Monday, August 25, 2014

Introducing Diverse Book Tours

Long before the now famous We Need Diverse Books movement, Guinevere and Libertad Thomas were a driving force in calling attention to the need for diversity in Children’s and YA literature. 

Libertad Thomas
As bloggers, activists, writers, book reviewers, and promoters, they continue to keep the focus on this important issue. Joining forces with Sasha of So Bookishly,
these talented bloggers are transforming their passion into a new venture, Diverse Book Tours, launching at the end of August.

Guinevere Thomas
I first connected with Libertad and Guinevere Thomas via their blog, Twinja Book Reviews. As an independent author of diverse/multicultural YA, finding quality and result-driven promotion is always on my mind. I know first-hand how challenging it can be to find literary bloggers willing to read, review, and promote your work. That’s why I’m delighted Diverse Book Tours will soon be a reality.  

Here’s my conversational interview with Libertad and Guinevere Thomas as we discuss their new venture and the state of diversity in publishing.

I know Diverse Book Tours has been brewing for a while. Tell me a little about how it came to be, from inception to where you are today, about to launch this new venture.

This has been on our minds for a long time. As readers, we wanted books that featured a MAIN character who was: of color, disabled, queer/Quiltbag, non-Christian, or otherwise—essentially anything that might not be the "default" for a protagonist. We've always wanted to promote diversity in books on a larger scale and we’ve been at it since September of 2013, blogging about and promoting diversity in YA Literature on Twinja Book Reviews. 

An author we hosted on our blog suggested the Book
Tour idea, which got us thinking, so we started researching exactly what went into a successful book tour company. We also write, so wanted to better understand the industry for self-published authors, since we plan to publish our own work. It was quite eye opening, because there aren't nearly as many resources for diverse books as there are for just "books." And the traditional publishing industry, as far as we knew, wasn't exactly moving on this issue.

Then, Sasha approached us about joining her to start a virtual book blog tour company that promoted diversity. She saw what our blog did, how we connected to other bloggers and authors (both traditionally and self-published) and thought it'd be a good idea to make us general partners. It was a good fit. 

If someone is completely new to the whole process of book tours, can you break it down and explain how your service works?

Traditional book tours are events that require an author to travel to certain venues to promote their book. However, not all authors, including the traditionally published, have the resources or sales to fund a physical book tour.

Over time, technology has grown stronger and now virtual book tours have everything physical book tours do, but are exclusively online. It is a planned, consistent source of online promotion for a book.

A book tour company like ours offers the service of “booking” your tour. We arrange for tour hosts, online stops for guest posts, author/character interviews, cover reveals, etc. We can also place ads on websites and provide reviews for a book (depending on the service you want). We utilize our numerous social media contacts on a client's behalf and market strongly to bloggers who read diversely. 

It would be very time consuming for an author to do what we’ve already done: research bloggers, the books they've read, if they focus on diversity in their reviews, and then connect with each and every one of them.  

The services we offer are affordable. We accept both traditionally and self-published books, but we strongly encourage self-published authors. Their works often do not make it into physical stores, making it much more difficult to promote.  

As most authors already know, publishers expect you to do a considerable amount of self-promotion. Virtual book tours are a cost efficient option, considering it requires little traveling but provides accessibility to be in the pcs and laptops of many.

I imagine you used your many contacts via social media and other marketing connections to gather all the bloggers who will be participating in Diverse Book Tours. How receptive was the literary blogging community to DBT and what’s the post #WeNeedDiverseBooks climate like?

The response so far has been great, very well received. Nearly everyone we've asked has signed up. Mind you, we team-up with literary bloggers who already read diversely.

As far as the post #WeNeedDiverseBooks climate? We still need diverse books. We still need to understand how to market them. We need to have more conversations about diversity, to understand why it is important. When you talk about needing diversity, I think it intimidates those who don't see a need for it but diversity is about making sure everyone is represented. Traditional Publishing, are you listening?

If you went to a bakery and all they had was one item, you'd get sick of that bakery and go find variety. Same for literature, if all that’s offered is just one narrative, readers will start to go elsewhere—they want something fresh and new. Which is why we wholly support self and independently published authors.

If an author only has an ebook, will you work with them or do they need to have a physical book as well?

It would be most efficient if an author has an ebook. On our own blog, yes we do like physical copies. But ebooks are much more cost effective if a tour is booked that requires multiple people to read and review.

We would not expect an author to start sending multiple copies to tour hosts just to get read. It would be different if an author queried us on our own book blog, Twinja Book Reviews, however, anything involving Diverse Book Tours, it would be more cost and time efficient for an author to have their work released in ebook form.

In my mind, the process of bringing a book into the world divides into three equal parts: Writing/Packaging/Promoting. Traditionally published authors hand the last two steps off to an agent and publisher. I know you are open to working with both traditionally and independently published authors, but what can an independent author of a diverse book do to ensure they get the most out of their experience with Diverse Book Tours?

An independent author's best shot at ensuring a positive response from our service is to make sure their book has first met the industry standard. Editing is an important part of that.

Self/Indie published authors have what it takes just as much as any traditionally published author. But we must stress: your work is in direct competition with not only other well-edited indie books, but also the traditionally published. We want self/indie published authors to feel welcome with us, to know we are out there making sure they get the most out of whichever service they pay for, but we do not want authors to pay for promotion and services that may work against them.

We've done a lot to gather our dedicated team of bloggers. Many bloggers will not accept self-published books for fear they will have to read low quality work due to past experiences working with other tour companies. We’ve worked really hard to gather the amount of tour hosts we did in such a short amount of time. We need to be able to assure them that the books they will be signing up to host, read, and promote are industry ready. We stress this now because we haven't officially launched and we want authors to consider doing more to make sure their work is well edited before they book with us.

There are many options an author can take to do this, and not every option is an expensive route. We would even be happy to suggest options to authors, whatever their price range. While we do not provide editing services, we can provide suggestions.

I’ll be at KidLitCon's  8th Annual KidLitoshpere Conference in Sacramento, CA (October 10 & 11). This year’s theme is “Blogging Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Lit: What’s Next?” In your opinion, what IS next?

Aw, we wish we could go! Charlotte Taylor, one of the coordinators of KitLitCon extended a personal invitation to us. Unfortunately, we had other obligations. This year out of any would have been the best to attend (especially meeting great people like you in person!). But there will be other times, so we hope you tell us all about it!

As far as what's next? Well, diverse books always have been and should continue to be what's next. Anyone promoting these books is a part of this. Anyone who writes diversely is a part of this. Anyone who reads, YOU ARE ALL A PART OF THIS.

Watch out for our official launch! We are building our site with a new custom layout and we will soon announce the winner of our giveaway!

I know I’m looking forward to the launch of Diverse Book Tours. For too long I felt like I was out there alone, trying to drum up promotion for Delta Legend. It’s good to know the tide is turning for authors of diverse lit, thanks in part to entrepreneur advocates like Libertad Tomas, Guinevere Tomas, and Sasha Beatty.

In the meantime, you can get an idea of their mad skills in book promotion by visiting Twinja Book Reviews and
So BookishlyThen be sure to stop by the beautifully evolving Diverse Book Tours site and enter to win their giveaway. I’m donating a paperback of Delta Legend and some Oakland & Delta swag to this monster giveaway!