even as you receive affirmation and criticism from strangers.

I'm so grateful for all the places I've gone to talk about Red State Christians and about America and about Jesus in the past few months, from rural Northern Wisconsin to North Carolina to Missouri this week. I have many more events scheduled into November and a few in 2020, so I'll be relying on my own advice as it comes. AND - if you would like to schedule an event at your church, library, bookstore or university/college - shoot me a note!


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