Book tour update: When the funnel gets flipped

A few weeks ago, I blogged about a new kind of book tour I am planning for May. Little did I know that it would turn into a fascinating experiment in the power of the network. Find out all the details on the entire tour right here.

As of now, the tour is scheduled for about half a dozen cities, including:

Philadelphia, May 16

Chicago, May 22

 New York, May 29

Santa Clara, May 23

Ann Arbor, May 22

Phoenix/Tempe, May 24

with Salt Lake City coming as soon as we nail down the timing. [Breaking news: Salt Lake City, May 24 in the afternoon is now ready for booking.] The amazing thing is that most of these were created, built and run by people I have never met before. Satisfied readers decided it would be fun to see if they could organize hundreds of people, find a venue, work with a bookstore and pull the entire thing off. And they have. It’s gratifying and humbling, and a testament to what one person with dedication can do now that we all have access to the network. You can find organizer pages for Salt Lake, Phoenix, Ann Arbor and Silicon Valley for more details on how they did it.

This is a much bigger story than one author visiting a few cities. This sort of approach works for just about any marketer. If you don’t have customers who are willing to organize this sort of event, what are you missing? It’s easy to imagine doctors doing it when bringing a brain researcher to town. Or chocolate or wine fanatics welcoming a particularly talented vintner to their neighborhood. And it doesn’t have to be an in person visit. It could work just as well in sending people to a vibrant, important YouTube document on a politician, or a blog post about a new actuarial practice.

It’s taking the world (including me) a long time to get around the top-down, Oprah-driven mindset that comes so naturally.

Almost all authors hate book tours. They hate the idea of going to a city on spec, hoping the bookstore can scare enough people into coming by (usually by posting signs in the lobby) and most of all they hate the idea of a slightly indifferent audience walking by, sniffing at a book and walking away. Ouch. And it’s not just authors that hate it. Willy Loman hated it, too. So does John McCain.

The takeaway for all of us is this:
1. Build a permission asset: a group of people that actually wants to hear what you’re up to.
2. Create something (a product, a service, a story) that those people want to spread (not get paid to spread, but choose to spread) and get out of the way.

Thanks to the organizers around the country, we all just learned something.